Global Governance Centre and TESS
plastic conference 30 august

Global Governance of Plastic Pollution: Transforming the Global Plastics Economy

Co-Hosted by TESS & the GGC
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Online event

The Global Governance Centre and the Forum on Trade, Environment & the SDGs (TESS), invite you to a joint online conference on Global Governance of Plastic Pollution: Transforming the Global Plastics Economy on 30 and 31 August 2021, from 13:00-18:00 CEST.

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How can the global plastics economy be transformed to reduce plastic pollution and support progress on international climate goals? What kinds of global governance are needed to advance these efforts?

The Global Governance Centre at the Graduate Institute Geneva and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) invite you to join an online public conference on the Global Governance of Plastic Pollution: Transforming the Global Plastics Economy on 30 and 31 August 2021, from 13:00-18:00 CEST.

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Over 100 countries are calling for the launch of UN negotiations for a new global treaty on plastic pollution in 2022. Spurred by alarm about the scale and impacts of marine plastic pollution, advocates of stronger international cooperation are calling for approaches that address environmental and health impacts across the entire life-cycle of plastics, including air pollution, climate impacts and plastic pollution on land, as well as the economic burden on developing countries struggling to manage a rising tide of plastic pollution and waste. Meanwhile, however, investment in new carbon-intensive plastic production continues to rise.

The starting point for this conference is that efforts to improve global governance of plastic pollution must look ‘upstream’ to tackle the strong economic and political forces driving the expanding global plastics economy and associated pollution; and to address these in a way that enables a just and sustainable transition, with particular attention to the challenges facing developing countries.



30 August 2021


Panel 1 - 13:00-14:00 CEST

Policy Roundtable: Stakeholder perspectives on a global treaty on plastic pollution: Priorities for transforming the global plastics economy 



Carolyn DEERE BIRKBECK, Director, TESS, and Senior Researcher, Global Governance Centre, The Graduate Institute


Panel 2 - 14:15 - 15:30 CEST

Understanding the global plastics economy and plastic pollution: Trends and forecasts 

Topics and Speakers:

  • The OECD’s global plastics outlook: Peter Börkey, Principal Administrator, Environment Directorate, OECD
  • The Plastic Waste Makers Index: Who produces and funds single-use plastic?: Nakul SARAN, COO, Minderoo Foundation
  • Trade flows in the plastics sector: Carolyn DEERE BIRKBECK, Director, TESS, and Senior Researcher, Global Governance Centre, The Graduate Institute
  • Plastic pollution impacts and trends: life cycle and holistic approaches: Andrès del CASTILLO, Senior Legal Advisor, CIEL
  • Human rights challenges of global plastic poisoning: Marcos Orellana, UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, United Nations Human Rights Council


 Diana BARROWCLOUGH, Senior Economist, UNCTAD


panel 3 - 15:45-16:45 CEST

Financing the global plastics economy: Investment, insurance and subsidies

Topics and Speakers: 

  • Investment risk in the plastics and plastic packaging sectors Gabriel THOUMI, Head of Plastics Programme and Director of Financial Markets, Planet Tracker
  • Unwrapping the Risks of Plastic Pollution to the Insurance Industry: Alice MERRY, Consultant, UNEP
  • Plastic money: How governments support the production of polymers and plastic production: Ronald STEENBLIK, Senior Fellow, IISD
  • Finance flows in the petrochemical industry: Guy FINKILL, Consultant, Researcher, UNCTAD and Diana BARROWCLOUGH, Senior Economist, UNCTAD


Carolyn DEERE BIRKBECK, Director, TESS, and Senior Researcher, Global Governance Centre, The Graduate Institute


panel 4 - 17:00 - 18:00 CEST

Strategies for transforming the global plastics economy to reduce plastic plastic pollution: green industrial policies, financial levers, and development dimensions  

Topics and Speakers: 

  • System change approaches to transforming the plastics economy: Winnie LAU, Senior Manager, Preventing Ocean Plastics, The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Oceans and land-based actions to tackle plastics pollution: Development perspectives and challenges: David VIVAS-EUGUI, Legal Affairs Officer, Trade, Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Division, UNCTAD
  • Transforming the Global plastics economy and sustainable transition – Industrial policy considerations: Diana BARROWCLOUGH, Senior Economist, UNCTAD
  • Perspectives on plastic governance from Africa: Nicholas OGUGE, Director, Governing Plastics Network, University of Nairobi
  • The last bastion of oil - Challenging petroplastics: Karl HOLMBERG, PhD candidate, Department of Political Science, Lund University


Luisa CORTAT, Research Associate, Global Governance Centre, Graduate Institute Geneva


31 august 2021


panel 5 - 13:00-14:15 CEST

Harnessing trade policies to tackle plastic pollution: policy options, opportunities and recent developments

Topics and Speakers:

  • Options for trade policy cooperation: Carolyn DEERE BIRKBECK, Director, TESS, and Senior Researcher, Global Governance Centre, The Graduate Institute
  • Tackling trade flows in plastic waste: Implementation of the Basel Convention and WTO rules: Brigitta IMELI, PhD Candidate, World Trade Institute
  • Preliminary methodological approaches and findings on hidden trade flows in plastics: Paola PARUTA, Environmental Analyst, Environmental Action
  • The approach of the Basel Rotterdam and Stockholm Secretariats and progress to date: Malika Amelie TAOUFIQ-CAILLIAU, Legal Officer, Executive Office, BRS Secretariat 
  • Environment-related trade measures on plastic pollution and Member initiatives on plastic pollution at the WTO: Aik Hoe LIM, Director, Trade and Environment Division, WTO


