Good morning and thank you to the National Academies for the opportunity to give remarks. Combatting plastic pollution is one of my highest priorities.
The world is drowning in plastic pollution. It is time to “turn off the tap” and foster solutions that end plastic pollution.
Plastic pollution is found from the deepest ocean to the highest mountains, floating in the air, and even within our own bodies.
Solutions must address the full lifecycle of plastics, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this global problem.
That’s why a new global agreement must provide flexibility for countries to contribute to an ambitious common objective through national action plans reflecting country-driven approaches.
National governments cannot solve this problem alone. We need the private sector, subnational governments, civil society, and others to invest resources and expertise into finding innovative solutions.
There is a fast-growing recognition of the enormous challenge that plastic pollution represents for the Earth. I applaud the launch of a new Academies’ Roundtable on plastics to further elevate the discussion among the scientific community.
The NAS has been instrumental in shining a light on this global problem, including with your report Reckoning with the U.S. Role in Global Ocean Plastic Waste.
That report calls for a national strategy to deal with plastic pollution. That is a good jumping off point for me share what the U.S. government has been working on.
The Biden-Harris Administration is pulling on all levers to enhance our domestic efforts on plastic pollution. Just recently, the White House appointed a new Senior Director for Chemical Safety and Plastic Pollution in the Council on Environmental Quality, Jonthan Black, who will provide leadership on a whole-of-U.S. government approach to plastic pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency is developing a national plastics strategy, and the Department of Energy is funding research to find innovative approaches to plastic waste. Additionally, the Department of State is engaging with Tribes and subnational governments as important partners that can implement ambitious actions at the local and state levels.
But as I said, national governments can’t solve this challenge on their own.
That is why the work of the National Academies Roundtable is so important. You have access to the top subject experts in the country, combined with a process to bring all sectors to the table and work through some of the hardest questions. And this effort could not be more timely.
As many of you may know, the first intergovernmental negotiating committee – or INC-1 – for a global agreement on plastic pollution begins November 28, in Uruguay. Thereafter, negotiating teams will meet every six months or so, with the goal of completing the agreement in late 2024.
Importantly, the mandate for negotiating a new agreement covers the full lifecycle of plastic, calls for provisions to initiate a multistakeholder action agenda, and recognizes that there is no one-size-fits all solutions to plastic pollution.
So what is our vision for a global agreement?
First, we need an agreement that is ambitious, innovative, and country-driven.
The agreement should enable all parties to the agreement to work towards an ambitious global goal, which should be eliminating the release of plastic into the environment by 2040.
To reach this goal, we will build on important research, including that of the National Academies, to better understand the problem and foster potential solutions.
Second, we see a strong complementary role for stakeholders and partners by highlighting their actions to combat plastic pollution in a multi-stakeholder action agenda. The United States pushed for this element at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) meeting in March because we want new avenues for stakeholders and partners to bring ideas and resources to the table.
Such an action agenda should build on existing stakeholder and partner efforts by bringing together the private sector, civil society, Tribes, sub-national governments, and academia to solve this growing problem.
Taken together, we seek an ambitious, innovative, and country-driven global agreement that creates a race to the top.
But there are still many outstanding questions that we need to sort through, and this is where your efforts come in.
The roundtable will take on some of the big issues that we need to better understand, such as plastics production and waste management; environmental and health exposures; and data collection, management and modeling.
With your research and collaboration on these issues, we can find the most effective paths forward on such questions as:
- How do we work across the lifecycle of plastics to improve circularity?
- What are the human health impacts of plastic pollution?
- What should we measure and how do we measure to make sure we are moving in the right direction?
We wish to work together to help us find innovative solutions, create accountability, and make a real difference now and for future generations.
Earlier this year the world came together in Nairobi to turn the tide against plastic pollution.
Together, we agreed that the only way to fix our plastic addiction is to beat it together. All of us.
Thank you for having me here today. I look forward to the great work that this Roundtable will produce and working together for a better future for our children and grandchildren.