Strengthening the Global Science and Knowledge Base to Reduce (Marine) Plastic Pollution

Plastic waste ends up in the oceans in increasing quantities. This has far-reaching ecological, social and economic impacts. A growing number of different actors even compare marine plastic pollution with other pressing, man-made global environmental problems of historic dimensions such as climate change. They are therefore demanding a global agreement to reduce plastic pollution – a demand that often goes hand in hand with calls for the establishment of a global science-policy interface that continuously reviews knowledge on plastic pollution and provides policy advice based on this knowledge. The calls emphasize that the successful reduction of plastic pollution requires such an interface, as also exists for other environmental issues like the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They argue that it will strengthen the science and knowledge base on plastic pollution at all levels and improve the resulting policy advice.

Against this background, the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment initiated a project to identify requirements and options for the design of such a science-policy interface at global level. The project aimed at developing different proposals on how to design this interface in a way that enables it to operate as effectively as possible. The project comprised three parts. It started with a review of existing science-policy interfaces on plastic pollution. What scientific mechanisms or bodies exist at global and regional levels? To what extent do they fulfil essential functions that science-policy interfaces in international environmental governance typically fulfil? Subsequently, adelphi explored already existing science-policy interfaces in other environmental policy areas in order to reveal key characteristics that promote or hinder their success. Both parts served to identify essential functions and elements that the design of an effective global science-policy interface on plastic pollution should feature. Finally, adelphi developed and compared different variants for the institutional setting of the interface. Which core features characterize the forms of institutionalization? Which advantages and disadvantages do they have? What facilitates or complicates their political feasibility? The project’s results will be published in the TemaNord series of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

With the study, adelphi contributes to the international discussion on the design of a possible global science-policy interface on plastic pollution. adelphi aimed at identifying minimum requirements for such an interface that enable it to work effectively. In addition, adelphi wanted to make transparent the advantages and disadvantages of different design options. Ultimately, the study thus constitutes a basis for decision-makers that informs them about different variants, requirements and options for designing such an interface and that they can use in further multilateral decision-making.

Publications of this project