Group of Friends to Combat Marine Plastic Pollution

Antigua and Barbuda, Norway and the Maldives launched the new Group of Friends to Combat Plastic Pollution on World Ocean Day, 8 June 2020.

Plastic production has skyrocketed, going from 2 million metric tons in 1950 to 380 million metric tons in 2015 and is expected to further triple in the next two decades.

The numerous properties of plastics - lightweight, low cost, easily shaped, protection against contamination, and durability to withstand transportation and long-term storage – along with its use in a wide array of applications, has led to this explosive growth in production.

Hashtag: #CombatMarinePlastic  /

Join us: Invitation to the Launch of the new Group of Friends to Combat Marine Pullution

Concept Note: Launch Group of Friends to Combat Marine Plastic Pollution (.pdf)

Click and watch the launch here on 8 June at 9 am EST:

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The increased use of plastics has resulted in a corresponding increase in plastic pollution. It is exactly its durability and resistance to degradation that allows plastics to persist in the environment for long time spans either in its original form or broken down into microplastics. These plastics pollute our lands, rivers, seas, oceans, and now permeate our food and drinking water supplies. Notably, the overuse of single-use plastics has contributed to a global, environmental catastrophe.

While the available research on the impact of marine plastic pollution is relatively limited, recent estimates suggest that plastics are entering the ocean at an alarming rate. Marine plastic pollution affects fisheries, aquaculture, recreational activities, and tourism and is estimated to result in a 1-5% decline in the benefits that humans derive from oceans—an annual cost of up to $2.5 trillion. For fisheries and coastal tourism, the effect in 2014 was estimated to be USD 13 billion annually and will rise with increasing marine plastic pollution.

In addition to the significant impact on the oceans, the current consumption of single-use plastics incurs a natural resource loss of USD 80-120 billion annually. The production of plastic is typically energy-intensive and relies on fossil fuel feedstock, and thus accounted for approximately 400 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions and 4-8% of global oil and gas production in 2012.6 This may continue to increase given the current rate of investments by the petrochemical industry.


Objectives of the Group of Friends

The Group of Friends (GoF) would seek to push for action that would help to effectively address plastic pollution at the global level. There are many sources of plastic pollution and the aim of the GoF will be to take a comprehensive approach. Supporting the ongoing work under the UN Environmental Assembly will be one of the main objectives of the Group of Friends in this regard.

Building on the efforts taking place in various forums and at various levels of government and society, the GoF will play a significant role to strengthen the political momentum and to shepherd the transformation of these different efforts towards an effective, coherent, and coordinated action and solutions to address plastic pollution.
As all countries are represented through their UNHQ-based Missions (unlike at other forums where these issues are being addressed), the GoF is well-positioned to engage all stakeholders consistently.

Some specific objectives include:

  1. To support implementing the relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, in particular SDG 14 and 12.
  2. Raising awareness on current gaps in the global legal and policy framework as well as the scope of and potential solutions to the plastic pollution problem, by and among UNHQ based diplomats;
  3. To support the process to explore global response options, including a new global agreement, in the Expert Group under UNEA.
  4. Advancing policy-relevant research and understanding of the plastic pollution problem to decision-makers;
  5. Building awareness of the plastic situation in different national and regional contexts;
  6. Building political momentum and private sector support for global action on marine plastic pollution;
  7. Exploring opportunities for advancing this issue at UNHQ and to ensure coherence with action in other multilateral fora; and
  8. Exploring opportunities to engage with outside academic, private sector and civil society organizations to advance these objectives.


Potential activities of the Group of Friends

The GoF will engage in an array of activities at the UNHQ, including:

  • Holding the high-level launch event for the GoF on 8 June 2020.
  • Hosting ministerial or Head of State/Government level meetings in the margins of other high-level meetings.
  • Hosting side events involving political leaders, high-level UN officials, academics, private sector leaders and other prominent voices on plastic pollution; and
  • Convening a formal meeting between the UNSG and the GoF.


Format, membership and working methods

The Group of Friends will consist of the following two membership categories

(i) UN Member and observer states and regional organizations
(ii) Other relevant stakeholders

The Group welcomes stakeholders from both membership categories who have been active on the issue of combating plastic pollution to join as founding members of the Group.

Efforts will be made to have an inclusive membership that represents a diversity of views and represents different geographic regions and major negotiating blocs.

Meetings of the GoF will be organized and co-chaired by Antigua and Barbuda, Norway and the Maldives.
The GoF would aim to meet quarterly at the PR level (+ 1).


Hashtag: #CombatMarinePlastic  /

Member States

  • Antigua and Barbuda (co-chair)
  • Norway (co-chair)
  • The Maldives (co-chair)
  • Argentina
  • Bangladesh
  • Belize
  • Cabo Verde
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Denmark
  • Djibouti
  • Dominica
  • Ecuador
  • Eritrea
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Grenada
  • Honduras
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Kenya
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Marshall Islands
  • Micronesia
  • Monaco
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Nauru
  • Palau
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Portugal
  • Republic of Korea
  • Russia
  • Saint Lucia
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Surinam
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • The Seychelles
  • Timor-Leste
  • Turkey
  • Tuvalu
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
  • Uruguay

Regional Economic Integration Organizations

  • European Union (EU)

Other stakeholders

  • Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
  • Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research and Education (COARE)
  • Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)
  • International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN)
  • SeaCleaners
  • WWF