Mediterranean marine litter management initiatives highlighted in G7 Ministerial meeting – Jun 11, 2017

UN Environment/MAP activities featured very high at the 2017 G7 Environment Ministers' meeting held in Bologna on 11-12 June 2017, under the auspices of the Italian G7 Presidency. Mr. Gaetano Leone, Coordinator of UN Environment/MAP, delivered the key-note address to the Ministers on the agenda item on "Marine Litter" and provided the closing remarks at the end of the discussion. 

The G7 Environment Ministers and high representatives, and European Commissioners responsible for environment and climate, were joined by heads and senior officials of International Organizations and by representatives of universities and firms. The meeting focused on the key themes of the global environmental challenge, such as the state of implementation of the goals set by the Paris Agreement to fight climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN 2030 Agenda as well as on traditional G7 important issues, such as Marine Litter, and Resource Efficiency.

During his address, Mr. Leone stressed the importance of the oceans’ natural resource base in supporting human existence, livelihoods, and growth and the relevance of addressing marine litter for its environmental, social and economic implications, including in vital sectors such as tourism, fisheries, aquaculture, and energy supply.

Mr. Leone noted that the increased mobilization and awareness following the adoption of the G7 Marine Litter Action Plan in 2015, provided leaders with a unique opportunity for action. The UN Environment MAP contributed to the organization of a workshop, last April in Rome, to review how the Regional Seas Programmes’ activities and best practices support the implementation of the G7 Action Plan on the global scale. The workshop considered that in general terms, Regional Seas programmes demonstrate an approach that is compatible with the objectives and the priority actions contained in the G7 Action Plan; that the regional dimension appears to be crucial to its implementation; and that processes, initiatives and actors at the global, regional and national levels need to effectively interact and contribute to ensure coherence, complementarities and impact.

Mr. Leone also noted the extraordinary level of commitment that has coalesced in the adoption of the Call for Action by the UN Conference on Oceans, by which countries agree to implement long-term, robust strategies to reduce the use of plastics and microplastics. Governments registered almost half of the 1328 voluntary commitments offered on the occasion of the Ocean Conference. 

Among the initiatives highlighted was the UN Environment #CleanSeas campaign which is enjoying a parallel trajectory of attention and commitment. 

Mr. Leone also outlined the work on-going in the Mediterranean to ensure higher effectiveness and coordination of the collective responses to marine litter challenges: 

·    The adoption in 2013 of the first ever legally-binding Regional Plan on Marine Litter Management in the Mediterranean, containing a set of programmes of measures and implementation timetables;

·    Implementation Guidelines (2016) e.g. Fishing-for-litter;

·    Baseline Values and Environmental Reduction Targets;

·    A Regional Assessment Report on Marine Litter;

·    Regional Cooperation Platform on Marine Litter in the Mediterranean;

·    Regional Action Plan on Sustainable and Consumption and Production (SCP) (adopted in 2016);

·    Basin-wide Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme of the Mediterranean Sea and Coast;

·    Development of National Action Plans;

·    Developing partnerships with a number of countries and organizations to mobilize resources and amplify the impact of our individual action

The G7 Ministers’ meeting ended with the unanimous adoption of the Communiqué for the protection of the planet. The text of the Communiqué includes the recognition of the role of the Regional Seas Programmes as key to effectively establish and implement coherent and coordinated regional basin-wide approaches, in the context of the cooperation among international instruments and initiatives on marine litter.

The Communiqué also expresses G7 Ministers’ determination to further implement the G7 Action Plan to Combat Marine Litter (APML) and called for strengthening the coherence, efficiency and effectiveness of existing international efforts, in particular te Regional Seas Programmes‘ activities to address marine litter, while taking into account regional contexts, mainly through the following initiatives:

1. Harmonization of science-based indicators and methodologies for monitoring and evaluation, including through research;

2. Identification, development, implementation and outreach of broad and accessible databases;

3 Identification and dissemination of best practices, especially on prevention and management of waste and litter from land based and sea based sources and on removal actions;

4. Development of capacity building efforts;

5. Identification, development and dissemination of measures for: cost-benefit assessments, partnerships to support cost recovery instruments, extended producer responsibility and promotion of investments in waste and water management infrastructures, including through cooperation with the private sector;

6. Progressive reduction of single-use plastics and microplastics, including microbeads, to avoid the leakage of plastics to the marine environment, including through research on substitutes.