UNEA 1

Agreeing On The Global Emerging Threat

At the first UNEA, the nations recognized the emerging global problem negatively impacting the marine environment and requested UNEP to provide a report on marine plastic and microplastic.

Knowledge

At UNEA 1 in June 2014, the parties passed a resolution that noted the growing problem of plastics and microplastics in the marine environment, where the pollution negatively affects ecosystem services, natural resources, fisheries, tourism, and economies, as well as posing risks to human health. The resolution recognized that the problem is growing because plastic is so heavily used and is not properly managed or disposed of. The resolution also highlighted that microplastics could potentially contribute to the transfer in marine ecosystems of “persistent organic pollutants, other persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances and other contaminants which are in or adhere to the particles”.

Key principles & strategies

The resolution stressed the importance of the precautionary approach, and pointed to the need for more knowledge and research on the source and fate of plastics and their impacts. It urged action to improve waste management practices and clean up marine debris and litter already in the ocean, as well as promote efficient use and sound management of plastics and microplastics.

The role of UNEP moving forward

The UNEA 1 resolution asked UNEP to support countries to develop national and regional action plans to reduce marine litter. It also charged UNEP with compiling a report on marine plastic debris and microplastic. That report – “Marine Plastic debris and microplastics: Global lessons and research to inspire action and guide policy change” – was released at the UNEA 2 meeting.

pdf2

Read the full UNEA 1 resolution

You can read the full UNEA 1 resolution on “Marine plastic debris and microsplastics” in PDF

The United Nations Environment Assembly Resolution

1/6. Marine plastic debris and microplastics

Recalling the concern reflected in the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, entitled “The future we want”,1 that the health of oceans and marine biodiversity are negatively affected by marine pollution, including marine debris, especially plastic, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and nitrogen-based compounds, from numerous marine and land-based sources, and the commitment to take action to significantly reduce the incidence and impacts of such pollution on marine ecosystems,

Noting the international action being taken to promote the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle and waste in ways that lead to the prevention and minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment,

Recalling the Manila Declaration on Furthering the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities adopted by the Third Intergovernmental Review Meeting on the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities, which highlighted the relevance of the Honolulu Strategy and the Honolulu Commitment and recommended the establishment of a global partnership on marine litter,

Taking note of the decisions adopted by the eleventh Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity on addressing the impacts of marine debris on marine and coastal biodiversity,

Recalling that the General Assembly declared 2014 the International Year of Small Island Developing States and that such States have identified waste management among their priorities for action,

Noting with concern the serious impact which marine litter, including plastics stemming from land and sea-based sources, can have on the marine environment, marine ecosystem services, marine natural resources, fisheries, tourism and the economy, as well as the potential risks to human health;

  1. Stresses the importance of the precautionary approach according to which lack of full scientific certainty should not be used for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation, where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage;
  2. Recognizes the significant risks arising from the inadequate management and disposal of plastic and the need to take action;
  3. Encourages Governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, industry and other relevant actors to cooperate with the Global Partnership on Marine Litter in its implementation of the Honolulu Strategy and to facilitate information exchange through the online marine litter network;
  4. Recognizes that plastics, including microplastics, in the marine environment are a rapidly increasing problem due to their large and still increasing use combined with the inadequate management and disposal of plastic waste, and because plastic debris in the marine environment is steadily fragmenting into secondary microplastics;
  5. Also recognizes the need for more knowledge and research on the source and fate of microplastics and their impact on biodiversity, marine ecosystems and human health, noting recent knowledge that such particles can be ingested by biota and could be transferred to higher levels in the marine food chain, causing adverse effects;
  6. Notes that microplastics may also contribute to the transfer in the marine ecosystems of persistent organic pollutants, other persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances and other contaminants which are in or adhere to the particles;
  7. Recognizes that microplastics in the marine environment originate from a wide range of sources, including the breakdown of plastic debris in the oceans, industrial emissions and sewage and run-off from the use of products containing microplastics;
  8. Emphasizes that further urgent action is needed to address the challenges posed by marine plastic debris and microplastics, by addressing such materials at source, by reducing pollution through improved waste management practices and by cleaning up existing debris and litter;
  9. Welcomes the establishment of the Global Partnership on Marine Litter launched in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012 and the convening of the first Partnership Forum in 2013;
  10. Also welcomes the adoption by the contracting parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (Barcelona Convention) at its eighteenth ordinary meeting, held in Istanbul, Turkey, from 3 to 6 December 2013, of the Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter Management, the world’s first such action plan, and welcomes the draft Action Plan on Marine Litter for the North-East Atlantic region awaiting adoption by the Commission of the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic at its meeting in Cascais, Portugal, and encourages Governments to collaborate through relevant regional seas conventions and river commissions with a view to adopting such action plans in their regions;
  11. Requests the Executive Director to support countries, upon their request, in the development and implementation of national or regional action plans to reduce marine litter;
  12. Welcomes the initiative by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection to produce an assessment report on microplastics, which is scheduled to be launched in November 2014;
  13. Also welcomes the work undertaken by the International Whaling Commission on assessing the impacts of marine debris on cetaceans and the endorsement by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals at its tenth meeting of resolution 10.4, addressing the impacts of marine debris on migratory species;
  14. Requests the Executive Director, in consultation with other relevant institutions and stakeholders, to undertake a study on marine plastic debris and marine microplastics, building on existing work and taking into account the most up-to-date studies and data, focusing on:
    • (a) Identification of the key sources of marine plastic debris and microplastics;
    • (b) Identification of possible measures and best available techniques and environmental practices to prevent the accumulation and minimize the level of microplastics in the marine environment;
    • (c) Recommendations for the most urgent actions;
    • (d) Specification of areas especially in need of more research, including key impacts on the environment and on human health;
    • (e) Any other relevant priority areas identified in the assessment of the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection;
  15. Invites the secretariats of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal and relevant organizations involved in pollution control and chemicals and waste management and the secretariats of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Migratory Species and the regional seas conventions and action plans to contribute to the study described in paragraph 14 of the present resolution;
  16. Encourages Governments and the private sector to promote the more resource-efficient use and sound management of plastics and microplastics;
  17. Also encourages Governments to take comprehensive action to address the marine plastic debris and microplastic issue through, where appropriate, legislation, enforcement of international agreements, provision of adequate reception facilities for ship-generated wastes, improvement of waste management practices and support for beach clean-up activities, as well as information, education and public awareness programmes;
  18. Invites Governments, intergovernmental organizations, the scientific community, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and other stakeholders to share relevant information with the Executive Director pertinent to the study described in paragraph 14;
  19. Invites those in a position to do so to provide financial and other support to conduct the study identified in paragraph 14;
  20. Requests the Executive Director to present the study on microplastics for the consideration of the United Nations Environment Assembly at its second session.
Go Top