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Statement by Estonian Minister of Environment Marko Pomerants at the UN Oceans Conference 1st Partnership Dialogue, 5 June 2017

05.06.2017

UN Oceans Conference
Partnership Dialogue 1: Addressing marine pollution

Thank you! Good Afternoon! I’m from Estonia, a small maritime nation in Northeastern Europe, located on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

Marine pollution in all its different forms is a pressing issue that needs our urgent attention. Marine pollutants must be dealt with at source level, and approached horizontally across all relevant sectors that impact on the marine environment, e.g.  agriculture, industries, shipping, etc. Another important problem we would like to highlight for international attention is pharmaceutical residues. This is not yet a problem in the context of world oceans, but we are already noticing its emergence on a smaller scale. With regard to nitrogen flows – planetary boundaries have been exceeded, and current measures are insufficient. We support the wider adoption of the integrated nitrogen management system as proposed by the OECD.

With regard to marine litter I would like to highlight the circular economy approach which promotes closing the loop of product life-cycles through more efficient reuse & recycling. This transition to a circular model entails a critical rethink of current production processes, and in this regard, innovation – particularly eco-innovation – plays an important role. In addition, the private sector must also assume a more active role in the form of extended producer responsibility schemes. For example, several Baltic Sea countries are running very successful deposit-refund systems for plastic containers, and in Estonia, close to 90% of PET-bottles are collected through this channel.

Since marine pollution is a transboundary issue then another important measure to highlight is regional cooperation. Together with the other countries surrounding the Baltic Sea we have instituted a regional cooperation framework – HELCOM. In 2015, we adopted the Regional Action Plan in order to significantly reduce marine litter during the next 10 years and to prevent harm to the coastal & marine environment.

To conclude, urgent action is needed, otherwise our oceans will be irreversibly damaged. The problem of marine pollution needs to be tackled at all levels of governance – global, regional, national, local, and also personal level – the most important thing is to make informed decisions in our everyday lives. Thank you!
 
With regard to the focus of this partnership dialogue I would like to take the opportunity to present the following  voluntary commitments submitted by Estonia:

1)    Marine Litter Reduction Action Plans for Ports and Harbors: The current waste management systems are revised taking into account specific types of waste such as discarded fishing gear. One of the main target groups is coastal fishermen.

2)    Improving the Stormwater Discharge Systems to Reduce the Flow of Nutrients, Hazardous Substances & Litter: The objective is to make an inventory of storm water discharge points along the Estonian coast, assess water quality, and propose appropriate measures to reduce pollution loads.

3)    Regional Aquaculture Action Plans: Aquaculture is an essential element of blue economy, but it is also a source of pollution. In order to  ensure that aquaculture is environmentally safe and ecomonically feasible we will prepare action plans for different Estonian marine regions.

 

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