SAINT JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda – Ecuadorian Maria Fernanda Espinosa, president of the United Nations General Assembly, told EFE that “there exists a worldwide attitude that favors eradicating single-use plastics.”
In an interview with EFE on Antigua, where the “Play It Out” event is being held, at which artists like Ashanti and Bomba Estereo, politicians, all kinds of celebrities and scientists promote the fight against plastic, the first Latin American woman to be president of this organ of the United Nations spoke of her fight to save the environment.
What is the concert this Saturday all about?
“Play It Out” is the climax of a worldwide campaign that from the presidency of the General Assembly I’ve been promoting against single-use plastics… If we stop to think that 13 million tons of it are dumped in the oceans every year and that they are killing life in the oceans and affecting life along the coastlines, we’ll understand it’s one of the worst environmental problems we have.
Why did they choose this island for “Play It Out”?
Antigua and Barbuda is a country that has taken seriously the banning of plastic bags, bottles, all single-use plastics in general. They’ve taken action that has been really revolutionary, immediate and in cooperation with its private sector and citizens. It’s really an example worth following, because it’s also a country that is very vulnerable to climate change, that lives off its oceans, whose main business is tourism, and that has taken this brave decision whose success is an example for the world.
What does the innovation center consist of that was inaugurated this Friday in the nation’s capital Saint John’s, and which is the first in the Caribbean?
It’s an avant-garde vision of not thinking just about the development of Antigua and Barbuda but also about the entire Caribbean. Really, given the standing that the economies and resources of these countries have, along with the services, the innovation, the technology, the region overall has great potential. But not any technology or innovation – it’s technology and innovation aimed at sustainability, at combating climate change and strengthening the resilience of these countries in dealing with natural disasters.
How does it work?
The model is ideal – the leadership and the commitment of a government, that of Antigua and Barbuda, in association with an organ of the United Nations, the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) that is temporarily taking charge of administering and managing this center. The idea is that in a little while the government here will take over the management directly. It’s an association that also has the participation of many private companies in the world, plus that of innovators and young entrepreneurs. This is a small seed and the idea is for it to grow throughout the rest of the Caribbean countries.
Have there been any results?
We saw at the inauguration of this center a 14-year-old student inventing a robot that measures the humidity of the ground and generates an irrigation mechanism that is careful about the amount of water used in agriculture… And where does that happen? In this gigantic country, Antigua and Barbuda. In square kilometers (square miles) it might be one of the smallest of nations, but in ideas, in commitment, in leading by example, in understanding it is part of a larger ecosystem, this is an enormous country. Which is the reason that I, as president of the UN General Assembly, decided to hold the concert here, to send a message from Antigua and Barbuda to the whole world that says: “Yes, it is possible to eliminate single-use plastics.”
How does this program complement campaigns like “Clean Seas”?
In the “Clean Seas” initiative of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), there are more than 50 countries that have made that commitment and many more that are interested in joining this great worldwide crusade for oceans free of pollution, free of trash, free of plastic… This is a time when the world has an attitude that is very favorable toward a project like this… and in which the participation of young people has been very powerful. An agreement has just been signed by 280 companies around the world that package their goods in single-use plastics, which adds up to 20 percent worldwide, to seek alternatives to replace that material.
And how is that working out?
It’s an effort that will be spread to involve millions of people internationally and the idea is to keep changing consumer habits, but also to change methods of production. It’s all about combining efforts and commitments.