INC-4 Diary With Aidan CHARRON

Day One: Sunday April 21st
Weather: Freezing, snowed at one point, then rained at night.
Mood: Upbeat

10am: Tom (our COO), Sarah (Our Director of Communications) and I head from our hotel in Ottawa to the Parliament Buildings. It’s about a 20-minute walk but it’s not raining, and the sun is out so it’s fine. Chilly but fine. We can collect our INC-4 registration badges along the way – which we do, wow – so much more efficient than at COP 28!

There’s a rally planned for 11am to draw attention to the United Nations Plastic Treaty negotiations that start in Ottawa in two days’ time and even at 10 am people have started gathering. We were part of the coalition that organized it so it’s nice to finally see all the preparation becoming a reality!

There’s an amazing activist from Thailand here, Aeshnina Azzahra, who is just 16 years old and super inspiring – her speech gets a huge cheer. There are lots of first Nation activists here as well as indigenous communities are being most impacted by the plastic industry here in Canada. They make incredibly powerful speeches and there’s some stunning native singing that you cannot helped but be moved by.

11:30am: Tom does an interview with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and we find time to meet up with Oceana Canada for a quick group photo, we have an ‘event’ planned with them later tonight so it was good to say ‘hi’ and finalize our meeting time, 8pm at the Shaw Centre! After a rousing array of speeches, we kick off the march at around midday – with a brass band leading the march.

Midday: I think there is well over 1000 people by now and some great costumes, Karen from Environmental Defence Canada is dressed as a turtle with a straw up its nose. Given that it is now freezing cold and threatening to snow, it did for one minute, I am envious of the turtle suit. We reach the Shaw Centre, and more speeches follow but we must peel away to prep for tonight.


Karen dressed as a turtle

Aeshnina Azzahra at the Rally

Tom’s Interview made it into the national press.

8pm: All three of us meet up with folks from Oceana Canada and a team of amazing projectionists – the plan is to illuminate some messaging onto key buildings in Ottawa – Plastic is Toxic and We Know You Know – are our favorites, projected onto the Canadian Supreme Court. By 10pm we have secured all the photos we need of the imagery and got the press release out there – we make global news the next day.

At 10:20pm we are back in the hotel room and exhausted, I don’t think we have stopped moving for 10 hours and my feet are swollen!!!

Projections on the Supreme Court – Ottawa

Projections on the Parliament Buildings – Ottawa

Day Two: Monday April 22nd
Weather: Freezing, again!
Mood: Excited to get a ton done!

8am: I have a whole raft of interviews to do about the Theme for Earth Day this year from local news stations in the US to national coverage. Meanwhile Kathleen Roger, EDO’s President is in town and doing a ton of press too – she booked onto the Scripps “Morning Rush’ news show to the BBC, Bloomberg, and Fox Weather.

I used to get a bit nervous doing interviews but after doing so many in the last 3 months – I have got super used to them now and learned to really love doing them. I plough through them and when I get a minute dive back into the latest report I need to finish, Pets Vs Plastics. 

5pm: We meet with Reverend Lennox from the Hip Hop Caucus and a couple of his incredible team. Everyone’s feeling like there’s a lot to do but we cannot put the brakes on.

7pm: Tom and Sarah are off to do some more projections onto Ottawa’s buildings, this time featuring what we have started to refer to as Forky! It’s a great campaign that essentially makes it clear that the plastic industry does not give a fork for the planet. Kathleen braves the elements to join them – I know at one point they seriously thought that they might get arrested, but all was good in the end. The Canadian police have been noting but friendly to us.

I cannot go with them as Sarah’s booked me on to the new Scripps evening news show – Premier of “News Line” with anchor, Lauren Magarino. Lauren is a great anchor and asks a ton of in-depth questions – not just about Earth Day but mainly about the INC-4 negotiations – I really enjoyed being on the show and I was impressed with Lauran’s line of questioning. She knew her stuff.

9pm: Tom and Sarah got the projections up and they looked amazing – and they got picked up all over – the India pick up especially made me smile as our India team are phenomenal and do so much incredible work

Day Three: Tuesday April 23
Weather: If anything, it is colder
Mood: Elated & Exhausted

11:00am: The Treaty negotiations start officially with an opening address today at the National Arts Gallery which we have been projecting our slogans onto for the last two days.

