MIL-OSI Asia-Pacific: UNEA-4 Commits to Global Environmental Data Strategy, Reducing Single-use Plastics

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Source: Small Island Developing States

15 March 2019: At the close of the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), ministers adopted 26 resolutions and decisions, as well as a Ministerial Declaration that commits to significantly reduce single-use plastic products by 2030, and to support a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) global environmental data strategy by 2025.

UNEA-4 took place from 11-15 March 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya, on the theme, ‘Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production.’ The conference attracted a record number of participants, with five Heads of State and Government, 157 environment ministers and deputy ministers, and almost 5,000 participants from 179 countries attending the Assembly and related events during the week.

UNEA-4 negotiated draft resolutions addressing global environmental challenges from 11-13 March, then conducted a ministerial High-level Segment from 14-15 March. The meeting adopted the UNEP Programme of Work and budget for the 2020-2021 biennium, and launched the sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6).

In the UNEA-4 Ministerial Declaration (UNEP/EA.4/L.1), the Ministers of Environment express dedication to address environmental challenges through advancing innovative solutions and to move towards sustainable and resilient societies through sustainable consumption and production (SCP). The Declaration expresses commitment to ambitiously scale up efforts to overcome common environment-related challenges, including through promoting innovation and knowledge sharing on chemicals and waste management, developing sustainable food systems, and undertaking ecosystem restoration. The Declaration highlights commitment to establish comparable international environmental data, in cooperation with other relevant UN bodies.

A Global Pact for the Environment would endow citizens with a set of rights to a healthy environment and the means to fight anti-environment behaviors worldwide.

At the opening of the High-level Segment, Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, welcomed all participants, and stressed the importance of integrating traditional and cultural knowledge in pathways to SCP. He recognized the contributions of indigenous African groups and traditional spiritual leaders to natural resources management. Kenyatta underscored Kenya’s actions towards a circular economy and his country’s commitment to reinforcing the role of UNEP in Nairobi as the global leader for protecting the environment.

Emmanuel Macron, President of France, warned that the international community is not on track to limit global warming and reduce biodiversity loss. He spoke of the vision behind the third One Planet Summit, which took place in parallel with the High-level Segment, and the forthcoming UN 2019 Climate Summit. Both events seek to promote transformative change and avoid the “greenwashing” of existing economic practices. Macron cited several French-led multilateral efforts to advance these agendas, such as: the intention to issue a “G7 Pledge” on environmental issues, rather than its usual communiqué, under the French G7 Presidency in 2019; and the push for the adoption of a Global Pact for the Environment at the UN, which he described as a legally-binding “compass” that would both endow citizens with a set of rights to a healthy environment as well as with the means to fight “anti-environment” behaviors worldwide.

Other Heads of State and Government to address the meeting were Maithripala Sirisena, President of Sri Lanka, Andry Rajoelina, President of Madagascar, and Édouard Ngirente, Prime Minister of Rwanda.

UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, also attended UNEA-4, where she called on all present to take “a big ambition leap” in the build-up to the UN Climate Summit in September, which will aim to inject momentum into the fight against climate change.

Ministers took part in three interactive Leadership Dialogues, which discussed the themes of: environmental challenges related to poverty and natural resources management, including sustainable food systems, food security, and halting biodiversity loss; life-cycle approaches to resource efficiency, energy, chemicals, and waste management; and innovative sustainable business development at a time of rapid technological change. A multi-stakeholder dialogue on ‘Innovative Solutions for Sustainable Consumption’ also took place.

UNEA-4 was preceded by the fourth meeting of the Open-Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives, which convened from 4-8 March to negotiate the resolutions and decisions to be adopted by UNEA-4. Negotiations on many of the draft resolutions and decisions continued in the UNEA Committee of the Whole.

Many other events took place in conjunction with UNEA-4, including: the Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum from 7-8 March; the Science, Policy and Business Forum from 9-10 March; the Sustainable Innovation Expo from 10-15 March; and the Cities Summit on 13 March.

UNEA was created as an outcome of the Rio+20 conference in 2012. The Rio+20 outcome document, ‘The Future We Want,’ called on the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to strengthen and upgrade UNEP through several measures, including: introducing universal membership of the former UNEP Governing Council; ensuring secure, stable, adequate and increased financial resources from the UN regular budget; and ensuring the active participation of all relevant stakeholders. The conference takes place once every two years, and is intended to provide high-level leadership on the global stage, in a role described by previous UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, as “the world’s parliament on the environment.”

The Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) is the Nairobi-based subsidiary body of UNEA, and meets intersessionally. With the advent of universal membership, the Open-Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR) meets in advance of each UNEA session to negotiate resolutions. [UNEP Press Release] [IIDS RS Coverage of UNEA-4]

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