Samoa is urging the international community to take immediate action against plastic pollution. They emphasize its health risks and advocate for establishing a comprehensive treaty to address its environmental and health consequences, with a particular focus on protecting vulnerable communities.
As the Chair of the 39 Small Island Developing States within the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Samoa continues to amplify the unified voice of the Pacific region. This collective call urges immediate attention and decisive action to combat the pervasive issue of plastic pollution, disproportionately affecting communities that bear the least responsibility for its creation.
During the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC3) held from November 13 to 19, 2023, AOSIS, the advocate for the vulnerable communities it represents, it has emphasized the significant health risks associated with plastic pollution. AOSIS reaffirmed the pressing need to expedite the finalization of a comprehensive plastics treaty to address this critical global challenge.
The ongoing issue of unsustainable plastic production and consumption, coupled with the release of plastics into the environment, persists unabated. Anama Solofa, the AOSIS Lead Negotiator on Oceans, emphasized the concerning evidence indicating the presence of microplastics in both human bodies and the food chain, posing significant risks to human health.
Furthermore, critical ecosystems continue to bear the devastating consequences of this plastic pollution. Solofa stressed the situation’s urgency, emphasizing that there is no time to spare. The Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are fully dedicated to addressing this pressing matter, reaffirming their unwavering commitment to the process.
Solofa delivered this crucial message on November 13 during the opening session of INC-3 plenary discussions.
The INC-3 session represents a pivotal moment in the ongoing efforts to establish a global plastic pollution treaty. Preceded by INC-1 in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in November 2022, INC-2 in Paris in June, and INC-3 in Nairobi signifies the midway point in this journey. With two more INC sessions slated for 2024, the negotiations will commence in Nairobi, guided by the Zero Draft text crafted by the INC Chair.
Solofa, speaking on behalf of AOSIS, regards the Zero Draft as the foundation for discussions during INC-3 and anticipates collaborative efforts to refine it into a first draft ahead of INC-4.
AOSIS also underscores certain critical considerations, emphasizing that the stringency of regulations should align with the level of risk or harm posed by chemicals, polymers, or products to both human health and the environment.
The approach should outline precise procedures for incorporating the best available data, scientific insights, traditional wisdom, indigenous knowledge, and local knowledge systems. These valuable sources of information will play a crucial role in shaping annexes, establishing timetables, and determining necessary regulatory actions, particularly concerning Small Island Developing States (SIDS), as emphasized by AOSIS.
Furthermore, any regulatory measures must consider the feasibility of safe, accessible, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable alternatives. Exploring the potential for cooperation or coordination with existing frameworks and conventions that address relevant substances is also essential.
AOSIS also emphasized to INC-3 that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are actively evaluating the appropriateness of specific potential responsibilities within our domestic contexts, such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). This consideration stems from our minimal contributions to global plastic production and limited resources and capacities.
The regulation of abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) should encompass the entire lifecycle rather than solely focusing on waste management. This holistic approach is essential for effectively addressing one of the largest sources of marine plastic litter. Furthermore, addressing legacy plastics in the marine environment, including areas beyond national jurisdiction, remains a pressing concern for SIDS. Given our unique geographic, technical, legal, and environmental challenges, comprehensive solutions are imperative. Urgent action is needed, including binding commitments to tackle past, present, and future plastic pollution.
AOSIS also emphasized the importance of tailoring means of implementation to address critical priorities for SIDS. These priorities encompass a range of areas, such as waste management, recycling, remediation, access to technology, and reporting requirements.
“In light of the plastic pollution challenge, the instrument should catalyze robust action across various stakeholders and sectors, with the shared goal of fulfilling its intended objective.”
In Kenya this week, AOSIS brought attention to the fact that negotiators are reconvening at the very location where the plastics treaty process commenced with the adoption of Resolution 5/14.
Throughout the successive INCs, our message has remained unwavering and resolute: we require a robust, efficient, and fair framework to put an end to plastic pollution definitively. We must act constructively and expeditiously, given the ongoing global plastic pollution crisis, which disproportionately impacts Small Island Developing States’ livelihoods, health, economies, and environment (SIDS).
“The agreement must guarantee ambitious measures that encompass the entire lifecycle of plastics, accompanied by new, supplementary, sufficient, and predictable means of implementation. Additionally, it should include specific provisions of support tailored to SIDS, ensuring priority access, particularly in regions where SIDS bear a disproportionate burden.”