February 03, 2022

Lead Sponsors of Save Our Seas 2.0 Act Call for Increased Consultation with Congress as the Biden Administration Seeks New Global Agreement to Combat Ocean Plastic Pollution

WASHINGTON – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J) today was joined by Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Representatives Don Young (R-Alaska) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) on a letter to Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Monica Medina laying out the lawmakers’ expectations for the start of the Fifth United Nations Environment Assembly’s (UNEA 5.2) negotiations on a new agreement to address ocean plastic pollution. UNEA 5.2 will take place in Nairobi, Kenya between February 28 and March 2. In addition to welcoming the establishment of an Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee to manage and oversee negotiations on a global agreement to combat ocean plastic pollution, the lawmakers called for the State Department’s robust engagement with Congress throughout the process of developing the new agreement.

“We appreciate receiving the recent report to Congress, in accordance with the Save our Seas 2.0 Act, which outlined the initial terms of the UNEA negotiations,” the lawmakers wrote. “As you undertake this welcome task, we urge and expect you to consult with Congress ahead of the formal decision to initiate the negotiations process and provide regular consultations during the period in which a new international agreement to address ocean plastic pollution is being developed and negotiated.”

In accordance with their Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, which was signed into law in December 2020 and serves as the most comprehensive legislation ever passed by Congress to address the plastic debris crisis threatening coastal ecosystems and communities and harming marine life, the lawmakers also pressed the State Department to work toward an agreement that considers the impact of and advances efforts to eliminate land-based sources of plastic waste and establishes measurable targets for reducing ocean plastic pollution, among other provisions.

Find a copy of the letter here and below.

Dear Assistant Secretary Medina:

As the lead sponsors of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act (P.L. 116-224), we write you regarding the Fifth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) in Nairobi where the body aims to find agreement on the establishment of an Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee.  The Committee would manage and oversee the development and launch negotiations on a global agreement to combat ocean plastic pollution under the United Nations Environment Programme. As you undertake this welcome task, we urge and expect you to consult with Congress ahead of the formal decision to initiate the negotiations process and provide regular consultations during the period in which a new international agreement to address ocean plastic pollution is being developed and negotiated.

In accordance with the objectives outlined in the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, we expect the State Department to work towards achieving an agreement that:

  1. considers the impact of land-based sources of plastic waste on marine and aquatic environments;
  2. advances efforts to eliminate land-based sources of plastic waste that impact marine and aquatic environment;
  3. establishes measurable targets for reducing ocean plastic pollution;
  4. ensures that the UNEA commits to significantly increasing efforts to promote investment in plastic waste elimination and mitigation projects; and
  5. encourages partnerships, consultation, and coordination with civil society, international organizations and financial institutions, subnational coastal communities, fishing industry leaders, and the private sector in developing and executing strategies and policies for addressing plastic pollution.

We appreciate receiving the recent report to Congress, in accordance with the Save our Seas 2.0 Act, which outlined the initial terms of the UNEA negotiations. We wish you the best as you head to Nairobi and look forward to robust consultations with Congress as you move forward.

Sincerely, 

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Press Contact

Juan Pachon