Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy in Maritime Affairs
Ph.D (Maritime Affairs)
This research addresses the challenge of marine plastic pollution with particular reference to Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Marine plastic pollution is of particular significance to these states since they suffer from a disproportionate incidence of plastic pollution on their coasts. In line with the region's need to protect its marine environment and subsequently its economy from the grave impacts of plastic pollution, this work assesses marine debris monitoring within Caribbean SIDS, and the barriers faced and considerations needed for unified monitoring efforts that support policy development. Additionally, the research examines microplastics on the beaches of Caribbean SIDS, and highlights concerns over scientific research on this issue being conducted by and often retained by extra- regional research teams and institutions.
The research further recognises that the United Nations (UN) member states are currently engaged in historic negotiations to develop an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) to end plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. It is hoped and anticipated that this ambitious process of intergovernmental negotiations will lead to an ILBI, informally known as the “global plastics treaty” (note that ILBI and global plastics treaty are used interchangeably henceforth). It is intended that this instrument will comprehensively address the full life cycle of plastics from production to disposal. The ILBI is set to be achieved through five Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) meetings to negotiate the specifics of the treaty between 2022 and 2024. Caribbean SIDS are disproportionately affected by the transboundary nature of plastic pollution and face challenges in equitably participating in the global plastics treaty negotiations. Through the lens of collective action to support the development of the global plastics treaty, this thesis explores the gaps and limitations experienced by Caribbean SIDS in their ability to coordinate and participate in the negotiations and also explores their ability to ascertain localised scientific data that supports negotiating positions. This work assesses key barriers hindering the equitable participation of Caribbean SIDS in the INC meetings in real time, and proposes applicable solutions. Additionally, it contributes novel information to discourse on contextual equity in environmental decision making by providing a framework to identify key factors needed by Caribbean SIDS to foster equity throughout the entirety of the INC process. Moreover, this work illustrates the importance of how relevant scientific research, equitable processes for participation in environmental negotiations, and adequate coordination mechanisms for multilateral environmental agreements can bolster efficacy for Caribbean SIDS participating in the global plastic treaty negotiations.
This thesis applies both natural and social science methodologies, along with event ethnography, participant observations, extensive reading of primary, secondary and grey literature, document analysis, interviews, informal conversations, webinars and participation in the INC-1 meeting.