01 June 2023, Paris France - As the negotiations pick up speed at the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee charged with producing an international legally binding instrument to control plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC-2), the United Nation’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Ambassador Peter Thomson, has lamented what he describes as mankind’s sad attitude towards nature.
Drawing attention to a projection that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, he asked: “Is that the world we want to bequeath our grandchildren?
“I sincerely hope there is no one present today who is ready to accept that delinquency of intergenerational responsibility. Here in Paris this week we have the opportunity to undo the logic of that projection and set humanity’s relationship with nature on a better course.
“The ocean produces half of the planet’s oxygen, that it is photosynthetic life in the ocean that produces the oxygen, and that all life is vulnerable to the toxicity of man-made pollution.”
Speaking on the margins on INC-2 at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, Ambassador Thomson lent his voice to the call from the Pacific and many other countries demanding urgent attention to the formulation of a treaty to end plastic pollution.
“You’ve all seen the mounting evidence of plastic pollution on marine life: the dead whales with stomachs bloated by plastics; the myriads of dead seabirds starving themselves and their chicks by feeding on plastics; turtles, fish, shellfish, all consuming the plastics and microplastics we send to the sea,” Ambassador Thomson said.
“We establish marine protected areas to help save marine life, but ocean currents carry plastics across man-made boundaries to protected areas, and indeed out into the ocean to litter the beaches of even the remotest islands.
“This all flies in the face of the Global Biodiversity Framework we adopted in Montreal last year. It is thus incumbent on us to bring plastic pollution’s attack on biodiversity to an end through the international legally binding instrument we are intent on producing.”
Ambassador Thomson was the keynote speaker during a side event titled “Oceans and the Marine Environment, including transport, ghost fishing gears, dumping, pellet loss and impacts on biodiversity” on Tuesday, which focussed on plastic pollution in the marine environment and what is being done about it.
Studies have found that 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear are lost and abandoned in our ocean each year. It is estimated that 5.7 per cent of all fishing nets, 8.6 per cent of all traps and 29 per cent of all lines are lost in our ocean annually, making ghost gear one of the most harmful forms of marine debris to ocean biodiversity.
“It is a sad reflection on humanity’s attitude towards nature, that a great deal of the plastic in the ocean comes from discarded fishing gear,” Ambassador Thomson noted.
“From giant drift nets ghost-fishing the ocean, down to careless recreational fishermen, it is time for the fishing industry to lift its game and become the ultimate defenders of marine life and ecosystems. Surely we must protect what we love.”
In 2017, the United Nations Secretary-General Guterres appointed Ambassador Thomson of Fiji as his Special Envoy for the Ocean, aiming at galvanizing concerted efforts to follow up on the outcomes of the 2017 United Nations (UN) Ocean Conference, maintaining the momentum for action to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
He brings a distinguished experience in diplomatic services and is familiar with the work of the United Nations, including as Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN and President of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly.
Ambassador Thomson leads the UN's advocacy and public outreach efforts inside and outside of the UN system.
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, Samoa, Solomon Islands, 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.
For more information on the POLP project, visit www.sprep.org/polp
For more information on INC-2, visit: https://www.unep.org/events/conference/second-session-intergovernmental-negotiating-committee-develop-international
PHOTO CREDIT: Peter Thomson Twitter