February 17, 2021

Regional Instruments Critical for Governing Marine Plastic Pollution: IASS Report

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub

Regional instruments can help strengthen the global governance of marine plastic pollution, including by contributing to a possible new global agreement, explains a report published by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) Potsdam.The report titled, ‘Stronger Together: The role of regional instruments in strengthening global governance of marine plastic pollution,’ launched in February 2021, argues that integration of the global, regional, national, and local scales is needed for a successful ocean governance system to address marine plastic pollution. The report looks at the achievements of regional organizations and instruments related to marine litter, and offers recommendations for policymakers on ways the work of these organizations can be leveraged, supported, and linked to a new global agreement, through their provision of frameworks for action and implementation.

Describing successful efforts made by regional organizations, the report highlights: establishment of joint work programmes or platforms such as Regional Marine Litter Nodes to promote information exchange and cooperation among stakeholders; adoption of legally binding provisions by some regional bodies, including under the Barcelona Convention; and introduction of indicators specific to marine litter in existing monitoring and assessment programmes.

With the prevalence of marine litter expected to increase, various proposals to enhance its governance framework are under discussion in international fora. Proposals pertain to strengthening existing regional and sectoral frameworks and negotiating a new global agreement on marine plastic pollution.

On strengthening existing regional efforts, the report notes challenges related to: varying levels of implementation and efforts across regions; harmonization of monitoring approaches; and limited capacities for multi-stakeholder and private sector engagement. For each of these challenges, the report provides recommendations for initial and further steps, and identifies ways a new global agreement on marine plastic litter could advance regional efforts.

On a new global agreement on marine plastic pollution, the authors explain that regional organizations can only perform within the terms of their respective jurisdictions and mandates, and priorities differ among regions, so a new global agreement could play the role of promoting and harmonizing efforts at the global, regional, and national levels by: providing an overarching, comprehensive strategy; setting common objectives and minimum standards; proposing shared indicators and assessment methodologies; and undertaking global reviews and assessments.

The report outlines possible elements of a new global agreement that would strengthen regional-level activities, including: facilitating the sharing of best practices and technologies; providing capacity building, training and financial support; and establishing a joint international database and a related data management strategy to facilitate the collection of and access to data. A global agreement could also provide harmonized standards for industry, and global liability and compensation for plastic pollution.

The authors suggest that the experience, expertise, and capacity of regional organizations would be valuable in developing the provisions of a new global agreement. For example, existing regional systems for monitoring, reporting, cooperation and coordination would help address the issue of marine plastic litter at the sea-basin and ecosystem scale. [Publication: Stronger Together: The role of regional instruments in strengthening global governance of marine plastic pollution]