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Call For Treaty To End Plastic Pollution

Pacific countries continue to call on world leaders to deliver a high-ambition treaty to end plastic pollution, as the clock ticks closer to the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC2) in Paris France.

Despite contributing less than 1.3 per cent to global plastic pollution, Pacific island populations are disproportionately affected by the crisis, with the Pacific Ocean increasingly inundated with the bulk of the world’s transboundary washed away plastics.

This has serious negative environmental, health, cultural and socio-economic consequences. In December 2022 at INC1 in Punta del Este Uruguay, the One Pacific Voice lamented the consequences, called for global solidarity to address plastic pollution and encouraged the effective engagement of all stakeholders, from producers to vulnerable communities.

In the lead up to INC2 in Paris, Pacific delegates are stepping up the call for immediate action.

“Plastics and climate change are inextricably linked, and we are working to address them in an integrated manner to achieve a resilient Blue Pacific in line with UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration,” said Her Excellency Ilana Seid, the Chair of the Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) and Ambassador of Palau to the United Nations.

The PSIDS Chair, delegates from the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Tuvalu, through the support of the Government of Australia and the United Nations Environment Programme, are joining more than 2,000 officials from around the world at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Headquarters from 29 May to 2 June 2023 for INC2.

The meeting will be preceded by a two-day Pacific Islands strategy meeting to build their effective engagement during the negotiations. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has been supporting all the delegations and continues to work with PSIDS to coordinate the amplification of our One Pacific voice.

“INC1 in Punta Leste Uruguay was an important stepping stone, providing Pacific negotiators with a better understanding of foundational principles that will allow them to constructively engage and contribute to the ongoing negotiations,” said Mr Anthony Talouli, Director of Waste Management and Pollution Control, SPREP.

“But there were many unanswered questions in Uruguay, the key ones being on whether goals and efforts under the proposed treaty should be global, mandatory, voluntary and country-led. These questions and many more will be further discussed at INC2, which us why the Pacific’s participation is extremely important.”

In April 2023, SPREP convened a Pacific preparatory meeting in the Cook Islands where delegates formed a strategy for a united way forward in France. Delegates discussed among other things the possible core obligations and control measures in the plastics treaty, including eliminating problematic plastics, polymers and chemical additives of concern through possible bans and restrictions and promoting the use of safe, sustainable alternatives and substitutes.

“We are excited to be working with all our member countries and partners to ensure the Pacific plays its part towards the framing of an ambitious instrument that provides mandatory obligations for all, be inclusive, equitable and provide for adequate means to implement the ambitious provisions for small island developing states. We need this treaty, urgently,” Mr Talouli said.

INC-1 and INC-2, the global picture

At the end of INC1, the INC Secretariat requested that Member States and stakeholders submit documents outlining potential elements for the future treaty. Common themes that emerged include strong ambition in acknowledging the health, climate, biodiversity, and human rights harms that come from the full life cycle of plastics — not just the end of life.

Some Member States also included controls on production volumes and hazardous chemicals. Based on Member State submissions, the Secretariat produced an Options Paper that serves as a partial menu of options for the future treaty. The paper will serve as the basis for negotiations during INC-2.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has set forward the expectation that there will be an initial draft of treaty text — a zero draft — produced and available ahead of INC-3.

The second Intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment is taking place in Paris France from 29 May to 2 June 2023.

The Pacific Islands are represented by the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu through the support of the Government of Australia and the United Nations.

They are supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), working with partners the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Environmental Investigation Agency, Centre for International Environmental Law, University of Wollongong, WWF and Massey University.

Source: Press Release, SPREP