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Participation in UN Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics

Last week Esther Kentin participated in the Second Meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics organized by UN Environment in Geneva.

The Expert Group was established by the environment ministers during the UN Environment Assembly in 2017 to explore barriers to combatting marine litter and microplastics and, subsequently, to identify response options. Esther Kentin was able to participate as a legal expert, accredited by the Plastic Soup Foundation. During the meeting, several barriers were addressed. Legal barriers include the lack of standards and targets. The lack of funds for innovation and at the same time continued subsidies for fossil fuel were identified as financial barriers. Also technological and information barriers were discussed. Most of the second meeting was focussed on the options for responding to these barriers. Three options were presented: maintaining the status quo, review and revision of existing frameworks and a new global instrument specifically dealing with marine litter and microplastics. While some countries, such as Norway, Sweden and Costa Rica, presented and supported proposals for a new global treaty, no consensus could be reached to present this option to the environment ministers meeting in 2019. Some countries maintained that marine litter was a waste problem, while others asserted that voluntary options should be explored first. A number of island nations stressed the global character and health concerns of plastic, and the need to tackle the problems globally. The meeting proved to be very valuable for the new project of the Leiden Advocacy Project on Plastic: the development of science-based ‘plastic principles’.

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