27 November 2022, Punta del Este - As Pacific countries join the negotiations for a new internationally legally binding agreement on plastic pollution in Punta del Este Uruguay, the 190 countries taking part have been told that a “fit-for-purpose” global plastics treaty must be inclusive, transparent, participatory and well informed by science.
The message came from the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) to End Plastic Pollution at the Punta del Este Convention and Exhibition Centre, setting the scene ahead of the first session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC1) to negotiate the proposed treaty, from 28 November to 2 December 2022.
The Minister of Environment of Uruguay, Hon. Adrián Peña, opened the panel discussion titled “A global plastics treaty fit for purpose” with a rallying call for all world leaders to come together.
“We are here to work towards the adoption of an ambitious and effective legally binding instrument that protects the environment and human health from plastic pollution. If we want to reach a successful conclusion, we must come to agreements that enable us to move forward,” Hon. Pena said.
“We need a clear and effective process. We need common rules, international obligations and we need to be firm in our decisions. And when we commit ourselves, we must be willing to do what needs to be done and comply.”
He reminded that the different types of pollution derived from plastics represent a serious environmental problem on a global scale which has a negative impact on all dimensions of sustainable development, climate, ecosystems, biodiversity and social and economic development.
Studies have shown that without new and effective control measures, plastic production is set to double in 20 years, with plastic waste leaking into the ocean projected to triple by 2040. This has huge ramifications for Pacific island countries which are large ocean Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The Ocean makes up 98% of the Pacific region, only 2% is land. The Pacific’s Exclusive Economic Zone’s comprise over 10% of the world’s ocean providing vital ecosystem services valued in many billions of dollars and underpinning economic sustainability in the region.
For Pacific delegates at INC1, the future trajectory is unacceptable and their concerns are shared by the High Ambition Coalition, a group of nations committed to an international legally binding instrument based on a comprehensive and circular approach that ensures urgent action and effective interventions along the full lifecycle of plastics.
“We urge countries to come together to address the sources of plastic pollution and safeguard our planet,” Hon. Pena said. “We want a global plastics treaty fit for purpose. We want to work towards a multi-lateral agreement that protects the environment, including human health, adopt the best practices that environmental laws have given the international community and provide a set of global obligations we must all follow.”
Minister Pena was joined on the panel by Juliet Kabera, Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority, Mr Gustavo Meza Cuadra, Director of Diplomatic Academy for Peru, Hon. Luís Ignacio Vayas Valdivieso, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador, Hon. Ono, Japan’s Vice Minister Foreign Affairs, Eirik Lindebjerg, Global Plastics Policy Lead at WWF and Jodie Roussell, Senior Public Affairs Manager, Nestlé, Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty. The discussion provided an opportunity for member states and stakeholders to discuss options for general obligations and control measures across the full life cycle of plastics.
For Ecuador, the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs said: “We need a global commitment to combat plastic pollution, we need transparency, we need to be inclusive with our negotiations, we must have this multi stake holder approach. We need the participation of multi stake holders, civil society, NGOs, private sector, it has to be broad participation and good participation.”
He reminded that the discussions about ending plastic pollution has been going for years.
“A lot of work has been done, just like in other environment-related conventions and we have to bring together all those experiences to help us with the work we are doing now,” he said. “The science is also extremely important, we need transparent, independent, well established contribution from the scientific community for this process to work. We need that data, the scientific evidence, but also later on when we finally have an efficient treaty, we need this data for our implementation process.”
Mr Cuadra, of Peru, said now is the moment to deliver, pointing out: “The whole international community is looking at us here in Uruguay to see what we will deliver as a response to this plastic pollution crisis before us. We need everybody in this discussion, we need a human rights approach because plastic pollution affects everyone.”
Japan’s Vice Minister Ono reiterated the importance of the participation of all stakeholders for the successful conclusion of the instrument.
“It was very encouraging to hear the stakeholder consultations yesterday but I hope in the INC2, INC3 and INC4 that we will see a lot more of this. In Japan, on our beaches, you will see a lot of plastics piling up. I can also appreciate that this is happening in other islands and the region. We need to act now.”
Mr Lindebjerg, the Global Plastics Policy Lead at WWF said the issue of addressing plastic pollution is complex.
“I think we will all agree that there is no one size fits all solution to plastic solution, there is no single silver bullet that will solve this problem. We need action at local level, national level and global level and we need a combination of those efforts to solve this problem,” he said. “The treaty must therefore be tailored to maximize what we can achieve at the global level, where global rules and regulations can make quite a significant contribution.”
Ms Roussell, Senior Public Affairs Manager, Nestlé, who also spoke on behalf the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty, representing more than 80 businesses from across the plastics value chain, financial institutions and NGOs, said the INC1 is an extremely important step in the march towards a plastics treaty.
“We’ve looked at the upstream, midstream and downstream and we have some ideas about what the treaty could approach,” she said.
“One of them is on goals and obligations and for us that is specifically the reduction of plastic production and use on the upstream, focusing on virgin fossil fuel-based plastics. When it comes to the midstream, there is the issue of circulation of existing plastics in the system and that means a regulatory framework supporting the use, reuse as well as recycling.
“Thirdly the issue of the clean-up of legacy waste, particularly focusing on the macro and micro plastics. When we look at the challenges ahead, we see these measures upstream, midstream and downstream as needing to be approached by sector because the challenges is that each sector has very different uses and applications of 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–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. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner are also attending.