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Jen, Lucia and Freya at INC-4 @ Freya Park
31/05/2024 Plastic pollution

Global Plastics Treaty INC-4: Forging Pacific island connections

In April, members of the GCT team attended the fourth round of negotiations for a global agreement to end plastic pollution (INC-4) in Ottawa.

Photograph of Freya Park

Freya Park

Freya Park is a Policy Consultant at GCT

The GCT team attended INC-4 to raise our voice in pushing for an ambitious and legally binding Global Plastics Treaty.

We were also there to facilitate collaboration between Galapagos and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to begin developing actions to reduce the unfair burden of plastic on Pacific islands, through implementing Point 12 of the Rapa Nui Pacific Leaders Declaration, which we are pleased to say was successfully submitted as an official document at INC-4.

We were pleased with the progress that was made to agree intersessional work between INC-4 and INC-5 (which takes place later this year in South Korea), but we are disappointed with the lack of progress on a binding commitment to reduce the production of primary plastic polymers (new plastics) which is essential to tackle the plastic problem.

Sending a message in Ottawa @ Freya Park

40 %

of plastic pollution in Galapagos is from maritime sources

The importance of island communities

We are hoping that the Global Plastics Treaty will recognise the island context, with a sustainable funding mechanism that allows islands to develop the necessary infrastructure and capability to deliver on ambitious commitments to reduce plastic pollution.

Island communities need access to this additional support to establish circular economies for islands and to tackle the clean-up of legacy plastics (plastics that cannot be reused or recycled) immediately, to begin mitigating the unfair burden of plastic pollution from global sources. Indigenous peoples and local communities must have the opportunity to contribute to the policy design of these tools from island to regional scale.

Lava lizard and plastic pollution in Galapagos
Lava lizard and plastic pollution in Galapagos © Conservation International / GNPD
Members of the Rapa Nui community in traditional costume

The importance of sharing knowledge

Galapagos and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) share many challenges, and we also have much to learn from each other, as we discovered at the 2024 Pacific Leaders’ Summit.

Find out more

We attended a number of engaging side events at the conference. The Scientists’ Coalition’s Night of Science event rightfully recognised Indigenous knowledge systems and Indigenous peoples as the first scientists and made a powerful link between their scientific knowledge, methods and the emerging science of today. The Indigenous panel on Partnerships Day was extremely inspiring, with Lisa Qiluqqi Koperqualuk, President of the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, making the pertinent point that “We do not have a plastics problem – we have a people problem”.

Dr Jen Jones, CEO of Galapagos Conservation Trust, presented at a side event held by the INC-4 Secretariat on plastic pollution in the marine environment. Her key message was that

“oceanic islands are unfairly burdened by international plastic pollution, impacting vulnerable communities and often unique biodiversity. Marine protected areas are not protecting against pollution – we need action at source to reduce plastics entering the marine environment in the first place.”

Our work in the Galapagos Islands shows a significant input from areas of the high seas that are intensely fished, signalling that it is extremely important to explore links between the Global Plastics Treaty and the High Seas Treaty signed last year, as is improving waste management and plastic usage on board vessels.

Dr Jen Jones presenting GCT’s plastics research at the INC-4 side event @ Freya Park
Dr Jen Jones presenting GCT’s plastics research at the INC-4 side event @ Freya Park
Jen Jones investigating the impacts of microplastics on the Galapagos marine foodweb

Plastic Pollution Free Galapagos

We are working with partners across the Eastern Pacific to make Galapagos plastic pollution free once again.

Discover more

Hosting workshops

The Galapagos National Park Directorate and the Municipality of Rapa Nui, with the support of Galapagos Conservation Trust, hosted a workshop to follow up on the implementation of the Rapa Nui Declaration, which outlines the collective commitment to ocean protection and the fight against plastic pollution in the Pacific region.

This gave us a unique opportunity to bring together the Director of the Galapagos National Park, authorities from the Municipality of Rapa Nui, representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador and Chile, and several other organisations to discuss what is needed to eliminate the threat of plastic pollution to islands and forge relationships between parties to share solutions.

Workshop attendees discussing ideas @ Freya Park
Workshop attendees discussing ideas @ Freya Park

Oceanic islands are unfairly burdened by international plastic pollution, impacting vulnerable communities and often unique biodiversity - Dr Jen Jones (CEO of GCT)

During the workshop, we discussed and refined seven key action areas needed to eliminate plastic pollution on the Pacific islands:

  1. Transition to a circular economy on islands
  2. Improve waste management at sea by fishing fleets, including domestic rubbish and ghost fishing gear
  3. Remediation and cleaning up plastics effectively
  4. Robust international, regional, mainland and island policies are required to reduce the burden of plastic pollution
  5. Improve access to data, share best practices of clean-up management, scientific processes and standardise monitoring strategies in marine protected areas.
  6. Connect islands: share knowledge systems and Indigenous wisdom effectively and create connectivity between islands across Oceania and the Oceanic islands of the Eastern Pacific
  7. Find sustainable funding mechanisms for these action areas

Novel ideas were also shared, such as the representative from Hawaii sharing their experiences and technologies for shredding plastic rubbish to make planters and plant pots, a solution which could be an innovative way to support the removal of plastic pollution from the shores of Rapa Nui. Although these ideas can be part of a transition towards the elimination of plastic pollution, the attendees agreed that the most pressing need was to “turn off the tap” of plastic pollution coming into the islands.

Team photo of the workshop attendees @ Freya Park
Team photo of the workshop attendees @ Freya Park
Example of microplastics washed up on a beach in Galapagos

Creating a circular economy for plastics in Galapagos

There is now an urgent need to embrace circular economy approaches and reduce plastic waste at source.

Read more

Creating a Pacific Island Action Plan

As part of the Canadian government’s Plastic Action Zone, the Galapagos National Park Directorate and the Municipality of Rapa Nui, with the support of Galapagos Conservation Trust, hosted an event to showcase our progress and intentions to develop a Pacific Island Action Plan. This will emphasise the need to begin delivering on these actions immediately, and the need for the international community, through the Global Plastics Treaty, to deliver the necessary mechanisms to allow island communities to achieve this.

The representatives from both Rapa Nui and Galapagos explained how plastic pollution is threatening their islands, mainly arriving from sources outside their control, and made clear the importance of delivering on actions to protect the islands now. It was great to see the enthusiasm in the room and we connected with attendees from the World Health Organisation, WWF, Ocean Conservancy and many other organisations.

We are currently working with the Municipality of Rapa Nui, the Galapagos National Park Directorate and the event facilitators to deliver on the next steps of the Action Plan and are looking forward to connecting with all the participants and our wider networks to begin delivering on these actions for INC-5 and beyond.

GCT’s Programmes and Policy Manager, Lucía Norris (far left) and CEO, Dr Jen Jones (second from the left) discuss the Pacific Island Action Plan @ Freya Park
GCT’s Programmes and Policy Manager, Lucía Norris (far left) and CEO, Dr Jen Jones (second from the left) discuss the Pacific Island Action Plan @ Freya Park

Turning the tide on plastic pollution

Join us at Galapagos Day as we discuss both our work in Galapagos and global efforts to agree a legally binding plastics treaty at the United Nations.

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