Speakers call for International Treaty on Plastic Pollution, Circular Economic Models to Promote Reusability, Reduce Waste at Stockholm+50 Meeting
The international community must urgently transition from unsustainable patterns of consumption and production to circular economic models that promote reusability and reduce waste, speakers stressed as the Stockholm+50 international meeting concluded today, also expressing support for a binding international treaty on plastic pollution.
As the general debate continued, the representative of the Bahamas joined others in pointing out that, although small island developing States have minuscule carbon footprints, they are most affected by the negative impacts of climate change, including intense storms, sea-level rise and ocean acidification. Noting that the oceans will soon have more plastics than fish, he said that his country has banned single-use plastics and utensils.
Representatives of United Nations agencies, non-governmental organisations and major groups then took the floor to offer proposals stemming from their experience and expertise to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
The representative of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat), spotlighting sprawling cities and decreasing natural habitats, urged commuters to shift from private to public transportation as this would improve air quality. Further, if businesses and individuals used colocation, this would reduce the environmental footprint in urban areas. Sustainable cities are essential, he stressed.
The representative of the local authorities major group said that local governments — which represent the midpoint between the individual and the nation — are showing leadership on sustainability through innovative solutions that allow local communities to meet national commitments. Such measures include the transition to circular economies in which water and waste loops are closed, and he said that, despite the potential of inclusive multilateral action, “‘think global, act local’ is still the best four-word plan we have”.
The representative of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) underlined that digital transition must be accompanied by green-energy solutions and the transition to circular economies. Pointing out that a growing digital society leads to increased energy usage and materials consumption, she said that the Union is working with Governments to develop global e-waste strategies in response.
The representative of the interfaith major group noted that his statement is the result of seven global meetings, with contributions from more than 40 interfaith groups and is endorsed by more than 200 faith leaders. The current crisis is human and existential, he said, adding that its causes are deeply fuelled by structural greed and apathy. “We humans have failed” in the responsibility to protect the planet, he said, affirming the crucial role that faith leaders must play in global governance and policymaking.
Faith traditions have unique capacities to convince and convene, he said, calling on the international community to recognise the role of spiritual values in the fight to safeguard the environment. Calling for the recognition of ecocide as an international crime, he expressed the Group’s commitment “to practise what we preach”, and live in harmony with nature.
The representative of the women’s major group underscored that women and girls have the right to meaningfully participate in decision-making pertaining to climate and the environment. Women must be at negotiating tables at the regional and national levels because they are among the most affected by climate change in terms of mortality and exposure to climate-induced conflict and gender-based violence. She called on all countries to commit to a gender-responsible, just transition to green economies to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis. She further called on all countries to strengthen and expand gender-responsive social protection systems to build resilience to the economic and environmental shocks faced by women and girls. Additionally, she urged that the international community ensure public participation and access to information and justice for women, youth, indigenous people and those with disabilities.
The representative of the indigenous peoples major group said indigenous peoples have safeguarded biodiversity in traditional territories and most of the planet’s remaining biodiversity is in these territories. Now is the time for a paradigm shift in conservation that recognises the role of indigenous peoples and supports their ways of conserving and sustainably using lands. To achieve the bold progress urgently needed to secure a better future on a healthy planet, Member States need to take clear action to uphold their commitments under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The representative of the business and industry major group, noting estimates that $1.8 trillion is spent globally on subsidies that destroy nature, called for fossil-fuel subsidies to be reformed by 2025 as part of an ambitious global biodiversity framework. He also stressed the need to secure the universal human right to a healthy, clean and sustainable environment in the General Assembly in June, so that the legal aspect of sustainable development can be strengthened. He went on to say that a global baseline for corporate sustainability reports will provide transparent, comparable and consistent information for capital markets, calling on financial regulators in all geographies to align with the International Sustainability Standards Board’s baseline across environmental, social and governance factors.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, who also serves as the Secretary-General of Stockholm+50, stressed that much ground has been covered over the past two days and now it’s time for action. She outlined several actions that cannot wait. It is necessary to ensure the human right to a healthy environment, as too many environmental rights defenders have been killed. Reshaping the economy is also key, she said, stressing the need for circularity and nature-based solutions. Decarbonisation cannot wait, nor can making good on financing commitments or realigning financial flows. There are more than 1 billion young people in the world, and their voices must be heard. A sick environment cannot deliver for young people. “If we don’t change, the triple plenary crisis […] will only accelerate,” she said.
The triple crisis will only make the world less equitable. The 1972 Stockholm Conference spurred the creation of UNEP and started environmental multilateralism. What can be created in the wake of this 2022 conference, she asked, adding: “It’s in our hands, let’s get it done.”