A global instrument to tackle global pollution

Side event proposal for the UN Ocean Conference 2022

29 June 2022, Centre Cultural de Cascais, Portugal

The event builds on the UN Decade “Clean Ocean” Satellite activity One Integrated Marine Debris Observing System (IMDOS), that took place in November 2021. It will focus on the need for monitoring marine litter to inform action with the following objectives:

  • Advocate the necessity of a global sustained Integrated Marine Debris Observing System (IMDOS)
  • Promote the building of a global IMDOS community
  • Encourage the cooperation among scientists and between scientists and stakeholders such as policy makers and mitigation actors.

Expected outcomes include:

  • Presentation of IMDOS as a joint project of UNEP Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) and partner organisations (Global Ocean Observing System, GEO Blue Planet and others tbc) with global coordination established
  • Proposed IMDOS Terms of Reference and interim Steering Committee
  • Identification of actions in support of the UNEP GPML Digital Platform and the associated Community of Practice on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution Data Harmonisation.
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Anthropogenic marine debris, particularly plastic litter, poses a growing threat to marine ecosystems, maritime activities, and the wellbeing of ocean users.

Key findings from the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP) 2021 report on a “Global Assessment of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution- from Pollution to Solution” highlight that marine litter and plastic pollution is a growing transboundary, multi-dimensional problem with economic, environmental, cultural, and human health risks and associated costs.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 set out as one if its targets to “by 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution”. However, tackling marine litter and plastic pollution requires action across the full lifecycle of plastic, including its production, design, and disposal and thus must consider many other SDG Goals (6, 11, 12, 15 and 17). The way forward has recently been paved by the historic resolution to end plastic pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024, endorsed by representatives from 175 nations at the 5th session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) in March 2022.

Global Partnership on Marine Litter Digital Platform (GPML)

To achieve the ambitious goals of the UN SDGs and of the UNEA5 resolution, there is a critical need for accurate, up-to-date information on marine litter, plastic pollution, and related topics. The GPML Digital Platform was set up to that end in 2020 and seeks to connect and inform all actors working to address marine litter and plastic pollution. The GPML Digital Platform aims to offer a single point of access for current, accurate data and information to support stakeholders’ needs, ranging from scientific research to technological innovation and public outreach, to inform decision-making, educate and raise awareness, facilitate target setting, and advance cooperation.

“Monitoring marine debris is directly relevant for designing measures, and for assessing their effectiveness. National and regional data collection and monitoring activities should be adequate and compatible. This should be also reflected in a future efficient global architecture to fight plastic pollution” – Michail Papdoyannakis (European Commission) All-Atlantic 2021

Monitoring global marine plastic litter and understanding its transport are the key pillars for supporting the establishment of realistic plastic litter reduction targets and developing policies to reach these targets. It is then central for the implementation, adjustment, and evaluation of plastic pollution reduction policies. The UNEP 2021 “Pollution to Solution” report emphasises that despite the significant improvements in detecting and quantifying marine litter the coordination and cooperation among existing monitoring programmes remain a challenge.

The Integrated Marine Debris Observing System (IMDOS)

IMDOS was first presented by a large group of experts at the OceanObs’19 conference as a strategic instrument to provide guidance and coordination for a global sustained observing system to strengthen the scientific knowledge and support strategic actions related to marine debris pollution. IMDOS aims to build up, develop and apply a global and integrated observing system dedicated to marine debris with harmonised observing tools, approaches, and products while embracing the full complexity of the composition, dynamics, and impacts. The synthesis of a variety of observations is thus required to provide long-term monitoring of anthropogenic marine debris and to support operational activities and strategic planning to mitigate impacts. IMDOS relies on the intelligent and dynamic integration of shoreline and at-sea in situ observations, remote-sensing, and numerical modelling.

To succeed in its endeavour, IMDOS mobilises a wide range of experts from relevant fields at the international level and builds on existing observing systems, networks, communities of practices and civil society initiatives while helping to set up new ones where needed.

Establishing a globally coordinated IMDOS is supported by the UNESCO/ Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) programme and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Blue Planet initiative and in partnership with several international organisations and expert working groups such as SCOR WG FLOTSAM, IOCCG Task Force on Remote Sensing of Marine Litter, and the MSFD Technical Group on Marine Litter. IMDOS will support the development of harmonised observations for the benefit of scientific research advancement and for the development of innovative solutions, mitigating actions and informed policymaking. To this end, IMDOS is developing a partnership with the GPML to ensure a two-way flow of information between the data providers and data users and other stakeholders via the newly developed GPML Digital Platform.

www.un.org/en/conferences/ocean2022

UN Ocean Conference side events are related to the main theme this year which is “Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: stocktaking, partnerships and solutions” as well as the eight themes of the Interactive Dialogues.

This proposed side event is directly in line with the theme of the conference as it promotes a global partnership between IMDOS and UNEP GPML to support local solutions to the challenge of marine plastic pollution. Beyond being an innovative tool taking advantage of Artifical Intelligence, the GPML Digital Platform seeks to foster partnerships between all marine litter and plastic pollution related stakelders to foster solutions. 

The IMDOS relies on an international community of experts from the technical and scientific fields building on existing observing systems, networks, communities of practices and civil society initiatives while helping to set up new ones where needed. 

  • Atlantic International Research (AIR) Centre – Jose Moutinho
  • UNEP Global Partnership on Marine Litter (GPML) – Heidi Savelli &  Marta Ottogalli
  • Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) / Institute of Oceanology Polish Academy of Sciences – Artur Palacz
  • GEO Blue Planet / Mercator Ocean International* – Marine Litter Working Group – Audrey Hasson

*The event is co-organised by Mercator Ocean International in the framework of EU4OceanObs, which facilitates the GEO Blue Planet EU Coordination.

  • European Commission MSFD Technical Group on Marine Litter (Georg Hanke)
  • GESAMP WG40 Plastics and microplastics in the Ocean (Francois Galgani)
  • IEEE – Oceanic Engineering Society (René Garello)
  • IOCCG – Task Force on Remote Sensing of Marine Litter (Paolo Corradi, Victor Martinez-Vicente, Shungu Garaba, Manuel Arias)
  • JAMSTEC (Ryota Nakajima)
  • SCOR WG FLOTSAM (Stefano Aliani, Kara Lavender Law, Nikolai Maximenko, Erik van Sebille)
  • Marine Environment Laboratories of the IAEA (Marc Metian) 

For any queries, please contact the organising team by email imdos.unoc2022@gmail.com.