DG Statement | 01 Jun, 2023

IUCN Director General’s Statement for World Environment Day 2023

Over 400 million tons of plastic are produced worldwide every year. Plastic pollution is a complex issue, and affects all land, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. It threatens human and ecosystem health, negatively impacts important economic activities, and contributes to climate change. By 2015, 60% of all plastic ever produced had turned into waste. And yearly, up to 14 million tonnes of plastic debris goes into the global ocean.

This is a worldwide problem, spreading far beyond national boundaries and affecting all ecosystems, and must be managed as such if efforts to eliminate it are to be effective and equitable. Numerous international multilateral environmental agreements address plastic pollution, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Global Biodiversity Framework Target 7, the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, the preamble of the new High Seas Treaty, as well as multiple WTO trade agreements. To ensure coherence and effective action, it is essential to coordinate across these commitments.

This World Environment Day, IUCN applauds international efforts to beat plastic pollution, as this is central to addressing the three interlinked planetary crises of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss. It is an issue IUCN actively engages on, through inclusive solutions that bridge multiple fields such as human health and rights, biodiversity, and trade regulations.

Specifically, IUCN welcomes the ongoing process – via the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) – to agree on a legally-binding treaty to tackle plastic pollution. IUCN has engaged in this from the beginning, mandated by its 1,400 Member organisations to halt plastic pollution in marine environments by 2030 and to eliminate plastic pollution in protected areas. Through its Commissions, Members, Secretariat, and partners, IUCN is well equipped to play a leading role in bringing together critical coalitions, and contributing scientific knowledge and technical expertise throughout the INC process.

From facilitating new national policies and plans to manage waste and plastic pollution, to fostering alterative value chains and circular economic models, to capacity building – IUCN’s global work sends a strong message of hope.

IUCN aims for a world free of plastic waste, and will continue striving towards this far beyond World Environment Day.