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The INC-4 Conference at Shaw Centre Tackles Plastic Pollution

Published on May 28, 2024

From April 19th to 30th, the Shaw Centre was honoured to host the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) on plastic pollution.

This pivotal event, hosted by the Government of Canada in collaboration with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), drew approximately 3,200 delegates from 180 countries. These delegates represented 20 agencies, 15 intergovernmental organizations, 170 media personnel, and 700 organizations worldwide. The goal of INC-4 was clear: to negotiate an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution by the end of 2024.

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Embracing Sustainability

A defining feature of INC-4 was its sustainability requirements, particularly the prohibition of single-use plastics. Fortunately, the Shaw Centre’s existing commitment to sustainability made this alignment seamless. Our facility already incorporates numerous green practices, such as energy-efficient systems, waste reduction programs, and the use of biodegradable products. For the conference, all signage at our concession stands was converted from printed inserts to digital displays, reducing the amount of printed materials and limiting waste.

Our new water supplier, North Water, provided fresh alkaline water sourced from the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The reusable and recyclable bottles were a hit among attendees, who could refill them at our water stations, promoting both health and environmental responsibility.

Ensuring Security

Given the high-profile nature of the event and the presence of political dignitaries, security was paramount. Multiple checkpoints, prior security clearances, bag checks, and metal detectors were implemented at all entrances. Despite initial concerns about flow and timing, our team and partner’s effective coordination ensured that attendees entered the building and reached their sessions without delays.

“This event was fascinating to work on because of its large scale and the collaboration with the UN. Managing the numerous details, such as utilizing every rectangular table in our inventory, really tested my planning skills. It was a challenging yet rewarding experience that I will always remember throughout my career.”

Heidi Danson, Event Services Manager, Shaw Centre

Artistic Impact

A standout feature of the conference was the striking statue placed outside the Shaw Centre along the Rideau Canal. Created by artist and environmental activist Benjamin Von Wong, this two-story-high plastic tap spewed plastics all over the ground. This powerful visual symbolized the urgent need to “turn off the plastic tap” and control plastic production. Von Wong’s art has been raising awareness about plastic pollution for seven years, making a significant impact on decision-makers and the public alike.

Inspiring Voices

Among the thousands of attendees, one particularly inspiring figure stood out: 16-year-old Aeshnina Aqilani, known as the “River Warrior.” Invited by the organization Break Free From Plastic,  Aeshnina traveled from Indonesia to share her message about the devastating impact of plastic waste on her community. Her advocacy against “waste colonialism” – where developed countries ship their plastic waste to developing nations – resonated deeply. Nina’s call to action inspired youth to tackle pollution issues now, ensuring a healthier planet for future generations.

Key Discussions and Progress

Significant progress was made towards finalizing a global treaty on plastic pollution. Delegates focused on reducing primary plastic production by 40% by 2040, based on a proposal from Rwanda and Peru. The conference featured high-level events like Partnerships Day and Ministerial Day, fostering collaboration among ministers, Indigenous peoples, youth, civil society, government representatives, and the private sector. Key discussions revolved around eliminating single-use plastics, financial responsibilities for pollution cleanup, and adopting a lifecycle approach to plastic management. Despite heated debates and challenges in streamlining the draft text, the session established a foundation for final negotiations at INC-5 in Busan, Republic of Korea, emphasizing the importance of intersessional work to address unresolved issues and ensure a comprehensive, legally binding agreement by the end of 2024.

Final Thoughts

The INC-4 conference at the Shaw Centre was a landmark event that drew attention from around the world and highlighted the urgent need for global action against plastic pollution. With our ongoing commitment to sustainability, robust security measures, and high level of customer service the Shaw Centre set a high standard for future gatherings. We look forward to hearing the outcomes of the next session in Busan, Republic of Korea, in November 2024.