Waste Management and Pollution Control

14 September 2021, Apia, Samoa – Pacific leaders and high-level representatives put forth a Pacific Regional Declaration on the Prevention of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution and its Impacts for voluntary endorsement during the Environmental Ministers’ High-Level Talanoa which took place last week at the conclusion of the 30th Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s (SPREP) Meeting of Officials. 

“We, representatives of the people of the Pacific region and stewards of the world’s largest ocean, meeting at the Environment Ministers’ High Level Talanoa on 10 September 2021, are deeply concerned about the impacts of plastics and microplastics pollution on our region and that the current patchwork of international legal instruments is not sufficient to prevent the acceleration of these impacts,” the Declaration says. 

The Leaders expressed their grave concern about the environmental, social, cultural, economic, human health and food security impacts of plastic pollution at each stage of its life cycle on the enjoyment of certain human rights for current and future generations. 

Their concerns also extend to migratory marine species such as seabirds, marine turtles and whales as they are especially vulnerable to the impacts of marine plastics through entanglement and ingestion of plastic and reaffirming these species as important cultural icons for Pacific peoples. 

“Marine litter and plastic pollution impacts continues to be of grave concern to the Blue Pacific,” said the Honourable Ulu o Tokelau, Faipule Kelihiano Kalolo, Chair of the Environment Ministers’ High-Level Talanoa. 

“Notwithstanding that Pacific island countries contribute as little as 1.3% of global plastic pollution, we are grossly and disproportionately affected by its impacts.”

“The Pacific island region continues its leadership on this issue at home and abroad and call for a new binding global agreement on the prevention and reduction of new plastics and management of plastic pollution already in our environment,” he added.

The leaders and high-level representatives declared that they strongly support and urge all United Nations Member States at the Fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly to support the establishment of an intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to negotiate a new binding global agreement covering the whole life cycle of plastics. 

They also called for a new binding global agreement on the prevention and reduction of new marine litter and plastic pollution, as well as for future discussions on this agreement to consider the need for financial and technical support mechanisms to adapt international science and best practice to the challenges specific to the Pacific region. 

The international community was also called upon to take urgent and immediate action to help the Pacific protect its region and peoples from further marine litter and plastic pollution impacts that threaten their marine ecosystems, marine species, food security and health. 

The need for accessible information, support to scientific research on plastics, and plastic pollution data collection was also emphasised, as well as the development of marine litter and plastic pollution prevention best practice to inform robust, evidence-based and coherent policy. 

The Declaration stressed the importance of incorporating Indigenous and Traditional Knowledge Systems, Practices, and Innovations as appropriate, together with their free prior and informed consent that have evolved through generations into nature-based solutions for the sustainable conservation of ecosystems as an integral part of the solution to the plastic pollution crisis.

For more information on the Regional Declaration, please contact Mr Anthony Talouli, Acting Director – Waste Management and Pollution Control programme, at [email protected]