SPEECH DELIVERED BY: Inger Andersen
EVENT: UNGA77 side event: Roadmap to End Plastic Pollution by 2040, organized by the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution
The science is clear that we must end plastic pollution.
Plastic production and consumption has soared since the 1950s. Marine plastic pollution has soared with it: increasing tenfold since 1980. Such pollution is lethal for many species. Very likely harmful to humans. Alters carbon cycling through its effect on plankton. Contributes to climate change. And this is by no means an exhaustive list.
But we now have the mandate to use plastics wisely and end its harmful side-effect: through the United Nations Environment Assembly resolution calling for an agreement that ends plastic pollution. The intergovernmental negotiating committee tasked with negotiating this agreement will meet for the first time in late November, in Punta del Este, Uruguay.
We have two years to finalize the instrument. We need to give this process backing at the highest political-level and put resources behind it. In this regard, the High Ambition Coalition is timely. I welcome its launch and appreciate the work of the co-chairs: the governments of Rwanda and Norway.
Friends, we know what needs to be done to build a deal that enables a circular plastics economy.
We need a broad instrument that does not just tinker around the edges of the problem.
This means a deal that covers the full life cycle of plastics use: from considering different types of polymers to designing products that retain the value of plastics when recycled to developing safe and environmentally sound waste management. We need to be unapologetic about reduce, reuse, recycle and redesign. Because we cannot just recycle ourselves out of this mess.
It is vital that the instrument has clear targets against to which countries and industries can transparently commit and measure their progress against.
We must work closely with and involve all stakeholders.
The deal must account for the realities of the market and hear all voices: governments, the private sector, research and development communities, indigenous peoples, the informal sector, youth, civil society organizations and consumer-based organizations.
We must focus on the benefits of a new plastics economy.
We should view this process as the chance to create a thriving new economy. This deal can create economic opportunities and alleviate poverty through new business models, new jobs, new market opportunities for recycling, and new designs, materials, and products. We stand to gain more than we will lose.
We need to think of plastic as a valuable commodity, not to be used excessively, lazily or wastefully – as in many single-use plastics. By giving value to this resource, we will treat it more carefully.
We must learn from the past, but also innovate in the multilateral environmental space.
We can learn from conventions such as the Montreal Protocol and the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm and Minamata Conventions. But we should also seek new pathways for modern, inclusive, networked multilateralism that gives a broader set of stakeholders a voice.
And we need to be informed by science.
Science has brought us to the point where we fully understand the plastic pollution problem. It must now be our guide as we look to science-based solutions that will guide the roadmap to end plastic pollution by 2040.
The High Ambition Coalition has been created to help to deliver on these asks. You have much work to do and, I am sure, many ideas on how to achieve it. As a starting point, I ask you to dig deep to mobilize multi-stakeholder engagement and resources, including voluntary contributions to the process.
I also ask you to strive to turn your commitment to this coalition into concrete outcomes in the negotiations: in the plenary room, the contact groups, and the formals and informals, through which we will shape this deal.
By putting in place, and implementing, a deal on plastic pollution, we can set a model of circularity for other sectors to follow. We can make a huge contribution to ending the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss and pollution and waste. We can be part of history.