PM urges CARICOM countries to address plastic pollution

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne has signed a ground-breaking initiative aimed at encouraging his Caribbean Community (CARICOM) neighbours to take further steps to eliminate the use of single-use plastics and end ocean pollution.

The St John’s Declaration was signed as the twin-island nation on Saturday hosted the ‘Play it Out’ festival, which brought together regional and international artistes, policy leaders, innovators, and celebrity guests to raise awareness about and fight plastic pollution.

Speaking during the almost 11-hour free concert at the Sir Vivian Richards National Stadium, Browne made a direct call to his regional counterparts.

“It is now time for CARICOM action. To effectively address plastic pollution in the Caribbean Sea and to deal with the issue of plastic pollution, it must be seen and addressed as a regional problem with a regional response. As a major player within CARICOM, Antigua and Barbuda will continue to lead by example in our responsibility to protect the environment. 

“Therefore, I am urgently calling on all CARICOM leaders to join me in declaring an end to plastic litter and micro plastic solution in the Caribbean Sea,” he said, stressing that while the Caribbean region may be small, its actions “must be big and bold in addressing the issue of plastic pollution”.

The Antiguan leader said the St John’s Declaration to beat plastic pollution was another step for joint regional action, and an appeal to other regions, partners and the international community, to immediately enact measures to address plastic solution, particularly banning single-use plastics.

In welcoming the St John’s Declaration, President of the UN General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa, who has launched a global call to action on plastic pollution, said it was not only historic but also “highly practical and can be implemented”. 

“It highlights island leadership on plastics action and the need for urgent and strong commitment to combat plastic pollution. Antigua and Barbuda is the first country in the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries to take such extensive action on single-use plastics and we are all looking forward to other CARICOM countries supporting the Declaration,” she said. 

A partnership between Espinosa, and the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, and Norway, the ‘Play it Out’ concert which was live-streamed globally was part of the UN General Assembly top official’s broader campaign that focuses on phasing out the use of single-use plastics and aims to raise awareness of the impact of those plastics on the environment and human health.

Espinosa told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) the twin-island Caribbean nation was chosen as the location for the event because of the Government’s commitment to beating plastics.

“Antigua is really leading by example worldwide. They passed very strong legislation to ban single use plastic and Styrofoam – two factors of incredible ocean pollution,” she said.

“Several Caribbean countries are already doing what they should do. The idea is to bring the CARICOM Community to ban single-use plastics. The process is there, the political commitment of Caribbean countries is there, and we need to implement, and the country that was very bold to do it first was Antigua and Barbuda; that’s why we’re here, that’s why the ‘Play it Out’ concert is taking place here,” Espinosa added.

The concert was co-hosted by American actress Meagan Good and social media influencer Amanda Cerny, and featured speeches by actor and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador, Adrian Grenier.

Along with Trinidad and Tobago’s pre-eminent soca envoy, Machel Montano who headlined the show with American R&B singer Ashanti, the other performers included Australian singer-songwriter and UNDP Ocean Advocate Cody Simpson, Colombian electric-duo Bomba Estéreo, Norwegian R&B act Nico and Vinz, Grammy-nominated German DJ/producer Robin Schulz, Ghana’s premiere reggae artist and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador Rocky Dawuni, and American indie-rock band St Lucia. Local performers included Ricardo Drue and Claudette Peters.

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