31 May 2023, Paris France – The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has lent its support to calls for urgent attention to the formulation of a treaty to address plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.
With French President His Excellency Emmanuel Macron describing plastic pollution as a “ticking time bomb” when he addressed the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC2) to develop a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, the 39 member countries of AOSIS, chaired by Samoa, have reminded the Committee that each passing day sees more plastic pollution leak into the marine environment.
“We must not waste a single hour in developing an ambitious, effective and equitable Instrument. As we begin our work here, we will remind states of what was said at INC-1 repeatedly: We have no time to lose. Now, we have even less time to lose. We must get to the work of crafting this instrument.”
AOSIS made the call on Wednesday, in its opening statement delivered by Ms Anama Solofa, AOSIS Lead Negotiator on Oceans, in the main plenary of the INC-2 taking place in Paris from 29 May – 02 June 2023. The first two days of the conference was taken up by a procedural deadlock over Rule 38 of the draft Rules of Procedure.
In its statement, AOSIS reminded that like many international environmental issues, plastic pollution has harmed communities due to unsustainable production and consumption of plastics, insufficient waste management and insufficient recycling capabilities.
“We must solve all aspects of the problem with this environmental agreement,” the statement continues. “For AOSIS, this means an agreement that is ambitious from the start, comprehensive across the whole lifecycle of plastic, and one that becomes more robust over time with corresponding means of implementation.
“With a strong objective as the foundation, the agreement should have both international and domestic obligations. There should be immediate action—preferably bans—on particularly harmful, problematic and unnecessary polymers, chemicals, additives and products, identified by annexes.”
Since 1990, AOSIS has represented the interests of 39 small island and low-lying coastal developing states in international climate change, sustainable development, and ocean management negotiations and processes. As a voice for the vulnerable, its mandate is more than amplifying marginalised voices as it also advocates for these countries’ interests.
At the negotiating table for a treaty to end plastic pollution, AOSIS has also called on INC-2 to define harmful substances and products, problematic substances and products, and unnecessary substances or products.
“For these substances and products, the default should be their phase out and eventual elimination where there are alternatives for their use, and with flexibility for national circumstances, specifically for SIDS.”
AOSIS also called on the INC to be ‘inventive’ in the treaty design, to ensure that sectoral and non-state actors actively contribute, reflecting traditional knowledge, knowledge of Indigenous peoples, and local knowledge systems, including from local communities.
At the start of INC-2, the AOSIS chair rallied member states to stand together to negotiate an ambitious and comprehensive instrument that reflects the interests of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
“No one existing international instrument provides a clear precedent to deal with the complexity and economic, social and political nature of the plastic pollution issue. Therefore, we must not close our minds to an innovative treaty—especially since our collective expectation is to begin INC3 with a zero draft and history has told us that creating effective treaties is difficult and time-consuming.
“As always, the small islands will be a constructive and ambitious partner in these negotiations, reminding states of the need for urgent action now.”
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, visit: https://www.unep.org/events/conference/second-session-intergovernmental-negotiating-committee-develop-international