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 Pacific islands demand legally binding obligations in plastics treaty  

By Pacific Island Times News Staff


Delegates from 14 Pacific countries advocated their national and regional priorities at the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee or INC-4 to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.

Held in Ottawa, Canada with 170 participating countries, INC-4’s main goal was is to have an agreed text by the end of it as the foundation for text-based negotiations to follow.

 The plastics treaty needs to include legally binding obligations that cover the full lifecycle of plastics including addressing legacy plastic already in the marine environment, according to Katenia Rasch of Samoa.

It is estimated that more than 171 trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the world's oceans, this could nearly triple by 2040 if no action is taken.

Rasch said for small island developing states, the instrument must include a mechanism for the remediation of existing plastic pollution in the marine environment, including in areas beyond national jurisdiction which was the original impetus for INC.

“This section must include legally binding obligations, which respect national circumstances and capabilities, to take actions to remediate or support remediation of existing plastic pollution, particularly in the marine environment. Relatively soft obligations to just cooperate will not solve the scourge of plastic pollution in our oceans,” Rasch said.

The Cook Islands has co-sponsored a proposal by Norway on how to address chemicals of concern used in plastic production. The Cook Islands called for the treaty to address the full life cycle of plastics, including the types of chemicals that make up plastics for which approximately 16,000 chemicals are used in plastic.


Only 6 percent of these are subject to global regulations and at least 4,200 of these are “highly hazardous” to our human health and the environment.

The Solomon Islands said addressing the gap between the few chemicals in plastics and the growing number of chemicals of concern is critical in the plastics treaty negotiations.

“The Solomon Islands is witnessing the devastating impacts of plastic pollution that is degrading our land, choking our streams, rivers, coastal waters and the ecosystems and marine environment we rely on for our livelihoods and food security,” said Debra Kereseka, deputy director of Environment in the Solomon Islands.

“We need to reconsider our production and consumption habits, our mindsets and our behaviors toward plastics upstream from extraction and production, and downstream from waste management to remediation,” she added.

   Meanwhile, the Scientists’ Coalition for an Effective Plastic Treaty has urged member states to prioritize independent scientific evidence and to take a full life cycle approach in their negotiations.

The scientists said evidence shows that plastics and associated chemicals, including some bio-based plastics, are destabilizing the biosphere, harming the natural environment and living organisms including humans, and threatening the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.

“The Scientist Coalition really wants to see independent trusted science to underpin and ground the treaty negotiations here at INC-4,” said Trisia Farrelly, the coalition’s coordinator. “We want to make sure that member states have everything they need in terms of the science around all aspects of plastic pollution, the full life cycle from the extraction all the way through to removal and remediation.”

“My biggest concern is the limited time we have,” said Veari Kula of Papua New Guinea. “While there is progress in a lot of areas, I’m not optimistic about the timeframe and the time limitation because this may not allow all the states, countries and stakeholders to express their views, state their positions and deliberate

more on the key issues.”

According to the original schedule laid out by the UN Environment Assembly, a treaty should be finished by the end of 2024 when the final INC-5 is held in Korea, from Nov. 25 to Dec. 2. This makes INC-4 the penultimate stage of the negotiations.

“Time is against us – both in terms of finalizing the instrument and how much more the planet can take,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment Program. “As we deliberate, plastic pollution continues to gush into ecosystems/ So, I ask for INC-4 to show energy, commitment, collaboration and ambition. To make progress. And set the stage for INC-5 to finalize an instrument that will end plastic pollution, once and for all.” (SPREP)


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