The United States of America and the European Commission have officially joined the Clean Seas Campaign. In doing so, they acknowledge the need to curb the flow of marine litter and plastic pollution entering lakes, rivers, and the ocean and, in effect, are providing greater engagement to the campaign to ‘turn the tide’ against plastic in the world.
The Clean Seas Campaign, launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2017, has shown that 80% of plastics that find their fate in the ocean come from land-based sources. The Campaign estimates that at least 11 million tons of plastic are discarded into the seas annually and projects that this amount will nearly triple by 2040 without immediate large-scale action.
The Clean Seas Campaign directs its efforts towards ending marine litter and plastic pollution, across the life cycle of plastics from source to sea.
Next to the USA and the European Commission, other newcomers who have joined include Cabo Verde, Portugal, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, bringing the total number of signatory countries to 69.
The commitments made by these countries now cover more than 76 per cent of the world’s coastlines. More voluntary commitments are expected to be made at this year’s United Nations Ocean Conference, while to date, individual pledges of action originating from the Clean Seas Campaign have reached more than one million.
The Clean Seas Campaign is broadening its scope and entering a new strategic phase. After four successive UNEA resolutions were agreed by governments on marine litter and plastic pollution, UNEA 5.2, which was held in March of this year in Nairobi, presented an opportunity to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to close the gaps in existing instruments and tackle plastic pollution, including marine plastic litter, with circular solutions across the lifecycle of plastic products from source to sea. The aim should be for systemic change, for solutions applied throughout the entire plastic value chain, for the rethinking of how plastics are produced, used and disposed of with the double-dividend of not just delivering on a greener planet, but new employment opportunities.
The Clean Seas Campaign will support the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) process initiated to form a legally binding agreement and engage with governments and the private sector to undertake concerted action to end plastic pollution - ahead of the Sixth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6).
“We are pleased to welcome the United States and the European Commission as new Clean Seas members. Their leadership and commitment to the values and mission of Clean Seas will be paramount in accompanying the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee process and developing a globally binding treaty to end plastic pollution,” said Susan Gardner, Director of UNEP’s Ecosystems Division.
In the lead-up to joining the Clean Seas campaign, the United States of America has made significant strides in its actions to reduce plastic pollution, as has the European Commission which introduces a broader EU-wide ban on some single-use plastics products for which easily available and affordable alternatives exist.
Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment, said: “The EU and its Member States take an active role in the work for a successful outcome of the Global Agreement on Plastics. This week’s UN Ocean Conference and next year’s UN 2023 Water Conference are key occasions to deliver outcomes that will make a difference on the ground. You can count on the EU to do its share”.