Speech/statement | Date: 11/10/2018 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By State Secretary Jens Frølich Holte (Washington, D.C., 11 October)
State Secretary Jens Frølich Holte's address at the seminar Stepping Up to Stop Marine Plastic Pollution in Washington, D.C., USA.
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I am very pleased to be here to discuss marine litter, and to engage with US government leaders, industry representatives and experts on this issue.
I believe we share the view that stronger efforts are needed to combat marine litter, which is one of the fastest growing environmental concerns. Every minute an estimated 15 tons of litter enter our oceans, harming marine ecosystems.
Marine litter and micro-plastics spread across borders. It is a global issue and requires global collective action.
It is a serious issue, but also an issue that is the subject of global attention: All over the world, people are picking plastic and litter from shores and beaches. And all over the world people are calling for action.
While our knowledge is incomplete on the sources and pathways, and on social, environmental and economic effects – we know more than enough to act.
Therefore, together with other dedicated states, Norway has since 2014 driven this issue through a systematic, knowledge based approach in the UN Environment Assembly.
In December 2017, the Assembly took a bold step and agreed to the long-term elimination of all discharge of plastic litter into the ocean.
This vision does not fulfill itself.
This issue is simple and complex at the same time. Estimates tell us that approximately 80 percent of the litter that ends up in our oceans comes from land-based sources. The problem is in the oceans, but important solutions are on land. Improvements in waste management should therefore be a key priority.
I am not talking about a global ban on plastics. There are many good reasons for using plastics. Try to imagine a hospital without plastic! The real problem is what we do with the plastic when we want to get rid of it.
We already have instruments and programmes relevant for marine litter. It is important to strengthen the implementation of existing instruments under IMO and the Basel convention, and the regional seas conventions. Norway has proposed measures in order to address this. But still there are gaps in the global frameworks.
There is currently no coordinating structure for our efforts to combat marine litter. While we have different initiatives, we lack a common framework that can help us prioritize our resources where it matters the most. Better coordination of efforts will give more effective use and dissemination of resources.
We need a framework for action. Norway wants to enhance international cooperation to prevent marine littering within the framework of the UN Environment Assembly.
We envisage a framework that supports governments in their policymaking and implementation of stronger waste management and waste prevention policies. A global framework can facilitate technology transfer, sharing of best practices, and build capacity.
It should be knowledge-based. A systematic approach, based on knowledge and shared methodologies, can help us take stock globally on how we are making progress.
Knowledge can make sure that solving one environmental problem does not replace it with another. We should also make sure that we don’t duplicate efforts, in our eagerness to find solutions.
In March next year, the world will gather in Nairobi for the fourth United Nations Environment Assembly. Norway hopes that we can agree on taking the issue a step forward and direct our efforts in the reach of a zero vision.
A stronger governmental framework needs to be accompanied by effective tools and actions.
That is why Norway has established a program to combat marine litter and micro-plastics in developing countries. The Government has allocated around 35 million USD in 2018. The funds will be targeted towards regions that are most affected by marine litter and plastic pollution, to reduce waste and improve waste management systems.
Norway has also taken the initiative to make improved waste management and prevention of marine litter focus areas of the World Bank’s fund Problue.
The trust fund will provide incentives for effective and sustainable waste management in developing countries. We hope the initiative will mobilize a broad range of other partners, as well as private funding. I am pleased that we already have many on board.
Combatting marine plastic pollution is a long-term commitment for my government. We intend to spend 200 million USD to assist developing countries combatting marine litter and microplastics over the next four year period.
Finally, I want to highlight the role of business and industry.
Marine litter is a waste of resources. An effective, circular economy will also contribute to combatting marine litter. The circular economy means making products better suited for re-use, recycling and to increase the use of secondary materials in products. And industry has a key role to play here.
The government’s role is to make wise decisions that provide a predictable context for the private sector to come up with solutions.
In our work to achieve the zero discharge vision, we welcome a close dialogue between business and governments.
Closing the tap on marine litter is a “must do”.
I am encouraged by the willingness, enthusiasm and energy to step up global efforts to combat marine litter. It is through working together within a stronger common framework that we can make sure we pull in the same direction.