High Level Dialogue: Combating Marine Litter and Microplastics
Marine plastic litter and microplastics is a serious and rapidly growing issue of global concern which requires an urgent and global response, involving all relevant actors at all levels.
The Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics, met in Nairobi from 29 to 31 May and in Geneva from 3 to 7 December 2018, in accordance with resolution UNEP/EA.3/Res.7, on marine litter and microplastics, adopted by the United Nations Environment Assembly at its third session, in December 2017. The options discussed at these meetings will be presented to the UN Environment Assembly at its fourth Session in March 2019.
Experts called for the need for stronger global action to combat marine litter. A number of initiatives and activities exist aiming at eliminating plastic litter entering the ocean and their potential should be explored within their respective mandates. Meanwhile, there was a growing recognition for a new governance model to be explored. Some delegations pointed to a new legally binding agreement as one possible effective response to be considered.
Norway has put forward a proposal for a draft resolution on stronger global governance. Strengthening waste management systems has been underlined by UNEA as key in solving this issue.
According to the African Waste Management Outlook (2018) changing consumer behavior has resulted in increasing plastic consumption in Africa, which combined with insufficient waste management systems, places Africa at risk of increasing its contribution to marine litter. The cost of inaction is significant, with great harm to coastal economies, human health and the environment. The African Union has set an ambitious target for African cities to recycle at least 50% of the waste they generate by 2023.
The event aims at addressing the question of how a new global structure to combat marine litter will be beneficial for the African countries.
Numerous activities aiming at eliminating marine litter and microplastics are already carried out by various stakeholders under existing governance frameworks. The experts noted therefore the usefulness of exploring the potential of those frameworks within their respective mandates.
It was also noted that an effective response to the issue of marine litter and microplastics would require a new legally binding agreement. Various stakeholders are supporting the establishment a new global convention with a multi-layered governance approach to address marine plastic pollution. A draft institutional architecture including the pillars of action to form the work of this new body has been discussed.
A new resolution defining future work at the global level is expected to be adopted at the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly in March 2019. Regardless of the outcomes of the upcoming Assembly, the Expert Group acknowledged the need to continue progress on urgent national and regional activities in the near term to curb plastic litter entering into the ocean recognizing the options and priorities outlined by the second and third sessions of the UN Environment Assemblies.