By Baher Kamal
The campaign, which was launched at the World Oceans Summit - a conference organized by The Economist magazine in the Indonesian city of Bali, from February 22 to 24 - urges governments to adopt policies to reduce the use of plastics, industries to minimize the packaging of this material and redesign products, and consumers to change their habits before the seas suffer irreversible damage.
"Kenya is taking decisive action to remove an ugly stain on its outstanding natural beauty," said Erik Solheim, director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
"Plastic waste also causes immeasurable damage to fragile ecosystems - both on land and in the sea - and this decision is a breakthrough in our global effort to lower the tide of plastic," he added.
Supermarkets alone deliver about 100 million plastic bags a year in Kenya, according to the UN. One of the main causes of environmental damage and health problems, the bags also kill birds, fish and other animals that mistake them for food, damage fertile lands, contaminate tourist sites and provide breeding sites for mosquitoes that carry malaria and dengue fever. .
More plastic than fish
According to UNEP, plastic bags are the main problem when it comes to urban waste disposal in Kenya, particularly in the poorest communities, where access to disposal systems and healthcare is limited.
They also contribute to the eight million tons of plastic that seep into the ocean each year. According to estimates, at the current rate, in 2050 there will be more plastic products than fish and it is estimated that 99 percent of seabirds will have ingested this type of material.
Besides Kenya, Morocco and Rwanda are the other African countries that have banned plastic bags from their territories.
At the Bali summit, Indonesia pledged to cut its marine litter by 70 percent by 2025, Uruguay announced it will tax plastic bags this year, and Costa Rica said it will drastically reduce one-time-use plastic through better waste management. waste and education campaigns.
Canada added microparticles - tiny plastic spheres - to its list of toxic substances, and the United States, Britain and New Zealand announced that they will ban them in cosmetics.
Sweden's strong push
Isabella Lovin, Sweden's Deputy Prime Minister and Climate Minister, told IPS that the world is heading "in the totally wrong direction" when it comes to achieving the goal of sustainable oceans and underwater life.
“If you look at current trends, you see more and more overfishing,… more pollution, plastic garbage that enters our oceans, and we also see the stress that the ocean supports due to climate change, water acidification, but also warming and the rising sea level ”, he pointed out.
Sweden and Fiji convene a major UN conference on oceans, June 5-9, which will bring together governments, the private sector and civil society organizations to coordinate a coordinated strategy. The conference will look at the key role the oceans play in climate change, but also other issues, such as plastic in our seas.
“There are 3 billion people around the world who depend mainly on marine resources for their survival and… what the ocean can produce, so it comes down to food security. It also has to do with the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people who depend on small-scale fisheries, mostly in developing countries, ”Lovin explained.
He also noted that the demand for fish from rich countries puts pressure on the needs of developing countries.
"We have to ensure that fish as a resource is conserved and protected for future generations," he stressed.
Advanced ocean research from Norway and FAO
“Keeping our seas clean and our marine life safe from plastic is an urgent matter for Norway. Marine plastic litter is a threat that… negatively affects the lives of people in coastal areas around the world. Our oceans cannot wait any longer, ”said Vidar Helgesen, Norway's Minister of Climate and Environment, at the Bali summit.
On March 24, Norway and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched a ship dedicated to the study of the seas, one of the most advanced of its kind and the only research vessel to carry the flag. from the ONU.
The vessel, named Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, will investigate some of the least explored oceans on the planet using seven state-of-the-art laboratories and sophisticated equipment to help developing countries gather scientific data necessary for sustainable fisheries management and study the how climate change affects our oceans.
As it has a UN flag, the ship can freely navigate different jurisdictional borders, without restrictions in its search.
"This new vessel allows us to improve research and activities where marine observations are extremely limited, and better understand the impacts of climate change on aquatic ecosystems and our oceans," said FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva
"This is crucial to enable developing countries to increase the resilience of ecosystems and coastal communities, especially with regard to small-scale fisheries," he concluded.
Translated by Álvaro Queiruga