Last 11-15 March, environmental authorities, NGOs and other stakeholders gathered in Nairobi, Kenya for the Fourth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4). It is the highest-level global decision-making body on issues related to the environment and is held every two years since 2013.
The 2019 session focused on the theme of “Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production”, through the #SolveDifferent campaign. UNEA-4 resulted in the adoption of 26 thematic resolutions and a Ministerial Declaration, which recognizes the importance of working with the subnational level on the topic.
The conference attracted a record number of participants, with five Heads of State and Government, 157 ministers and deputy ministers, and almost 5,000 participants from 179 countries. The Assembly included plenary sessions, leadership dialogues and a multi-stakeholder dialogue, and took place concurrently with many events at the UN Office at Nairobi (UNON), including the:
- Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (7-8 March);
- Science, Policy and Business Forum (9-10 March);
- Sustainable Innovation Expo (10-15 March);
- Cities Summit (13 March); and
- One Planet Summit (14 March).
Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF) and Cities Summit
The Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (GMGSF) was held on 7-8 March and brought together representatives of the different constituencies, including Local Authorities, to exchange practices on sustainable consumption and production (SCP), as well as to agree on key messages to be conveyed at UNEA.
The GMGSF resulted in an agreed statement, presenting key messages to meaningful stakeholders’ involvement at UNEA, recommendations to target SCP implementation on the ground, and a call to Member States to embrace the Rio+20 non-regression principle.
The Local Authorities Major Group delivered a statement emphasizing local and regional governments new and innovative models of collaboration to defend sustainable lifestyles.
The first edition of the Cities Summit took place on 13 March, under the theme of “Innovation for Livable and Sustainable Cities: Multi-Level and Integrated Urban Systems”. Gathering 40 cities and regions, the meeting provided formal inputs of the local and regional governments constituency to the Member States environmental policy discussions. It highlighted the importance of local action and the power of cities and regions to achieve national objectives. The localization of global agendas was also considered an indispensable part of the answer to the world’s challenges.
UN Environment Assembly and Resolutions
The resolutions of UNEA especially highlight commitments and priority actions for Member States and stakeholders to pursue, as to address different sources and dimensions of responsible patterns of consumption and production. It should also be emphasized that many of the resolutions recognize and stress the importance of partnerships with stakeholders.
UNEA-4 adopted 26 resolutions and decisions, addressing shared and emerging global environmental issues. UNEA-4 also adopted the UNEP Programme of Work and budget for the 2020-21 biennium and launched the Sixth Global Environment Outlook report.
Negotiations had been conducted in five working groups, addressing: sustainable consumption and production (SCP); resource efficiency, chemicals and waste; biodiversity and ecosystems; environmental governance; and the UNEP Programme of Work (POW). The record number of resolutions and decisions was considered a strong indication that Member States care about the environment. The UNEP Secretariat produced, for the first time, estimated cost figures for the implementation of the many draft resolutions proposed.
The UNEA-4 final outcome was a Ministerial Declaration expressing dedication to address environmental challenges through advancing innovative solutions and to move towards sustainable and resilient societies through SCP. The Declaration expresses a 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.
Additionally, the Declaration recognizes that the effective implementation of these actions requires enabling and coherent policy frameworks, good governance and law enforcement at all levels and effective means of implementation, as well as emphasizes the need for concerted efforts. Ministers also request UNEP to track the implementation of the actions in this Declaration through the regular environmental assessment processes and provide a progress report, in collaboration with Member States, for consideration at UNEA-7.
The fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly will be held on 22-26 February 2021 with its theme to be decided by the Committee of Permanent Representatives. UNEA-5 will be preceded by the fifth meeting of the Open-ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR) from 15-19 February 2021.