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World Environment Day 2024

World Environment Day is celebrated annually on 5 June and encourages awareness and action to protect the environment.

This World Environment Day couldn’t be more important for the future of our planet, and we are committed to ensuring the conservation of our wonderful natural environments.

Through The Queens’ Commonwealth Canopy, the first environmental initiative in The late Queen’s name, we are proud to conserve almost 12 million hectares of Indigenous forests across 115 sites in all Commonwealth countries.

Having achieved a rare pan-Commonwealth initiative, we are looking forward to launching at the Samoa CHOGM another pan-Commonwealth environmental project, the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Plastics Campaign, to prevent one million pieces of plastic from entering the Commonwealth’s waterways.

According to the United Nations, ‘plastic is the most harmful type of ocean pollution’, and the Commonwealth is disproportionately affected because nearly half of its members are Small Island Developing States (25 out of 56 countries).

The environment and resilience were key themes at the Commonwealth Day Service of Celebration 2024. We were delighted to invite Lise Honsinger from Notpla, a London-based start-up and winner of The Earthshot Prize 2022 (founded by HRH The Prince of Wales), to share their innovative alternative to plastic made from seaweed and to highlight how we all play a role in protecting and conserving our natural environment for future generations.

Read Lise’s reflection: 

I am honoured to be here today representing the UK company that won the Earthshot Prize in 2022. We are based in Hackney, East London, only metres from the site of the first factory to produce plastic in the world, and whilst we admire the entrepreneurial spirit and manufacturing prowess of those early pioneers, we hope that we will leave behind a rather different legacy!

We have developed sustainable packaging made from seaweed and plants, to replace unnecessary single use plastics. Our materials biodegrade naturally and have a much lower carbon footprint than standard packaging. You might have seen our plastic-free food service boxes at a football stadium or remember our edible energy gels from the London marathon. Our mission is closely aligned with the interests of the Commonwealth countries and in particular with those of the Small Island Developing States who are disproportionately affected by the 20 million tonnes of plastic that ends up in our seas each year, and the 1.8 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases that the plastic packaging industry emits.

Samoa, who is hosting this year’s Commonwealth meeting, is one of these island nations, and they have chosen the theme of resilience, focusing on how we can build a thriving future together. Resilience is more than just recovering from a crisis quickly, it is bouncing back stronger, and as we innovate new systems and materials for the future, we have the opportunity to build a better world. One that is accountable for its impact and reactive to new learnings. One that is based on nature, as nature is inherently resilient with adaptation to change the very essence of survival.

A core element of building a resilient future is education. With 60% of the Commonwealth's population being under 30, the youth of this community will decide the path of tomorrow. We need to ask governments to improve labelling to reduce greenwashing and make the properties of materials clear and transparent. Polls have found three-quarters of young people would choose more sustainable products, but in order to make that choice, there needs to be a better alternative available and clearer information. This is where innovation like ours comes in, and with support from champions like Prince William, we are leading the way in developing substitute materials.

Ultimately, plastic pollution and climate change are global challenges that require both urgent optimism and collective action. The combined and unwavering efforts of the 56 countries of the Commonwealth on these issues, gives us hope that together we CAN achieve change and leave behind a more resilient environment for future generations.


The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Royal Commonwealth Society.

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