30 June 2022, Lisbon Portugal UNOC2022 - Australia has reassured its neighbours of its commitment for a plastic-free Pacific in an effort to protect the ocean. Australia’s Minister for the Environment and Water, Honorable Tanya Plibersek, delivered the assurance at the United Nations Ocean Conference (UNOC) in Lisbon, Portugal, this week.
The Australian Minister is among many Pacific leaders looking to propel much-needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action.
“I would like to see a plastic-free Pacific in my lifetime,” Hon. Plibersek said during an Interactive Dialogue on Marine Pollution. A key part of that is Australia’s decision to join the New Plastic Economy Global Commitment by the end of 2022. Led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with UN Environment, the initiative unites businesses, governments, and other organisations to address plastic waste and pollution at its source.
“Working in partnership with our friends in the Pacific will be a top priority,” Ms. Plibersek said. “That’s why our government is investing $16 million to support the Pacific Regional Marine Litter Action Plan, this funding will help update laws to ban single-use plastic, it will help with public information campaigns to encourage people to use less plastic and it will help develop sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics.”
Australia will also provide support to strengthen chemical and waste management through the Cleaner Pacific 2025 Strategy. The Strategy is a comprehensive long-term plan for integrated and sustainable waste management and pollution prevention and control. It was developed in consultation with Pacific island countries and territories and allocates responsibilities for individual activities to both the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and Pacific island countries and territories.
“The new Australian government is determined to be a good global citizen, at home and internationally,” the Minister said. “The new Australian government will act at home; Australia will take more responsibility for our own waste by banning waste exports, instead of sending our waste exports to other developing countries for them to deal with.
“We will upgrade our recycling infrastructure, we will support demand for recycling materials through government procurement policies and we will support our circular economy. We will phase out problematic plastics including single-use plastic items; we will make significant investments in recycling technology and alternatives to single-use plastics. Our ambition, though we know it will be tough, is to have 100 per cent of packing reusable, recyclable or combustible by 2025. As well as our domestic efforts, we’ll step up our global efforts too.”
The Minister also reminded us that Australians are ocean people.
“More than 85 percent of Australians live within 50 kilometers of the sea. The surf sea and sand are intertwined with our national identity. We understand how important and how fragile our oceans are and we can see the terrible impact marine pollution is having on them,” she said.
“In Australia’s northern waters, ghost nets are killing our dugongs, turtles, dolphins, whales and even our saltwater crocodiles. Seabirds that migrate through Australia’s heritage sites like Lord Howe island are starving to death because their stomachs are so full of plastics they can’t eat fish and of course, this is affecting humans too. Recent research shows that Australians are eating a credit card worth of microplastics every week. Fixing this big problem requires bold actions.”
SPREP’s Director of Waste Management and Pollution Control (WMPO), Mr Anthony Talouli, agrees and welcomes Australia’s renewed commitment and support for the work to address waste and marine pollution in the Pacific.
“It is undeniable that the impact of waste and pollution is taking its toll on the health of communities, degrading natural ecosystems, threatening food security, impeding resilience to climate change and adversely impacting on social and economic development,” Mr Talouli said. “Australia’s commitment is fantastic to hear, and we look forward to working with them, all our partners and Members for a cleaner Pacific.”
The statement was made from the floor by Australia’s Minister for the Environment and Water, Honorable Tanya Plibersek during Interactive Dialogue 1: Addressing Marine Pollution on 27 June 2022.
The Second UN Ocean Conference is hosted in Lisbon, Portugal from 27 June to 1 July 2022. The Pacific Islands are represented by a strong contingent which includes the Leaders from Fiji, Palau and Tonga. Also present are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
For further information on the UN Ocean Conference 2022, please visit: https://www.un.org/en/conferences/ocean2022