Statement by Iceland
Mr. Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources
President, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
When was the first time you realized that if you buy three bags of groceries you really leave one behind, since globally we waste roughly 1/3 of our food? When was the first time you realized that much of the groceries you bought are not only wrapped in plastics, detrimental to the health of our oceans, but also that your juicy shrimp sandwich, for example, may indeed be filled with plastics? Our unsustainable consumption has gone out of hands, with dire effects on the environment and the climate.
The good news is that we have opportunities and we have solutions. Let’s not forget that there is value in our waste, there is value in our sludge, and there is much benefit in knowledge and innovation to use these value streams in a circular economy fashion. The draft ministerial declaration here at the UN Environment Assembly points to many of the efforts we need to undertake in the coming years and Iceland supports them fully.
In 2020, the international community will decide on new biodiversity targets for 2030. Habitat protection, invasive alien species and restoration of degraded forests, wetlands and other important ecosystems should be high on the agenda – and synergies with other environmental problems. Such synergetic approaches have been emphasized by the Icelandic government through our new climate action plan. One of its pillars is restoration of woodlands and wetlands, combating desertification and climate change at the same time as regaining biodiversity. The Icelandic government is committed to nature conservation and now prepares the establishment of a large national park in the central highland of the country, vast wilderness area covering between 30-40% of the total area of Iceland that will by far be the largest national park in Europe.
Tackling the plastic issue is high on the agenda in Iceland, and under our upcoming chairmanship at the Arctic Council, Iceland will put emphasis on fighting plastic pollution. Iceland strongly supports a global action on fighting the plastic problem and therefore supports the resolution on plastic pollution here at UNEA to mandate a process where we can discuss a strengthened global governance on marine litter and microplastics, something that can hopefully develop into a legally binding framework on the issue in the future.
Let’s stop leaving that one bag of three behind in the grocery store – and let’s stop that bag and its contents being made from single use plastic. The time to preserve our planet is now.