By Gift Briton

Ahead of the resumed fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5), marine and plastic pollution has been identified as an issue of concern requiring urgent solutions.

This is according to a Joint Global Statement adopted by members of the major goups and other stakeholders(MGoS) in an online forum held between 7 to 10th February.

The MGoS participants debated and concluded on four draft resolutions and clusters namely; Marine and plastic pollution, Nature-based solutions; Chemicals and waste as well as Green recovery.

Despite the continuous call to action by UNEA to end plastic pollutions, the problem is increasingly becoming a global crisis and a common concern of humankind that requires global and urgent solutions, the report noted.

“While we recognize the importance of continuing and developing work at national and regional levels without delay, we call on members to take decisive action by establishing an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) at UNEA 5.2 with a mandate to negotiate a new legally binding global agreement to address pollution from plastics in all environments and in all forms. Such an agreement should include time-targeted, measurable, and binding commitments with effective enforcement mechanisms and be predicated on human rights and full enforcement of the polluter pays principle,” the report reads.

Further, the report notes that INC will focus on reduction and prevention of the plastics particularly the elimination of single-use plastics and the pervasive pollution of the environment from plastic production and transportation of pellets to enhance sustainable production and consumption.

The report further state that recycling alone will not solve the plastic pollution problem, adding that member states should avoid false solutions to the plastics crisis, including false claims of recyclability, bio-based or biodegradable plastics, or chemical recycling.

Additionally, the report recommends establishment of national, regional, and international action plans that promote innovation of toxic-free refill and reuse systems in ways that are maximally beneficial to the environment and in which citizens will be engaged in data collection, education, and the development of solutions.

The UNEA 5 should also guarantee meaningful and effective participation of stakeholders in the negotiation and implementation process.

Furthermore, the process must be grounded on a just and robust system for ensuring stakeholder participation and meaningful implementation at all levels under a human rights-based approach.

“The negotiations need to include those communities most harmed by plastic pollution along its life cycle, including people exposed to pollution from plastic feed stocks and petrochemical production, people negatively affected by dumps, landfills, open burning of plastics, chemical recycling facilities or incinerators, Indigenous Peoples who offer expertise for alternative systems, formal and informal workers along the plastic supply chain who must be guaranteed just and safe working conditions, consumer voices and those communities dependent on marine and riverine resources harmed by plastic pollution,” report adds.

Of the three resolutions on marine and plastic pollution put forward by Rwanda and Peru, Japan, and India, the MGoS noted that it is the Rwanda and Peru resolution that clearly sets the strongest and most ambitious mandate for an INC to craft global agreement that will sufficiently address the plastics crisis.

The MGoS support the Draft Resolution presented by the governments of Rwanda and Peru to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee with an open, broad and clear mandate where they asked member states to join Rwanda and Peru through co-sponsorship to support and strengthen the resolution.

According to MGoS, anything less than what is included in the Rwanda and Peru resolution would not be enough to meet the ambition required for even the existing scale of plastic pollution.

While the draft Resolution presented by the government of Japan recognizes the transboundary nature of the plastic pollution problem and calls for the creation of an INC, MGos noted that the mandate does not sufficiently address the plastic pollution crisis by focusing too narrowly on the problem of marine plastic pollution.

Furthermore, the Japanese resolution proposes a rigid and closed mandate for negotiations disallowing an INC from considering relevant aspects.

Though the draft resolution presented by the government of India recognizes the need for immediate action and the importance of circularity in addressing the plastics crisis, the plenary stated that the scope of the resolution seeks only a voluntary framework to reduce single-use plastics and plastic product pollution.

However, MGoS encourage supporters of this Draft Resolution to also support the Draft Resolution presented by the governments of Rwanda and Peru.