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Vanuatu as PSIDS Chair rallies Pacific nations in ongoing INC process for a Cleaner Pacific

13 February 2024, Auckland NZ - The Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) are small in numbers but it continues to punch well above its weight in its commitment and dedication to ending plastic pollution.

The point was made by the Government of Vanuatu, the new Chair of PSIDS in Auckland New Zealand, where Pacific countries are gathering to strategise for the next round of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC-4), scheduled for 23 to 29 April 2024 at the Shaw Center in Ottawa, Canada.

Vanuatu takes over the role of PSIDS Chair from Palau and as Pacific countries prepare for INC-4, Ms Majorie Wells acknowledged the work of Palau, and reassured that Vanuatu as PSIDS Chair is committed to a unified Pacific voice at the ongoing negotiations of a plastics treaty.

She reminded that the plastic pollution crisis continues to impact livelihoods, social and economic growth for Pacific countries. This is why the work to strengthen the one Pacific voice on the global stage, calling for a global agreement to address plastic pollution covering the whole of life cycle of plastics, is so important.

“Our journey has not been easy but we have been resilient and steadfast to advocate for a cleaner Pacific at the INC negotiations for a legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution. We have continuously contributed immensely towards the negotiations by expressing our positions as a group, community and individual states,” said Ms Wells.

“Let us be reminded of the saying, the “Ocean takes care of its own”. So as the custodians of the Pacific Ocean, let’s collaborate to encourage responsible stewardship over our life sustaining ecosystems. Let us also collaborate these next few days to finalize our Pacific positions through our group discussions and propose clear actionable solutions for areas needing improvement. This will ensure that our unified Pacific voice is heard and reflected without contradictions during INC-4.”

Facilitated by SPREP with support from the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, and funded by the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, the meeting is to provide Pacific countries with assistance they may need in the negotiations.

Karina MacLahlan

Ms Karina McLachlan, International Policy Officer, Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, said Australia is delighted to support these regional preparatory workshops because they strengthen the one Pacific voice in negotiations.

“We are all too familiar with the impacts of plastic pollution in our region, and everyone in this room understands the urgency of the challenge that faces us. The treaty negotiations are at an important juncture, with significant work ahead of us if we are to achieve a new global instrument that addresses the needs of our region,” said Ms McLachlan.

“And although there are challenges ahead, I’d like to reiterate that Australia is committed to negotiating an ambitious legally binding instrument by the end of this year. We want an instrument that addresses the full life cycle of plastics, promotes a safe circular economy, eliminates problematic and unnecessary plastics, and accelerates the removal of harmful chemicals from supply chains.”

Renee Yap

The Pacific Regional Preparatory Workshop for INC-4 is held at the Auckland Office of Aotearoa New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade at Princess Wharf. Ms Renee Yap of NZ MFAT welcomed all the participants and said New Zealand is pleased to be able to support and strengthen the one Pacific voice in the INC process.

The INC was formed during the Fifth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, when they agreed to the resolution to “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an International Legally Binding Instrument”.  The resolution is in line with the Pacific Regional Declaration on the Prevention of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution and its Impacts, which expresses grave concerns from our Pacific leaders about environmental, social, cultural, economic, human rights and other impacts of plastics pollution at every stage of its life cycle.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), as the premier regional organisation for the protection of the environment, continues to provide assistance in coordinating the one Pacific Voice.

Anthony Talouli

SPREP’s Director of Waste Management and Pollution Control, Mr Anthony Talouli, acknowledged the work of all Pacific countries and thanked Government of Australia and the Government of New Zealand for making it possible for Pacific countries come together ahead of INC-4.

The Pacific Regional Preparatory Workshop for the Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4) is held in Auckland, New Zealand from 13 – 15 February 2024.

Facilitated by SPREP with support from the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, this workshop is funded by the Governments of Australia and New Zealand.

The INC-4 Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting is attended by Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.