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Cook Islands joins talks on Global Plastics Treaty

Friday 13 October 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Environment, National

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Cook Islands joins talks on Global Plastics Treaty
Cook Islands joined Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Bangkok this week for talks on Global Plastics Treaty, mainly discussing the fine print of the treaty. 17030326

Cook Islands joined Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Bangkok this week for talks on Global Plastics Treaty, mainly discussing the fine print of the treaty.

The treaty talks – the first meeting since the zero-draft of the UN Global Plastic Treaty was announced – included 13 small island states including Fiji, Maldives, and the Republic of Palau.

They met at the Economist Impact’s Global Plastics Summit in Bangkok in a workshop moderated by the social enterprise Common Seas.

Senior government officials from SIDS were discussing how the policies outlined in the draft treaty can be applied to reduce plastic pollution in small island developing states. Topics included refill and reuse schemes, and extended producer responsibility for plastic producers.

The talks provided a vital opportunity for SIDS to meet ahead of November’s third round of negotiations on the details of the UN Treaty on plastic pollution.

Also, earlier this month, Cook Islands joined the Asia Pacific Group (APG) in Sri Lanka for regional consultations on the new plastics treaty.

National Environment Service director Halatoa Fua attended the consultations which also neighbours Vanuatu and Nauru.

According to a statement, Fua reflected on the new global treaty and the zero-draft provided for negotiations at the third round of treaty negotiations in November.

He first outlined that the situation was slightly different for the Cook Islands and Pacific countries, in the sense that the Pacific were not plastic producers but more consumers, and therefore contributed to less than one per cent of the global plastic consumption.

“We are a large ocean state in the Pacific Ocean. Within our EEZ, we are 99.995 per cent ocean and 0.005 per cent land. Within our vast oceans and coastlines, we are subject to transboundary waste, filled with plastic pollution and debris from all over the world,” Fua said.

“Our oceans and reefs are smothered with ghost fishing gear – which we know is a significant marine litter problem. It is entangling and killing threatened and protected marine species, and not forgetting the impacts of ingesting micro plastics for marine life and our marine food chain.

“We want to enforce the priority of reduction, waste prevention and reuse, rather than focusing on just recycling and waste management. The Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda (NSDA) national target for zero waste is to be achieved by 2045.”

Fua said it was important for the Cook Islands and many SIDS that a holistic approach to the problem of plastics is taken to recognise the full life cycle of plastics.

“Taking a precautionary rights-based approach will mean that the rights of Pacific Islanders and Indigenous communities are protected. This is essential to safeguarding a healthy environment, including the marine environment.”