NAIROBI (SPREP) — Twenty-three million tonnes of plastic are released to the environment every year and half of it ends up in the Pacific Ocean every time. This number is expected to double by 2030 under a business-as-usual scenario. 

With this in mind, 14 Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) are in Nairobi, Kenya, reiterating the need for parties to the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC-3), to urgently finalise a plastics treaty. 

“We cannot let this happen,” said Gwendalyn Kingtaro Sisior, of Palau, who issued a rallying call for a revolution to end the plastic pollution crisis. “This can lead to the demise of our human race and requires nothing less than a revolution. A revolution in how we produce, in how we consume, and in what we tolerate. And the revolution must start now.”

As the Chair of PSIDS, Palau delivered the group’s statement during the open plenary on Monday, aligning its position to a statement delivered by Samoa on behalf of AOSIS, and that of the Philippines on behalf of the Asia Pacific group.

The PSIDS Chair warned that plastics entering the Pacific region are polluting life support systems. According to a report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in October 2021, titled From Pollution to Solution: a global assessment of marine litter and plastic pollution, plastic pollution is impacting peoples’ cultural, economic and social ties to the environment and ocean, including threatening peoples’ food security and human health. Plastic pollution also undermines critical economic sectors, including tourism and fisheries.

“This problem, which starts in many cases far from our shores, generates tremendous public costs, including for waste management. This is why we have prioritised our limited resources to robustly engage here,” said Sisior. That mobilisation has seen Pacific delegations journeyed from the other side of the world to engage in INC-3, with some of them traveling for more than 50 hours to get to Kenya. 

“This is a testament of our commitment to this process, reaffirmed last week by our leaders at their annual Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting.”

INC-3 marks the mid-point of the journey towards a global treaty. It follows two earlier rounds of negotiations: INC-1, which took place in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in November 2022, and INC-2, which was held in Paris in June. In Nairobi, negotiators are expected to discuss an initial draft of a global instrument released earlier this year, to end plastic pollution. The ultimate goal is to complete negotiations by the end of 2024, with two more INC sessions are planned, with a treaty in place by then.

The PSIDS Chair acknowledged the work that has gone into the zero-draft pointing out that there are many elements that need further discussions and unpacking. 

“The modern world is addicted to plastic. This is a fact. The first step to stop addiction is to admit there is a problem. We did that with UNEA 5/14. Now is the time to set the plan: quit the addiction, change our habits, and clean up,” said Sisior.

“This is why this instrument must address the full lifecycle of plastic: with measures applicable to upstream, midstream and downstream stages, including legacy plastics. And to ensure that even the smallest States can fully engage and meet the strict obligations we are hoping to set, by taking full account of the special circumstances of SIDS, including, among others, through the provision of adequate means of implementation.”

Palau also highlighted the impact of the triple planetary crisis, compounded by climate change and biodiversity loss. 

The PSIDS Chair, with support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, are facilitating daily coordination meetings for all Pacific delegates in Nairobi….PACNEWS

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