On behalf of the United Nations Country Team and the UN Joint Results Group on Climate Change and Environment, I am delighted to be with you today in this beautiful city to celebrate World Environment Day in Viet Nam!
“Beat Plastic Pollution”, the theme of World Environment Day 2018, urges governments, industry, communities and individuals to break up with single-use plastic, which is not only polluting our oceans and other important ecosystems, but also damaging marine-life and other wildlife and threatening human health.
Around the world, more than one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used every year. 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced annually, of which 13 million tonnes leak into the ocean. It is estimated that some plastic products retain their original recognizable form 400 years after discharge into the ocean.
These are the world of statistics, but what do those numbers look like in Viet Nam? How many plastic bags are we using each day? How many plastic bags are we throwing away? According to recent studies, Viet Nam is among the top five countries globally contributing as much as 60 percent of all plastic waste that enters the world’s seas.
It is encouraging that 25 embassies, together with the UN Country Team and other international organisations working in Viet Nam have come together and discussed with Government ministries and Ha Noi city about potential Government policy reform on the use of plastics. The international partners also signed a joint Code of Conduct on plastic waste pollution, further highlighting our commitment to take concrete actions on single-use plastic and our current plastic waste footprint.
The UN in Viet Nam has been working closely with the Government and the Vietnamese people to promote a greener sustainable lifestyle and consumption habits. The UN supports the Government of Viet Nam in adopting and regularly updating key related policies, including the Law on Environmental Protection, and the Green Growth and environment strategies and plans. Furthermore, the UN promotes important initiatives such as eco-industrial park, green chemistry or chemical product life-cycle management, and green industry toward sustainable production and industrialization.
As an example, the UN, together with the Swedish Embassy, launched a 7-day challenge to encourage people to eat, live and move smartly and sustainably. At the UN, we have ended using plastic bottles for meetings in the UN building and provided incubation for “Save our Oceans” – a youth start up that have designed pay-as-you-go water refill stations, using near field communication (NFC) sticker technology, to reduce the use of plastic bottles.
Moving forward, we need more effective and faster local actions, while ensuring a more coherent regional and global approach to improve environmentally effective management of the full-life-cycle of plastic. On this occasion, I would like to note the following three actions on how we can make a difference.
First, there is a need to recreate or revitalize a market of environmentally-friendly traditional alternatives that are locally and readily available. In the past, the Vietnamese people used banana and lotus leaves to cover their food and used fabric bags for shopping. Effectively using those traditional and simple best practices, the Government should create a stronger legal framework and provide associated incentives for businesses and the private sector, who in turn can design and produce environmentally friendlier products.
Second, commitment and actions by each individual citizen are required. Collective actions by citizens are the most powerful force to shape and drive the evolving market of environmentally-friendly products. Let us start by reducing and stopping the usage of plastic bags and plastic bottles immediately and use locally made fabric bags.
Third, a global or regional approach to better mitigate pollution from plastic waste is required for the full integrated life cycle. In association with this, the Government of Viet Nam should initiate and lead a regional joint programme among the five countries which are significantly contributing plastic waste that is released into our oceans.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to congratulate the Government of Viet Nam for hosting this year’s Global Assembly of the Global Environment Facility in June in Da Nang, where marine litter and the non-sustainable use of plastic is a key topic. Held every four years, the GEF Assembly will bring together one thousand delegates, including Government leaders, UN agencies, civil society organizations and business leaders, from more than 180 countries to discuss and share experiences, best practices and solutions needed to protect the global environment. It will be an excellent opportunity for the Government of Viet Nam to successfully facilitate dialogues and identify actions to “beat plastic pollution” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Allow me to conclude with the words of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the occasion of World Environment Day: “If present trends continue, by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish. The message is simple: reject single-use plastic. Refuse what you can’t re-use. Together, we can chart a path to a cleaner, greener world”.
The UN Country Team will continue its close cooperation with the Government and people of Viet Nam, as well as development partners and other key stakeholders, for strengthened sustainable development and environmental protection to ensure a more sustainable future for Viet Nam where no one left behind.
We hope the spirit of World Environment Day will make a change in thinking and behaviour towards the use of plastic!
We wish you all good health, happiness, and sustainability!
Xin Cam On!