Australian Government is MIA for World Environment Day 2023

Jun 6, 2023
#BeatPlasticPollution, World Environment day concept 2023

Monday 5 June 2023 was World Environment Day. The campaign this year is for action to eradicate plastics in all its forms which pollute and destroy. The campaign is led by the United Nations Environment Protection agency (UNEP) with the title and hashtag of #BeatPlasticPollution.

The UNEP website and its social media messaging proclaim:

This World Environment Day join us in the global effort to #BeatPlasticPollution

World Environment Day 2023 is a reminder that people’s actions on plastic pollution matters. The steps governments and businesses are taking to tackle plastic pollution are the consequence of this action.

It is time to accelerate this action and transition to a circular economy.

It is time to #BeatPlasticPollution.

The Minister for the Environment and Water the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP returned from a meeting of international stakeholders in Paris last week. The attendees had gathered to progress talking about reaching agreement on a binding global Plastics Treaty to reduce plastic pollution by 80% by 2040 – with the end of 2024 the desired date for completion of the Treaty.

The Minister’s messages upon return to Australia from the meeting highlighted her advocacy for serious global action and leadership of a panel of our Pacific neighbours to discuss issues. She called out Australia’s building of recycling facilities and the need to do more to recycle plastics, to reduce unnecessary plastic use, phase out harmful chemicals, and increase product transparency to help us build a circular economy.

In the messaging the Minister made no connection or reference to the UNEP campaign to #BeatPlasticPollution, nor to World Environment Day, nor any steps being taken by Australia to Get Involved in the campaign to #BeatPlasticPollution.

The Government’s lack of involvement in this prominent and world-leading environmental campaign is not acceptable in the face of the urgency to deal with plastics. The lack of involvement is also a missed opportunity for communicating the Government’s actions to end plastic pollution – especially as the Minister’s messaging included the observation that businesses playing their part to end plastic pollution ‘needed to have governments get on board’. Such awareness of the need for Government action has not been reflected in a ready-made opportunity.

The Government’s failure to get involved in the World Environment Day #BeatPlasticPollution is even less acceptable given that most of the work required by Government and all stakeholders has effectively been mapped out by the UNEP.

The UNEP leadership has developed significant research reports on eradicating plastic, 3 recent ones being:

The reports provide stakeholders with the insights and actions required to get rid of plastics across all sectors. The need for Government regulation, for changed business models, and changed consumer behaviours.

The blueprint for Australian actions – in fact global individual country actions – required to end plastic pollution has effectively been drawn up for us all by the UNEP. The Government needs to spearhead the action plan now with appropriate regulation for mandates and bans as identified allowing for a realistic transition time-frame. And critically with a Communication Strategy to engage and drive consumer behavioural change.

Eradicating plastic for the sake of the planet requires more than continued talking about getting 175 signatures on a piece of paper and setting more target dates. The best way to tackle plastic pollution is to prevent it in the first place. Australia of course needs to be part of the global solution to end plastic but that global solution is not the Australian Government signing a Treaty. Australia needs to implement local solutions as required and join in where collective country action is required. The Australian Government needs to provide the leadership of the end-plastics objective here and share our actions through the initiative of the UNEP and its campaigns.

Failure to be a figurehead in World Environment Day 2023 and promote actions to #BeatPlasticPollution should be a wake-up call that we need to urgently get active.

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