Not surprisingly we have discovered there are over 200 fossil fuel and plastic lobbyists in attendance too. All staying at the more expensive hotels from what we can tell, of course! Some of their delegations are bigger than whole countries. It is unfair and infuriating, it’s like inviting the fox into the hen house to discuss ways to make it fox proof.

Tom is not daunted and has somehow got the slogan Plastics is Toxic up in Times Square, NYC city too!! It will be there for days.

11:30am: I was on a live webinar with a fantastic line up on Next Gen America talking about the Inflation Reduction Act and how its climate legislation is impacting the average person.

3:00pm: Met with Sarah to go through more media stuff. Every year we try and warn the media Earth Week is coming but some of them still do all their planning the day after Earth Day!! We always bend over backward to oblige!

6pm: I was meant to be at the German Embassy, but I am going to give it a pass – I need an early night. Apologies Germany!

Day Four: Wednesday April 24
Weather: Sunny and fresh
Mood: Refreshed

7:00am: I grab a morning breakfast at Timmy Horton’s with Sarah, who has never been to this fabled Canadian coffee shop before, and we make plans for what needs to be done in the next few days. I am going to be mainly taking notes in the negotiations and attending side meetings/

I actually love learning new information all the time and find it enjoyable. So, I am looking forward to this.

8:00am: I call Michael, he’s our coordinator for the Great Global Cleanup and I want to check in on him as he is in Armenia planning a clean-up for us there. he is an American Armenian, so I know this means a lot of him and today is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. He’s holding up but I can hear he’s worried about the pollical situation there with bordering nation’s threatening Armenia.

8:45am: Rushed to a talk at the National Art Centre; Is plastic causing a cancer epidemic? And most importantly – what can we do to stop it? I got there a bit late, but this was still sobering and slightly terrifying if I am honest.

10am onwards: For the rest of the day, I am in negotiations taking notes. It’s hard not to get annoyed at the fossil fuel and plastic industry reps masquerading as members of some government delegations. When is this going to make the news? We have been asking that for a while now and I know Center for International Environmental Law CIEL is on the case.

10pm: Crash. Director of End Plastic Initiatives: Aidan Charron

Tom Cosgrove with members of the Oceana team

Day Five: Thursday April 25
Weather: Cloudy
Mood: Angry

It’s all over the press that the numbers of lobbyists here have soared. CIEL have done amazing work working it all out and the cat is well and truly out of the single use plastic bag

According to The Guardian’s reporting on CIEL’S work: “The 196 lobbyists registered for the talks represent a 37% increase from the 143 lobbyists registered at the last talks, in Nairobi. This in turn was a 36% increase on the previous year’s number.”

How on earth can we ever get a fair treaty this way? Emma a freelance journalist reaches out for some leads to indigenous community coping with a Benzine chemical spill. I try and find them for her, but she’s so good, she has everyone already.

The media has never been so important. We are always here to help journalists doing honest reporting whether it is EDO business directly or not. We want to help them tell important stores.

Day Six: Friday, April 26
Weather: If anything, it is colder
Mood: Bring it on…

Morning: Was largely writing Pets Vs Plastics.

Midday onwards: Lots of groups discussing a wide range of issues today from fishing gear to the idea of circularity (a fake and diversionary concept in EDO’s opinion) to dealing with plastic pollution to the unfair burden heaped on the Global South.

What is not firmly on the agenda are the human health implications of micro-plastics – one delegation argued there was no proof yet of plastic pollution impacting human health – which made me want to stand up and speak, which of course as a note taker and observer, I can’t.

It’s a spurious argument that an industry doesn’t have to show there are NO health implications associated with their product because by default that means why would they look for it? Which begs the question what does the plastic industry know about microplastics and their additive chemicals and their impact on human health? Why won’t they tell us?

We know fossil fuel companies lied for decades about they knew about the impact of carbon emissions on climate – how can we just ‘trust’ often the same companies again to tell us the truth?

5pm: Spoke to the team in DC and updated him on all that was happening but today was frustrating.

Day Seven: Saturday, April 27
Weather: Cold again
Mood: I 100% am ready to get home – my wife and dogs are missing me, and I am missing them!

It was a bit of a blur getting to the airport, but I made my flight and left Ottawa feeling like we did everything we could to stand up for ordinary people, indigenous communities and hold BIG plastic to account. I think they hope we will give up – think again Dow Inc and Exxon and the rest of you. We will not give up trying to cut plastic production.

Recycling is a like and addresses NONE of the real issues like human health and plastic role in contributing to Greenhouse gasses. This is not a trash issue; this is a human rights issue.