World to zero-in on solutions at fourth UN Environment Assembly

World to zero-in on solutions at fourth UN Environment Assembly

March 11, 2019
Marcia González

Countries to make measurable commitments toward stimulating innovation and implementing circular economy systems

More than 4,700 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, senior UN officials and civil society representatives are gathering in Nairobi for a meeting of the world’s top body on the environment, where they will take decisions that move global societies to a more sustainable path.

The fourth UN Environment Assembly runs from 11-15 March 2019 under the theme ‘Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production’.

It is the biggest gathering in the Assembly’s short history, with attendance almost double the last event in December 2017. Prominent world leaders are attending, including the Presidents of France and Kenya, Emmanuel Macron and Uhuru Kenyatta, and CEOs from major corporations.

Bold decisions and outcomes are expected as the delegates negotiate late into the night over five days. Resolutions are on the table to push harder for sustainable consumption and production patterns, commit to the protection of the marine environment from plastic pollution, reduce food waste, and advance technological innovation that combats climate change, and reduces resource use and biodiversity loss.

The Assembly’s status as the only UN body outside the General Assembly where all member states convene – and its power to bring together all sectors – means that the global environmental agenda is defined there. Decisions have a profound impact on the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as paving the way towards the UN Climate Change Summit 2019 and impacting the overall UN agenda.

Ahead of the meeting, UN Environment’s Acting Executive Director, Joyce Msuya, appealed to nations to step up and start delivering real change. “Time is running short,” she said. “We are past pledging and politicking. We are past commitments with little accountability. What’s at stake is life, and society, as the majority of us know it and enjoy it today.”

A UN Environment background report for the Assembly – which serves as a basis for defining problems and laying out new action areas – makes a strong case for urgent action. The report puts the value of lost ecosystem services between 1995 and 2011 at US$4 trillion to US$20 trillion; shows how agricultural practices are putting increasing pressure on the environment, costing an estimated $3 trillion per year, and estimates pollution-related costs at $4.6 trillion annually.

“As never before, the time to act is now,” said Siim Kiisler, President of the UN Environment Assembly and Minister of Environment of Estonia. “We know we can build more sustainable, prosperous and inclusive societies with sustainable consumption and production patterns that address our environmental challenges and leave no one behind. But we will need to create the enabling conditions for this to happen. And we will need to do things differently.”

The Assembly will also see new research launched by UN Environment, including the latest edition of the world’s only comprehensive global scan of the environment: Global Environment Outlook 6, which was produced by 252 scientists and experts from over 70 countries. The International Resource Panel’s Global Resources Outlook, meanwhile, takes stock of material extraction, including the future outlook and recommendations on how to use natural resources more sustainably.

“It’s clear that we need to transform the way our economies work, and the way we value the things that we consume,” said Msuya. “The goal is to break the link between growth and increased resource use and end our throwaway culture.”

Plastic Free World Conference & Expo 2019 will take place from Thursday 27 June to Friday 28 June, at the Kap Europa, Frankfurt Messe, Frankfurt, Germany. To register for this highly focused and solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email peter@trans-globalevents.com

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