To address the threat that plastic poses to our Ocean, climate, economies and health, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) called for an ambitious UN Treaty, which acts across the whole plastics lifecycle, during their meeting at the Second Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution in Paris (INC-2).
The island nations, including the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Palau, and the SIDS’ representative group the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), were joined by several organisations in support, including Common Seas, The University of Mauritius, The International Science Council, The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), , The Ocean Clean Up, and Searious Business, with The United Nations Global Compact representing CEOs committed to sustainability.
The statement discussed working together to ensure the unique requirements of SIDS are heard, among these:
Ambassador Ilana Seid, Permanent Mission of Palau, Chair of Pacific Small Island Developing States, said: “The small islands are disproportionately affected by plastic pollution because of our location near the intersections of many large ocean currents, our remoteness, our small economies and lack of access to large markets with sufficient waste and recycling facilities. The new instrument must include obligations to clean-up existing ocean plastic, not just for our own benefit, but also for the benefit of the global community. The Pacific, in particular, supplies much of the world’s fisheries and seafood, which is being contaminated by plastics and microplastics. Remediation of ocean plastics should be a priority for all of us.
Jo Royle, CEO of Common Seas, said: “Despite the huge national efforts of SIDS to tackle plastic pollution, more-and-more is arriving on their shores, and plastic production is set to double by 2040.
“We need is a strong and comprehensive UN Plastics Treaty to stem this problem head on upstream. This global policy must cap and rapidly phase down plastic production; ban or severely restrict single-use plastic; mandate reductions in the chemical complexity of plastic; and require global standards for extended producer responsibility.”
João Ribeiro-Bidaoui, General Counsel & Director of Global Public Affairs at The Ocean Cleanup, said: “As we transition from open to regulated seas, it's crucial to see the high seas as a global responsibility. The pressing question is not only if states have a duty to address oceanic legacy plastic beyond their jurisdictions, but also how to formalize this. The new Global Plastics Treaty should make it mandatory for states to clean existing and future legacy plastic, underlining the high seas' status as a collective common good requiring improved collective management.”
Karine Siegwart, Senior Policy Advisor from IUCN, said: “As part of the triple planetary crisis, plastic pollution is detrimental to our terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity and ecosystems. A healthy environment is not only the basis of humanity’s means of support, welfare and economies, but it is also a human right. The threats to SIDS in particular involve all aspects of life and the environment, requiring international legal responses to address plastic pollution across its lifecycle.
“Governments must ambitiously reduce plastic production, eliminate products and chemicals of concern and agree a treaty to end all plastic pollution by 2030. This will be a critical step towards achieving global biodiversity and sustainable development goals, and the commitments of the High Seas Treaty.”
The statement highlighted that SIDS contribute little to global plastic production and pollution, yet their blue economies are disproportionately affected by legacy plastic and its climate and environmental impacts.
SIDS also have low-lying and remote geographies, which hamper effective waste management. Their small market size limits influence on upstream actors, who continue to accelerate production of the plastic products that arrive on their shores and pollute their coastlines.
As such, in 2022, SIDS supported the UNEA 5.2 Resolution 5/14 to end plastic pollution and work towards an international legally binding instrument that will focus on reducing plastic production, phasing out single use plastics, and transitioning to a circular economy.