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Governance of Marine Litter in the Arctic (GOMPLAR). Comparing international governance and legal frameworks to inform Arctic governance

Alternative title: Marin plastforsøpling i Arktis. En sammenligning av internasjonale styrings- og forvaltningssystemer for innspill til arktisk politikk

Awarded: NOK 12.0 mill.

In GOMPLAR, an international research team will assess and compare governance mechanisms relating to marine pollution in the Northeast Atlantic and Northwest Pacific Oceans. By identifying how central elements of legal and political platforms to prevent and reverse marine littering in these two large regions, we can give valuable research based knowledge to policy formulation by the government of Norway, the Arctic Council and other bodies working to minimize plastic litter in the Arctic, by strengthening exisiting regulatory frameworks, and creating new or complementary regulatory frameworks where there is a gap. Beach cleaning operations reveal that marine plastic litter in the Arctic derive from inland, remote areas, travelling by ocean currents and rivers. Arctic fishing and aquaculture industries historically have contributed substantially to marine pollution through loss of gear, in addition to waste discharge. With only four more years to go to reach SDG target, 14.1 "By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution", emphasis on effective and coordinated governance schemes must be front and center. A comparative study of concrete mechanisms and measures used in the Northeast Atlantic and the Northwest Pacific provides a wide spectrum of measures that can be utilized in the regional action plan under development in the Arctic Council. As of now, the national policies and strategies of the NE Atlantic and the NW Pacific regions' states are inadequate for approaching the problem. Their consistency and level of regulations' harmonization play an important role. To reverse the inadequacy of the regulatory frameworks, there is need for concerted international efforts to achieve harmonization. GOMPLAR has five work packages: 1) Northeast Atlantic; 2) Northwest Pacific, 3) The circumpolar context, 4) Orchestration, 5) Circular economy

The project is an original research project, doing comparative study of the vast implications and possible shortcomings and knowledge gaps applying to two geographical areas heavily impacted by plastic waste and littering: the Northeast Atlantic and the Northwest Pacific regions. Norwegian environmental authorities are increasingly committed to work internationally to target plastic pollution, and marine litter in the Arctic is a mounting environmental challenge. Much has been done to reverse the problem, and there are positive results of the efforts. However, the legal and regulatory framework for addressing marine plastic litter in the Arctic remains inadequate. A resolution requires concerted international efforts. GOMPLAR will assess and compare the government mechanisms of the Northeast Atlantic and Northwest Pacific Oceans to identify the constituent elements of a legal and political platform for the prevention and remediation of marine plastic litter discharge in the Arctic. The research aims at developing new knowledge to support future policy formulation by the government of Norway, the Arctic Council and other bodies currently working to put in place an international regulatory framework to minimize marine plastic litter in the Arctic. The project addresses eight research questions covering different geographical levels, spanning from overarching international regulatory frameworks, to how lessons from two large regions can be applied to the cirumpolar region, to local case studies scrutinizing how international regulations and framework can impact the proliferation and implementation of circular economy principles as a measure to reduce plastic use and plastic pollution. Case studies are Longyearbyen, Svalbard, and Tromsø. To answer the research questions, we have divided secondary research questions and hypotheses into five work packages that research, process and analyze multiple levels of plastic governanc.