ASSISTANT SECRETARY MEDINA: Good morning. I’m honored to be on this panel with such distinguished speakers. Thank you to Sofia for your introduction.
Thank you also to Pew, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda for inviting me to this event. Warm greetings to my fellow speakers.
Throughout this week, there have been a number of events focused on plastic pollution. And it is exciting to see the momentum that is building across the globe. I appreciate all of your ongoing efforts to tackle this crisis.
I’ve been asked to speak about U.S. domestic actions on plastic pollution and harmonizing these actions with multilateral efforts.
The United States is proud to continue its work to address the plastic pollution crisis alongside our partners around the world for a healthy environment.
We are excited to build on the success of the UNEA meeting in Nairobi to tackle this global challenge. This is the moment to turn the tide on plastic pollution.
As we develop a new global agreement on plastic pollution over the coming years, we will emphasize the need for country-driven actions under such an agreement. These actions would be set out in national action plans, so countries can find their own paths to contribute as ambitiously as they can to the agreement’s objectives in ways that make the most sense for their own circumstances.
The issues faced, by the small island states, for example, are often very different from those faced by the United States. The approach we take for a global agreement, therefore, should have flexibility for all countries that join it to be innovative and ambitious. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this problem.
As part of the new agreement, we should be sure to include mechanisms to provide transparency, reporting, and monitoring, so that we know where we are and where we are going.
The United States is working both domestically and internationally to combat plastic pollution, including by promoting environmentally sound waste management and working to reduce the amount of abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear in the ocean.
Domestically, the State Department is working with our interagency colleagues on a whole-of-government approach to plastic pollution. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is developing a national plastics strategy and the U.S. Department of Energy is funding basic research to find innovative approaches to plastic waste. Additionally, we are working with subnational governments to support ambitious actions at the local and state levels.
The United States Government also has several agencies that support the prevention and reduction of plastic pollution internationally, including the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
This year, the State Department and USAID are leveraging $75 million in global, national, and local programs to combat plastic pollution and build capacity for countries around the world to address this important challenge.
The State Department is also planning to provide $7 million to partner with UNEP to help countries build capacity to end plastic pollution, particularly among small island developing states in the Pacific and Caribbean. Our goals are to help these countries participate ambitiously in the negotiation of the new global agreement on plastic pollution, establish national action plans, and share information and good practices on recycling and waste management.
Additionally, numerous U.S. non-governmental organizations, private-sector companies, subnational governments, and civil society members are tackling plastic pollution by raising public awareness, increasing innovation, and building partnerships.
Turning national commitments into action will require us to enlarge the pool of available resources – for example, by developing new financial tools and public-private partnerships – and using global advocacy to increase national ambition.
To this end, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) is mandated to develop a stakeholder action agenda as part of a new global agreement, which can augment the work of governments in combatting plastic pollution. The United States pushed for this element at UNEA because we want to create new avenues for stakeholders to bring ideas and resources to the table.
Such an action agenda should build on existing stakeholder efforts by bringing together a wide range of contributors – in the private sector, civil society, sub-national governments, and academia – to help solve this problem. A problem that keeps growing.
In fact, the production of plastics is currently increasing. We are also seeing a rise in the levels of plastic pollution around the world. We need global, transformational change, which will require substantial financial and technical support to help countries most in need take action.
I hope all of you will actively engage in the action agenda under a new global agreement. And I encourage you in the near term to bring your innovations and ambitious actions to the first multi-stakeholder forum taking place on Saturday, November 26, right before the first INC meeting in Uruguay.
The decisions we make and the actions we take over the next several years will determine the health of our planet for centuries to come. The time for action is now.
Thank you for having me here today, and I look forward to hearing from the other speakers.