29 August 2019, Apia, Samoa - The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Noumea Convention, focused on various key environment issues in relation to the organisational aspects of the Convention. This included the entry into force of protocols to the Noumea Convention and a review to evaluate how it is being implemented, and the effectiveness of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) as the Convention secretariat.
The meeting convened at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel to continue work under the Convention, requires Parties to take measures to prevent, reduce and control pollution and to ensure sound environmental management and development of natural resources.
Through the implementation of the Convention, Parties over the years have been able to address several key emerging and challenging issues such as addressing pollution from ships under the Protocols to oil spill response, where the Pacific has witnessed 3 major incidents in the region from the MV Southern Phoenix in Suva Fiji, the MV Kea Trader in Noumea, and the MV Solomon Trader in Solomon Islands.
Representatives from Australia, Cook Islands, France, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and United States were present at the meeting and in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Convention, Parties elected Papua New Guinea as Chairperson and Nauru as Vice Chairperson.
Implementation of the Noumea Convention over the recent two years since CoP-14 (2017 AND 2018) has been carried out by the secretariat under the marine and coastal conservation work as part of the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Management Programme, environmental impact assessment work as part of the Environmental Monitoring and Governance Programme, and marine pollution work as part of the Waste Management and Pollution Control programme
The revised Pacific Islands Regional Marine Spill Contingency Plan (PACPLAN 2019) reinforces its focus and better articulates the roles and responsibilities of SPREP, Pacific island Members and metropolitan Members. It does this by providing strategic direction on how to activate PACPLAN and highlights the need for well- developed National Plans and response capabilities, key points of discussions at the meeting.
Parties agreed on the need for effective plastic pollution control through the adoption of a Pacific Regional Marine Litter Action Plan 2018-2025 and the need for addressing land based sources of pollution through an integrated waste and pollution management with the recent Greening of the Pacific Games 2019 to support single-use plastics ban as an example of its effectiveness.
Continued initiatives of SPREP in coordination with its members and donor agencies was acknowledged by the Parties while an overview was provided at the meeting on projects such as the Pacific European Union Marine Project (PEUMP) for sustainable fisheries, PacWaste Plus for addressing waste management in 14 Pacific island countries and Timor Leste, the JICA J-PRISM 2 regional waste management project covering 9 Pacific island countries and more recently the Pacific Ocean Litter Project (POLP) funded by Australia to address single-use plastics in the region.
The 15th COP to the Noumea Convention will be followed by the 10th meeting of the COP to the Waigani Convention to ban importation of hazardous and radioactive wastes on 30 August 2019. It will then be followed by the Pacific Environment Forum on “Circling away from non-essential single-use plastics” on 2 September 2019, and the 29th SPREP Meeting of Officials from 2-6 September 2019.