Papua New Guinea
Waste Management and Pollution Control

17 August 2022, Suva, Fiji – Understanding the Pacific’s shared position on priorities in addressing plastic pollution was at the core of the second day of discussions at the Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC).

The representatives of Pacific island member governments, technical experts, non-governmental organisations and academia spent the day discussing key issues which will be negotiated at the first INC in Uruguay in November, to ascertain the region’s priorities. 

Issues included the objectives, definitions and structure of work for the INC. Participants were asked what they would like to see as the main outcome of the negotiations, and what they would like to see included in the objectives. 

In addition, they discussed sustainable production and consumption, sustainable produce design and manufacturing, institutional framework, environmentally sound waste management, and national action plans.
These issues and the priorities identified will then be used to develop a shared Pacific position which will be used to negotiate a global legally binding agreement on plastics. 

Areas identified as priority for Pacific island countries included the need for capacity building within countries. This was echoed by many of the government representatives who attended the workshop. 

Capacity building and legislation to regulate plastics were identified as a priority for Papua New Guinea, the largest Pacific Small Island Developing State (PSID). 

“As a developed nation and the biggest SIDS in the Pacific PNG is a big country, we have outdated by-laws and legislation to deal with plastics. We currently have a regulation on biodegradable plastic bags but not for other plastics. I’m hoping our priorities in terms of legislation will be recognised by the INC,” said Ms Boga Biru, of PNG. 

“The global instrument must also look at capacity building as well because we need to build capacity in country in waste management. Take for example what Samoa is doing in dismantling refrigerators and air conditioners. We need to train our technicians to be able to do that in PNG. Not only do we need to develop our technical capacity, but our capacity in developing policies and data collection.” 

Pacific representatives agreed that they would like to see a full life cycle approach to addressing plastic pollution. This was identified as not starting with the actual production of plastics, but at the extraction stage where fossil fuels are extracted for production, as this also cuts into the issue of climate change, which has been identified as an existential threat for Pacific peoples. 

There is a consensus amongst the countries on the need for a global instrument on plastics, and the importance of there being a united Pacific voice with strong priorities at the negotiating table. 

Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Fijian Minister for Agriculture, Waterways and the Environment, Dr Mahendra Reddy, expressed concerns about the alarming rate in which plastic waste enters our oceans, as the Pacific region is made up of 98% ocean, and its combine Exclusive Economic Zones comprise of over 10% of the world’s oceans. 

“We are concerned for the migratory marine species such as seabirds, marine turtles, sharks and whales, as they are highly vulnerable to the impacts of marine plastics through entanglement and ingestion of plastic,” Dr Reddy said.

“During the UNEA 5.2, Fiji strongly supported the proposal for the establishment of the INC on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution in the effort to prevent plastic and microplastics pollution. Fiji will work with all relevant actors in the space to address the global plastic crisis that is before us,” he added. 

Ms Roselyn Bue, from Vanuatu, echoed these sentiments.

“Vanuatu can’t do it by ourselves. No single country can,” said Ms Bure.

“This issue is a global issue, and therefore I am hopeful that the Pacific can voice its shared position together because we will be able to make more of an impact that way.”

The Pacific Regional Preparatory Workshop for the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee is held from 16 – 18 August 2022 in Suva, Fiji.  It funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Australia, and organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.