01 December 2022, Punta del Este - Australia has added its voice to the call for an ambitious global agreement on plastic pollution.
The call was made as representatives from governments, private sector and civil society work to develop an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. At Punta del Este in Uruguay, the city known for its beaches and woodlands is hosting the historic negotiations for a treaty officials hope to finalise by 2024.
Speaking during the Opening Plenary on Monday, Ms Kate Lynch, Head of the Australian Government’s Environment Protection Division, Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, highlighted her nation and Pacific countries’ struggle in dealing with plastic pollution.
“As an island nation, Australia experiences the impacts of the shared problem of marine plastic pollution. We see too often the devastating impacts that plastic pollution has on our marine mammals, fish and birdlife,” Ms Lynch said. “For our Pacific neighbours, marine plastic pollution is a significant environmental, health and economic development problem. It degrades natural ecosystems and threatens food security.”
To address the problem, Australia welcomes the opportunity to work with parties at INC1.
“Australia seeks an ambitious global agreement on plastic pollution and is delighted to have recently announced our membership of the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution,” said Ms Lynch. “We seek an instrument that supports ambitious action on plastic pollution across the entire life cycle of plastics. The instrument should support a safe circular economy, eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastics, and accelerate international efforts to remove harmful chemicals from product supply chains.
“The instrument should support national-level actions, complemented by clear, transparent global requirements where necessary. We look forward to working with you this week to take the first steps in agreeing the foundation elements of the instrument, and prioritising workstreams for us to progress out of session.”
Australia also welcomes the broad cross section of stakeholders represented during the multi-stakeholder dialogue – including business, scientists, civil society, non-government organisations and the informal sector. On Saturday, Australia took part in the Multi Stakeholder Forum at the Punta del Este Convention and Exhibition Centre.
“We all have a vested interest in a safe circular economy and the end of plastic pollution. Plastic’s unique characteristics have been revolutionary in our global development. Its properties have led to it being one of the most prevalent human-made products on earth. It serves important functions in medicine, keeps food fresh and reduces transportation costs.”
Like other nations, Australia faces domestic challenges of using too much plastic designed for short term consumption.
“Australia is committed to strong action to transition to a more circular plastics economy,” Ms Lynch said. “We have stopped the export of unprocessed plastic waste to ensure that Australia’s waste does not cause environmental and human health problems elsewhere.
“We are eliminating problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic products. We are reforming our regulation of packaging to drive a greater focus on design and alignment with circular economy principles
“And we are expanding our recycling capacity and investing in new and exciting technology to revolutionise plastic recycling and to develop more sustainable alternatives to plastics.”
The first Intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment is taking place in Punta del Este, Uruguay from 28 November–02 December 2022.
The Pacific Islands are represented by Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu 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) with financial assistance from the Government of Australia. SPREP is working with partners the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, University of Newcastle, Environmental Investigation Agency, Centre for International Environmental Law, University of Wollongong, WWF and Massey University.