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Pacific island countries gear up for talks on revised draft Plastics Treaty

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Pacific island nations are headed to Canada this month to advocate for the region's priorities at the fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee.

The meeting, also known as Plastic Pollution INC-4, seeks to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.

Delegates representing 14 Pacific island countries will negotiate the revised draft of the Global Plastics Treaty at the meeting slated to be held from April 23 to 29 in Ottawa, Canada.

Anthony Talouli, director of Waste Management and Pollution Control at the  Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programm, said the ongoing INC negotiations are about the survival of Pacific communities that are unfairly placed at the forefront of the escalating plastics crisis.

“What our Pacific countries want from the INC negotiations is an ambitious treaty that covers the full lifecycle of plastic pollution that is applicable to all Small Island Developing States,” Talouli said

The Pacific islands are represented by the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu through the support of the government of Australia and the United Nations.

In 2020, global waste generation entailed a price tag of $361 billion, which included the direct cost of waste management plus the hidden costs of pollution, poor health and climate change, according to SPREP.

"Without urgent action on waste management by 2050, this global annual cost could almost double to a staggering $640.3 billion," SPREP said, citing a new UN Environment Program report.

SPREP said Pacific countries are at the forefront of paying the cost, taking a toll on health, degrading natural ecosystems, food security and impacting social and economic development.

“As we look to INC-4, the priorities for PSIDS are many however we see the main elements would be in five core measures: primary plastic polymers, chemicals and polymers of concern, problematic and avoidable plastic products, trade, and design," Talouli said.

"These will be supported by information sharing, non-plastic substitutes, capacity exchange, reporting, transparency, tracking, monitoring and labeling, emissions and releases as well as waste management. he added


The UN report titled “Beyond an Age of Waste: Turning Rubbish into a Resource" predicted that municipal solid waste generation is likely to grow from 2.3 billion tons in 2023 to 3.8 billion tons by 2050.

"The statistics are staggering, and even more concerning especially for Pacific countries, which despite contributing less than 1.3 percent to global plastic pollution, are disproportionately affected by the plastic pollution crisis, threatening livelihoods, health and economies," SPREP said.

According to SPREP, the meeting will focus on the revised draft text of the future treaty, containing the merged texts from Contact Group 1, Contact Group 2, Contact Group 3 following the discussions of a zero draft text at INC-3 in Nairobi, last year.

Vanuatu, as the chair of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) group welcomed the discussion, saying it had put Pacific countries in a better position to coordinate and strategize as a group.

“We believe that a unified voice will bring more impact during the negotiations in INC-4,” said Majorie Wells, the representative of the PSIDS chair in Auckland.

“I think we have a common understanding of the issues we are up against and our positions in a number of agenda items we have looked at. That said, we do have a lot of work in front of us leading to INC-4. I trust our member states will do our very best to prepare for the negotiations as we work to ensure a Cleaner Pacific.”

Samoa, as the chair of the 39-member Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), was also actively engaged in the discussions.

“It has been very encouraging to see the level of engagement from the Pacific region and the confidence that has grown across the different sessions of the INC.," said Anama Solofa, AOSIS lead negotiator on Oceans.

"The Pacific SIDS is a very strong group within themselves, and AOSIS is a platform for amplifying the one Pacific voice, which is what we hope to do in areas where there are common positions, between the Pacific SIDS and the wider AOSIS group," Solofa added.

The INC was formed during the fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly when they agreed to the resolution to “End Plastic Pollution: Toward an International Legally Binding Instrument."

They are supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, working with partners the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, The Pacific Community, Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Environmental Investigation Agency, Center for International Environmental Law, University of Wollongong, WWF and Massey University.


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