17 November 2023, Nairobi, Kenya - The Pacific nation of Niue has taken to the centre stage of the ongoing global plastics treaty negotiations to remind them about the special circumstances of Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) as they discuss the zero draft of the instrument.
The special circumstances of SIDS in relation to the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and plastic pollution, refers to their small size and small economies which makes them inherently susceptible to external economic and financial shocks. Their geographical location also means that the triple planetary crisis, in this case the pollution crisis, threatens their survival.
On Thursday at the United National Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi, Ms Luina Vilila, of Niue, delivered the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) statement addressing existing plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.
She reminded the gathering that although Pacific countries are least responsible for plastic pollution, her people back home in Niue, and other Pacific countries, are the worst impacted. She said she has travelled many miles to be in Nairobi because she wants a legally binding instrument to ensure plastic pollution is addressed, immediately.
“We see value in including language to ensure that SIDS do not suffer a disproportionate burden in relation to these remediation activities, which deal with waste that originates far from our shores,” said Ms Vilila, adding that PSIDS is calling for the provision to take into consideration the special circumstances of SIDS and to include the engagement of the local population, communities, and citizens.
“PSIDS supports the provisions in this item for Parties to assess, identify, and prioritize accumulation zones, hotspots, and sectors that are most affected by existing plastic pollution and the threats to species or habitats taking into account the full life cycle of plastics,” she said.
“These provisions allow Parties to take effective mitigation and remediation measures taking into account existing international agreements and promoting safe environmentally sound remediation activities.”
Niue is among 14 Pacific Small Island Developing States amplifying the One Pacific Voice for a plastics treaty. Senior Waste management Officer Ms Vilila and Mr Haden Talagi, Director for Niue's Department of Environment, have been taking part in the Contact Group meetings where negotiators have been combing through the details of the zero draft.
Thursday marked the midway point of the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-3) to develop an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. Delegates met in a stocktaking plenary to check in on the progress made in their discussions towards the revision of the Zero Draft text of the ILBI.
The stocktaking plenary was sandwiched between meetings of two contact groups, which held fast paced discussions to ensure that delegations could outline all the ideas that would need to be included in the revised Zero Draft, including those contained in the Synthesis Report.
Ms Vilila said the negotiations have been taxing and challenging but at the same time it is a great opportunity to learn and do her best for her country and the Pacific region.
Back on the floor, Niue told the meeting that PSIDS propose for the governing body of the plastics treaty to be guided by traditional knowledge of Indigenous People, and local knowledge systems, to address existing plastic pollution apart from the best available science.
“The existing plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, has negatively affected the Pacific region’s environment, biodiversity, and human health,” said Ms Vilila.
“It has been argued by experts that plastic such as abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear is the deadliest form of marine pollution threatening 66% of marine animals and 50% of seabirds. This confirms that SIDS with large EEZ and vulnerable marine ecosystems are extremely prone to the effects of plastic pollution.”
The third Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment is taking place in Nairobi Kenya from 13 - 19 November 2023.
The Pacific Islands are represented by the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, 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 INC-3, visit: https://www.unep.org/inc-plastic-pollution/session-3