In a historic event that unfolded last week at the margins of World Oceans Day, Fiji has become the founding member of the new Group of Friends established at the United Nations to combat Marine Plastic Pollution. Presently, 46 member states of the United Nations (UN) has joined the Group of Friends. 

The new group aims formulate robust responses at global level to enhance awareness and swift actions taken to combat marine plastic pollution and it is a collaborative initiative co-chaired by Antigua and Barbuda, the Maldives and Norway. 

In delivering his statement at the virtual launch of the new group, H.E. Tijjani Muhammad Bande, President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly applauded the formation of the group as being the turning point for urgent action to stop the free flow of plastic waste which threatens to overwhelm oceans. 

“I commend the leadership of the founding members of this Group of Friends for committing to tackle marine plastic pollution. This challenge is the cornerstone of SDG 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Therefore, it is critical that this is addressed in various multilateral fora as well as at the local, national, and regional levels,” President Tijjani Muhammad Bande said. 

Fiji’s Permanent Representative to United Nations, Ambassador Satyendra Prasad said the new group is a welcome effort in fostering international solidarity and action as it complements the work of the UN Group of Friends of the Oceans that Fiji co-chairs. 

Ambassador Prasad reaffirmed Fiji’s commitment to achieving SDG14 and the decisive actions taken by Fiji to accelerate ocean action and address marine plastic pollution. “Fiji announced its voluntary commitments at the first UN Ocean Conference in 2017 to combat plastic pollution.  On 1/1/20, the Fijian Government banned ‘single-use plastics’. 

It imposed heavy penalties – $0.5 million fines and 7 year prison sentences for manufacture and distribution of the single use plastics. “It went further to reduce to zero, taxes on import and local manufacture of woven; bamboo and other sustainable and recyclable packaging material.

These incentives have had a significant impact on families and especially women entrepreneurs who are now engaged in production of sustainable bags in growing numbers. 

“With the right incentives, we can reduce our dependency on plastics; generate jobs and improve livelihoods. We can also help reduce gender inequality at the same time. Fiji is delighted to see a growing number of differentially-abled persons beginning enterprises in production of sustainable packaging.     

“Fiji introduced in 2018, the Environmental and Climate Action Levy. This is a tax on all high carbon and plastics. Plastics is essentially a fossil fuel product.  This Fund is helping to fund the development of a circular economy that reduces plastic dependency. This is a crucial climate action on the part of the Fijian government,” Ambassador Prasad.

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