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World Environment Day – Solution to Plastic Pollution

World Environment Day is the biggest international day for the environment, celebrated by millions of people across the world. This year marks the 50th anniversary of World Environment Day, after it was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972. Similarly, The Caribbean Community was also established in 1972 celebrating 50 years of integration, cooperation and development. In this pursuit, sustainable management of the environment and natural resources has always been a priority enshrined in the Treaty of Chaguaramas.

The theme for 2023 is “Solutions to plastic pollution”. Plastic pollution is one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time, affecting our oceans, wildlife, health and climate. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), more than 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year, equivalent to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute. Plastic also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its lifecycle, from production to disposal.

CARICOM is committed to addressing the issue of plastic pollution and promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns. Here are some of the actions that CARICOM is taking in line with the theme of World Environment Day 2023:

– CARICOM has adopted a regional strategy for the management of marine litter and microplastics, which aims to reduce the generation and impact of plastic waste on the marine environment and human health. The strategy was articulated by Heads of Government in 2019 by the St. John’s Declaration and includes measures such as banning single-use plastics, promoting circular economy models, enhancing waste collection and recycling systems, and raising public awareness and education.

(Photo via BGIS)

– CARICOM is supporting its member states in developing and implementing national policies and legislation to address plastic pollution and promote sustainable development. For example, several CARICOM countries have already banned or restricted single-use plastics and styrofoam products, such as Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. These bans and other trade-related policy responses have been discussed among Trade Ministers in the CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED). The Secretariat subsequently commissioned an ongoing study to explore the economic and technical guidance of plastics alternatives and various bans to support the Member State transition.

– CARICOM Member States supported UNEP’s initiative as it launched a regional campaign called “Clean Seas Caribbean” in 2021, which encourages governments, businesses and individuals to take action to reduce plastic pollution and protect marine biodiversity. The campaign supports initiatives such as beach clean-ups, plastic-free events, green procurement policies, and innovation challenges.

– through a project funded by the European Commission to support capacity building for implementation of global environmental agreements, the CARICOM Secretariat is conducting regional assessments to better understand the plastic waste and solid waste management issues in the region and preparing practitioner’s handbooks with best practices and guidelines. Likewise, other aspects of waste and recycling are receiving attention, particularly products with dangerous mercury. The handling and disposal of these products is guided by the Minamata convention.

Senior Environment Officials will meet on June 19th to discuss pressing environmental issues, including a way forward in coordinating CARICOM engagement during the negotiation of a global legally binding treaty to reduce plastics pollution. This will be followed by a meeting of Ministers with responsibility for the Environment later this month during the 108th Special Meeting of the Council of Trade and Economic Development – Environment and Sustainable Development (COTED).

By taking these and other actions, CARICOM is demonstrating its leadership and commitment to tackling plastic pollution holistically and protecting the environment for present and future generations. World Environment Day 2023 is an opportunity for all of us to join forces and take action for a cleaner and greener Caribbean.

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