Zero-tolerance against marine plastic pollution

EP conference held discussion on sustainable blue economy

Antonio Tajani

Shaping global ocean governance, achieving healthy, clean seas and oceans and a sustainable blue economy, were the main topics of a high-level conference that was held on Tuesday at the European Parliament. This very special event was attended by over 1,000 political leaders, researchers, entrepreneurs, experts and people from the civil society. EP President Antonio Tajani, who hosted the conference, explained that the European Parliament wants to give an immediate response to the millions of young people who have taken to the streets to attract attention to climate change.

We are with you, the European Parliament is at the forefront of the fight for our planet. We face a crisis with historic social, economic, political and environmental consequences. Our institution believes that economic prosperity, global industrial competitiveness and climate policy are complementary. We cannot continue to exploit and pollute our oceans and have fought to include their conservation and intelligent use in the UN Millennium Development Goals, he stressed.

In some 30 years' time, plastic waste will outweigh the fish in the oceans. On this, the EP president asserted that a zero-tolerance policy against marine plastic pollution is essential. He recalled that the European Parliament voted to ban single-use plastics, adding that “using non-plastic substitutes means cleaner oceans and billions of euros in savings”.

The so-called “blue economy” is a key sector in Europe, with 5.4 million workers and an added value of almost €500bn a year, Tajani made clear and gave the example showing that recycling 1 million tonnes of plastic is equivalent to removing 1 million cars from the roads.

On his part, EU Commissioner for Environment and Fisheries Karmenu Vella underlined that “the state of our ocean calls for determined action, at local, regional and global level”. Over the last years, the European Union has developed ambitious policies, from banning single-use plastics to fighting illegal fisheries, he highlighted, saying that at EU level were agreed 50 actions to create ocean governance that are already well on track. These actions will help us to reduce environmental pressures, but also to foster the blue economy and create sustainable growth, he stated, adding that “there is still a great deal to do, and the EU will continue to demonstrate leadership in ocean policy”.

According to him, the European rules on restricting single-use plastics and the legally binding recycling targets make the EU a global leader in tackling marine litter. The Union has designated more than 10% of its marine and coastal areas as Marine Protected Areas, two years before the international deadline of 2020. The push for more sustainable fishing is also bearing fruit, as in many parts of the EU fisheries are in the best shape they have been in decades. “The number of stocks fished at sustainable levels has more than doubled to 59 this year, compared to 27 when I took office, and to only 5, 10 years ago,” Commissioner Vella asserted.


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