01 December 2022, Punta del-Este, Uruguay - There from the very start, Fiji remains steadfast in its commitment towards the development of a legally binding agreement to address global plastic pollution.
As a strong advocate of the UN Environment Assembly Resolution “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an Internationally Legally Binding Instrument” in March this year, Fiji is now engaging in the next phase of this journey. It is at the first session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to negotiate the specifics of this global agreement to address the full life cycle of plastic pollution by 2024.
“The Pacific Island Members are custodians of the largest ocean that makes up 98% of the region. Our Exclusive Economic Zone’s (EEZ) comprises of over 10% of the world’s ocean which provides vital ecosystem services valued in many billions of dollars and underpinning economic sustainability in the region,” stated Ms Sandeep Singh, Director of the Department of Environment of Fiji. Ms Singh is representing Fiji at the INC1 now underway in Punta del-Este, Uruguay.
“Fiji is acutely aware of the pervasive, transboundary and persistent nature of plastic pollution, and the impact that it has on the health and well-being of our communities and the environment. The accelerating rate of plastics production and consumption is deeply worrying. It is heart-breaking to note that ninety percent of current plastics production ends up in the environment.”
Working to address the triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution, Fiji also attended the 19th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) working to protect globally threatened and endangered species.
Plastic accounts for at least 85 per cent of the total marine waste with the equivalent of one rubbish truck of plastic waste being dumped into our ocean each minute. Approximately 7 of the 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic that was produced from 1950 to 2017, became plastic waste ending up in landfills or dumped.
“Last week at the CITES COP19 Fiji was helping protect the migratory marine species as they are highly vulnerable such as whales, turtles, dolphins and sharks from illegal trade and this week we are helping to protect them from the impacts of marine plastics. Many of these species are endangered and or are threatened and are also important cultural icons for Pacific and its people.
While Fiji has demonstrated leadership in undertaking measures to help address plastic pollution, more must be done at the global level.
“Fiji has acted to reduce and eliminate single use and problematic plastics, prevent chemicals hazardous waste and pollution, to protect and conserve ecosystems, but there is a greater and urgent need for more ambitious action at global level to prevent plastic and micro-plastics pollution.”
“Fiji intends to engage with all parties to address the global plastic crisis that is before us, recognising the urgency of the issue. Fiji is committed to working with you chair in ensuring that we work towards meeting the timelines that has been set before us in development of a legally binding instrument.” Fiji made its country statement at the INC1 on 29 November 2022.
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–2 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 Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, University of Newcastle, Environmental Investigation Agency, Centre for International Environmental Law, University of Wollongong, WWF and Massey University.