On the second and final day of the Ministerial Conference on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution, delegates exchanged views on the draft ministerial statement, which co-conveners had updated based on the first day’s discussions. Delegates expressed broad support for mandating the resumed fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) to establish an intergovernmental negotiating committee to draft a new global agreement to address this multifaceted problem.
Many countries called for an ambitious, legally-binding agreement, emphasizing the urgency of coordinated global action to address the entire lifecycle of plastics, from production to disposal. Several called for measures that would incentivize research and development into more sustainable alternative materials, as well as taking steps to implement principles of a circular economy, with the aim of significantly reducing waste. Single-use plastics were highlighted by many as a crucial aspect of the plastic pollution problem, with several participants sharing updates about national bans, taxes, and other regulatory measures their countries had taken to discourage consumption of these products.
Several countries emphasized that much of the marine litter and plastic pollution in their coastal areas is generated by other countries, underscoring that no country can effectively tackle this challenge in isolation. However, many also emphasized that a “one size fits all” solution should be avoided, saying any future agreement must account for differences in local circumstances, capacities for action, and technological needs. Several countries strongly supported incorporating the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities for developed and developing countries in a future instrument, underscoring that success will be predicated on commitments by developed countries to provide developing countries with financial and technical assistance, as well as support for capacity building.
In an engaging ministerial dialogue, delegates heard from numerous countries about ongoing national efforts to curb plastic pollution. Ministers and state representatives shared various local, national and regional initiatives to address the issue, pointing, for instance, to awareness raising and education campaigns, multi-stakeholder dialogues, and implementation of measures to uphold the waste management hierarchy.
Complementing the efforts of the Ministerial Conference, delegates also heard from Peru and Rwanda, co-sponsors of a resolution on an internationally legally-binding instrument on plastic pollution, to be tabled at UNEA-5.2. The resolution aims to build on discussions concluded under the Ad Hoc Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics. Delegates were invited to consider lending support to the resolution, given its strong links with their deliberations.
At the close of the Conference, Co-Convener Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, commended delegates for their “overwhelming” engagement in discussions. He noted that 25 countries had already endorsed the ministerial statement, and called on others to consider doing the same by 15 October 2021 in order to send a strong message to UNEA. Moderator Peter Woodward then thanked delegates and closed the meeting at 4:13 pm (CET).
A summary report of the proceedings of the Ministerial Conference will be available on this site on Saturday, 4 September.
To receive free coverage of global environmental events delivered to your inbox, subscribe to the ENB Update newsletter.