 Alice TIPPING, Lead, Fisheries and Sustainable Trade, IISD


panel 6 - 14:30- 15:30 CEST

Governing petrochemicals: the dual challenges of decarbonizing the plastics economy and phasing out virgin plastic production 

Topics and Speakers: 

  • Mapping Global Governance of Petrochemicals: Luisa CORTAT, Research Associate, Global Governance Centre, Graduate Institute Geneva
  • Transition pathways for decarbonisation of the petrochemical sector: Tobias NIELSEN, Project Manager and Analyst, IVL
  • Turning the tide from the recent wave of new petrochemical investments: Fredric BAUER, Associate Senior Lecturer, Lund University
  • Public finance of petrochemicals: public ownership and development finance: Jakob SKOVGAARD, Associate Professor, Lund University
  • Petrochemical industry with a focus on toxicity and regional drivers: Alice Mah,  Professor, University of Warwick


 Guy FINKILL, Consultant, Researcher, UNCTAD


panel 7 - 15:45 - 16:45 CEST

Emerging developments and challenges in global plastics governance: International standards, private-public partnerships and voluntary initiatives

Topics and Speakers: 

  • Consumer information and plastic pollution: Nils HEUER, Associate Programme Officer, UNEP
  • International standards landscape: Reinhard WEISSINGER, Former Senior Expert, Research and Education, ISO
  • Latest evidence and recommendations arising from the EMF’s Global Commitment 2020 Progress Report: Ambrogio Miserocchi, Senior Analyst, Ellen MacArthur Foundation
  • Inventory of Global and Regional Plastic Waste Initiatives: Ieva RUCEVSKA, Project Manager, GRID - Arendal
  • Lessons on the efficacy of treaty-based approaches to international cooperation and alternative governance options or pathways for efforts to tackle plastic pollution: Konstantin KLEINE, Research Assistant, The Graduate Institute


Justin WILKES, Executive Director, ECOS


panel 8 - 17:00 - 18:00 CEST

Transforming the plastics economy through circularity: Opportunities and critical perspectives

Topics and Speakers: 

  • Developing country perspectives/challenges related to global circular economy and plastics: Patrick SCHRÖDER, Senior Research Fellow, Chatham House
  • Substitutes to single-use plastics in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia: Economic and trade opportunities for developing countries: ​​​​​​​Mahesh SUGATHAN, Senior Policy Adviser, TESS
  • Circularity, sustainable manufacturing, and plastics: Insights from the SMEP programme in developing countries: Henrique PACINI, Economic Affairs Officer, UNCTAD
  • Wicked Problem of Plastics and the Discourse Surrounding its Governance: Rosalind MALCOLM, Director, Governing Plastics Network, University of Surrey
  • How can trade policy help Ghana’s plastic action strategy?: Kimberley BOTWRIGHT, Global Leadership Fellow and Lead, Trade and Investment, World Economic Forum


Carolyn DEERE BIRKBECK, Director, TESS, and Senior Researcher, Global Governance Centre, The Graduate Institute



This conference will bring together leading experts to share policy-relevant research and advance dialogue on topics, including:

  • the global political economy of production, use and trade in plastic products and waste;
  • options to improve the global governance of plastic pollution across the life-cycle of plastics;
  • the development impacts of plastic pollution, including on the ocean economy and the challenges developing countries face as they seek to reduce plastic pollution and transform the plastics economy;
  • strategies for transforming the supply side of the plastics sector, including critical insights from calls for a global green new deal as well as opportunities and challenges linked to circular economy approaches and the push to decarbonize petrochemicals;
  • the impact of international trade and investment flows on plastic pollution, as well as existing international efforts and options for using trade, investment and industrial policies to support international environmental cooperation on plastic pollution; and
  • the role of standards as a governance tool for transforming the plastics sector, as well as opportunities and governance challenges linked to private, voluntary efforts to reduce plastic pollution.




Spread over two afternoons, the online conference will include:

  • Panel sessions with short presentations from leading researchers and experts; and
  • Policy roundtables, drawing together leading experts from governments, stakeholder organisations and IGOs, working to support intergovernmental cooperation on plastic pollution at UNCTAD, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (BRS), the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), among others.

The conference is the culmination of a two-year project on multi-disciplinary policy-relevant research and dialogue on the global political economy and regulation of plastic production and pollution, funded by the Swiss Network of International Studies (SNIS) in 2019.

Co-hosted by the Graduate Institute’s Global Governance Centre and UNCTAD, with the financial support of the SNIS, the cosponsors of this conference include researchers from a range of collaborating organisations including the Graduate Institute’s Centre for Trade and Economic Integration (CTEI) and Centre for International Environmental Studies (CIES), as well as the University of Geneva, the University of Berne’s World Trade Institute, the University of Lugano, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Western Switzerland, Lund University, and IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

The conference is also supported by a number of organisations working to improve the global governance of plastic pollution, including the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL), UNEP’s Environment and Trade Hub, the Geneva Environment Network (GEN), and the Forum on Trade, Environment and the SDGs (TESS).