Nordic nations lead the way
A global treaty to reduce marine plastic pollution may also help achieve a Sustainable Development Goal, the deadline of which is just six years away
Since latest estimates show that 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year and cost the world up to $2.5 trillion (Rs 162 lakh crore), Nordic countries, in a declaration, called for a global treaty to tackle the crisis.
The declaration was made on April 10, 2019, at a gathering of environment ministers of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden at the Nordic Council in Reykjavik. According to the Nordic Cooperation, this demand has also been sent to the European Union, United Nations Environment Programme, the G7, and the G20 groups.
The World Wildlife Fund had just last month, warned that plastic pollution will double worldwide by 2030 unless major changes are made in how the waste is managed. The WWF has also called upon all nations to agree upon a global treaty on plastic waste, similar to the Montreal Protocol, to protect the ozone layer.
The Nordic nations reiterate the importance of a UN resolution aimed to eliminate discharge of plastic litter and microplastics into the oceans. Also, just six years are left to achieve a Sustainable Development Goal, which calls upon the world to work towards preventing and significantly reducing marine pollution.
Despite gaining global recognition, the issue of marine plastics pollution lacks focus on the need for stricter and more committal governance, said Ola Elvestuen, Norway's minister of climate and environment, who initiated the new Nordic declaration on plastics.
"We need a change of course where discussions should start with the question 'what can the world achieve together?' as no country can solve this problem on its own," said Elvestuen.
Iceland approved the declaration. "The Nordic region must be a pioneer in reducing the environmental impact of plastics. With this declaration, we are continuing to take the lead globally," says Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, minister for environment and natural resources of Iceland.
The fourth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) held last month had stressed upon an intergovernmental process to address marine litter and the proliferation of microplastics. But nothing much had happened on the policy front, said the WWF International in its response to this declaration.
It said, "It is an important declaration after world leaders failed to agree on meaningful policy decisions on the issue at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi last month."
The declaration also asks the Nordic Council of Ministers to prepare a report on the specific elements that should be included in a global agreement to curb marine plastics pollution, which will also be useful in presenting the position of European Union ahead of the fifth UN Environment Assembly in 2021.
(The author is Programme Director, Environment Resource Unit, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi. Views expressed are strictly personal)