The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has applauded the historic endorsement of the resolution to End Plastic Pollution: Towards an International Legally Binding Instrument at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) at Nairobi last week.
SPREP’s Pacific member countries were among 175 nations to endorse the resolution, which establishes an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to work with the ambition of completing a draft global legally binding agreement by the end of 2024. The Committee is expected to present a legally binding instrument, which would reflect diverse alternatives to address the full lifecycle of plastics, the design of reusable and recyclable products and materials, and the need for enhanced international collaboration to facilitate access to technology, capacity building and scientific and technical cooperation.
SPREP’s Acting Director, Waste Management and Pollution Control and Pollution Adviser, Anthony Talouli, who has been taking part in the conference virtually, said the endorsement is a great step for the environment, especially in the Pacific as the islands battle the waste and pollution crisis.
He said the resolution incorporates the concerns and commitments as outlined in the Pacific Regional Declaration on the Prevention of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution and its Impacts.
“The impact of waste and pollution has already taken its toll on the health of all Pacific communities, degrading natural ecosystems, threatening food security, impeding resilience to climate change and adversely impacting on social and economic development,” Talouli said.
“We need urgent actions to address this. The decision in Nairobi means there will now be a solid global framework on plastic pollution, against which we measure progress or the lack of in our work as we move towards the future.”
The Pacific region contributes as little as 1.3% of global plastic pollution, yet are grossly and disproportionately affected by its impacts. The Second World Ocean Assessment states that the highest recorded quantity of floating plastics are in the South Pacific subtropical gyre. SPREP’s intervention during UNEA-5 highlighted its support for the resolution.
“We support the establishment of an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to negotiate a new binding global agreement covering the whole life cycle of plastics, covering extraction, production, trade, manufacturing, consumption and waste management and environmental legacy, and recognises the need for global intervention and support for pollution prevention at each stage,” SPREP’s intervention reads.
“We support the incorporation of Indigenous and Traditional Knowledge Systems, Practices, and Innovations with their free prior and informed consent as an integral part to ending the plastic pollution crisis and ensuring a sustainable development through nature-based solutions.
“We recognise the need for the reduction of virgin plastic production, the phasing out of toxic and avoidable plastics, problematic and single-use plastic products and additives and the harmonisation of design and labelling standards, to support transition to a safe circular global economy and to find alternatives to allow for our continued economic development and to support human and biodiversity health.
“We recognise that our ability to address plastic pollution collaboratively, to craft co-operative and sustainable solutions, build on the opportunities provided by ecosystems services and secure political commitment, will determine the future, not only for Pacific islands people, but for the planet.
“We call on the international community to take urgent and immediate action to agree on the establishment of the International Negotiating Committee to negotiate a new global agreement to ultimately eliminate plastic pollution and thereby help us protect our region and peoples from further pollution impacts that threaten our marine ecosystems, marine species, our food security, and our health.”
The resolution is a positive step following the successful Third Clean Pacific Roundtable where participants from the government sector, waste and environmental practitioners, development partners, private sector, community, NGOs, academic and research institutions, came together to advance the region’s push for a cleaner future.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will convene a forum by the end of 2022 that is open to all stakeholders in conjunction with the first session of the INC, to share knowledge and best practices in different parts of the world. It will facilitate open discussions and ensure they are informed by science, reporting on progress throughout the next two years. Finally, upon completion of the INC’s work, UNEP will convene a diplomatic conference to adopt its outcome and open it for signatures.