Nordic Region pushes for global agreement on plastics

10.04.19 | News
Ministre i Island
Birgir Ísleifur Gunnarsson.

From left: Paula Lehtomäki, Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers; Ola Elvestuen, Minister of Climate and Environment (Norway); Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing (Finland); Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources (Iceland); Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, Minister for Environment and Food (Denmark); Karen Motzfeldt, representing Greenland; and Lars Ronnås, Swedish Ambassador for Climate Change.

In a joint declaration, the Nordic countries are pushing for a new global agreement on the reduction and prevention of plastic waste and microplastics discharged into the sea.

Plastic pollution in our seas and oceans is a worldwide environmental problem posing a threat to life and ecosystems and affecting fisheries, maritime transport, outdoor recreation, tourism, and other areas of concern.

Change of course required

Although the issue has gained global recognition, there is a lack of focus on the need for stricter and more committal global governance.

“We need a change of course whereby discussions start with the question ‘What can the world achieve together?’ No country can solve this on its own,” says Ola Elvestuen, Norway’s Minister of Climate and the Environment, who initiated a new Nordic declaration on plastics approved by the Nordic ministers for the environment in Iceland on 10 April.  

We must do better

In the declaration, the ministers for the environment are pushing for a global agreement on plastic in order to protect our seas and oceans. The ministers stress that this is a global problem, and that more concrete measures need to be implemented globally in order to make progress on this issue. 

Vital Nordic input into the UN and the EU

The statement - which has been sent to EU governing bodies, UNEP, the G7, and the G20 - also asks the Nordic Council of Ministers to prepare a study to consider which specific elements should be included in a global agreement to combat microplastics and plastic waste in the marine environment.

In March, the fourth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) decided that the intergovernmental process relating to marine litter and the proliferation of microplastics and the expert group created to identify stronger global governance structures should both continue.  

Global leadership

The Nordic report will be submitted to the expert group before it meets again at the end of 2019. In addition, it will serve as useful input in efforts to refine the EU’s position ahead of the fifth UN Environment Assembly in 2021.

“The Nordic Region must be a pioneer in reducing the environmental impact of plastics. With this declaration, we are continuing to take the lead globally,” says Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources of Iceland, which holds the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2019.