In the years 2016 and 2017, the relationship between the Ocean and the climate was definitely established. Sadly, the year 2018 has shown a real retreat in terms of international mobilization.
With changes in American, Brazilian, French and English political leadership, the link between the Ocean and climate is no longer on the agenda of climate talks. Despite this regression, the issue of plastic pollution is becoming more and more a priority, regularly taken into account by many countries and subject to new regulations. Here’s our summary of victories for the Ocean in 2018:
Key victories over plastic pollution
At the international level, plastic was on the agenda of the G7 and G20
At the most recent G7 summit, states signing the new Ocean Plastic Pollution Charter pledged to recycle and reuse at least 55% of their plastic packaging by 2030. At the G20, Japan announced that plastic at sea will be on the agenda in 2019. In order to fight pollution of the Ocean by micro-plastics, Japan proposed a law banning single-use plastic, but this law is not accompanied by any sanctions against offenders.
Koror Island, Palau © Guillaume Bourdon / Tara Expeditions Foundation
In Europe, a directive on banning single-use plastics
In May 2018, the European Commission presented the draft of a directive targeting the 10 single-use plastic products (in addition to lost or abandoned fishing gear) most commonly found on beaches and in European seas. The text classifies these products according to possibilities for replacement and the potential evolution of modes of consumption. The law would ban the marketing of 5 of these products (cotton swabs, plates, cutlery, straws, mixing sticks for beverages), and subject the others to various measures to reduce use and offset their environmental impact. This directive was approved by the European Parliament on October 24th. On December 19th, the Parliament, the Member States and the Commission finally agreed on a text. (A final vote of the 2 institutions still has to take place.)
Other countries have taken measures to ban the marketing of single-use plastics and bags.
- Single-use plastic bags:
- Germany chose to make 80% of its bags payable
- New Zealand announced on August 10, 2018 a progressive ban
- Chile announced a ban — the first country in South America to take such measures.
- Straws, bottles and plastic cuttlery:
- Dominica is the first country in the world to ban plastic straws, plates and cutlery as well as styrofoam cups and containers.
- The state of Maharashtra in India has banned plastic cutlery, plates, bags and bottles since June 25th. In the event of non-compliance with the law, offenders are liable to a fine and in the worst cases, to imprisonment.
What’s happening in France?
Prohibition of plastic cutlery in 2020
French deputies voted on September 15, 2018 to ban “plastic cutlery, disposable lids, meal trays, ice cream cups, salad bowls, and boxes” starting in 2020. This adds to the ban on plastic straws and stirring sticks adopted by the Senate in June 2018.
© Jonathan Lancelot / Tara Expeditions Foundation
In order to protect their coral reefs — subjected to the harmful effects of tourism – the Palau archipelago (500 islands) of Micronesia, will prohibit in 2020 the use of certain sunscreens, under penalty of a $1,000 fine — a world first! This ban applies to products containing 3 main chemical components used bymost major brands — oxybenzone, octocrylene and parabens. The state of Hawaii (USA) passed a similar ban last May that will come into force in 2021.
Ocean and climate change, a worrisome retreat
UNFCCC: the Ocean relegated to the margins of negociations
Since the end of the COP24 in Katowice, it’s difficult to talk about “victory”. The balance sheet looks more like “minimum service”, with only the approval of a “rulebook” to implement the Paris Agreement, but a crying lack of funding. It’s also important to note the very weak political leadership, and especially the lack of ambition to meet commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In spite of this, some good news: the announcement of the next COP25 in Chile, a leading country In the Ocean-Climate network, with the “Because the Ocean” intiative.
Sustainable Development Goals: what next?
Clearly, the jump-start of the COP21 did not have a concrete and significant follow-up. CO2 emissions remained stable, then started to rise again. The change of ambition in Brussels is regrettable, especially on the issue of energy at European level. The Lisbon conference scheduled for 2020 offers hope for renewed dynamism and the launch of some concrete measures.
Tara was in New-York during the discussions about High-Seas © Céline Bellanger / Tara Expeditions Foundation
‘Our Ocean’ campaign: a low impact
The ‘Our Ocean’ conference promotes global cooperation between policy makers, scientists, experts and businessmen to protect the Ocean. This year, the Conference took place on October 29-30 in Bali, Indonesia. Unfortunately it did not achieve the desired effect because few heads of state were present and the media impact was weak.
International waters: the blur persists
At UN headquarters in New York on September 4th, participating nations began a first round of discussions to establish a legal framework for the protection and exploitation of biodiversity in international waters. But they refused to start negotiations on a text! Hopefully at the next session in March 2019, there will be some advances on a text to obtain concrete regulations.
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