Avoid divisive politics, delegates urged as UNEA 6 gets underway

Andersen urged those in attendance to be guided by the spirit of compromise and the spirit of finding together

In Summary
  • More than 7,000 delegates from 182 UN Member States and more than 170 ministers have registered for UNEA-6.
  • Its theme is effective, inclusive, and sustainable multilateral actions to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.
Delegates at the plenary. FILE
Delegates at the plenary. FILE

Ministers of environment and other leaders from more than 180 nations convened in Nairobi on Monday for the start of the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6).

With a focus on strengthening environmental multilateralism to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss, and pollution, this year’s Assembly will be negotiating resolutions on issues ranging from nature-based solutions and highly hazardous pesticides to land degradation and drought, and environmental aspects of minerals and metals.

UNEP Executive director Inger Andersen urged delegates against bringing politics into the negotiations.

“It is time to lay political differences aside and focus on this little blue planet, teeming with life. Time to lift our sights to our common goal: a pathway to a sustainable and safe future,” Andersen said.

“We do this by agreeing on the resolutions before UNEA-6 to boost multilateral action for today and tomorrow, and secure intergenerational justice and equity,” she said.

The theme of UNEA 6 is “Effective, inclusive, and sustainable multilateral actions to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution”.

Andersen urged the delegates to be guided by what she termed the “Nairobi spirit, the spirit of compromise, the spirit of finding together, the spirit of understanding that politics cannot really enter into the matter because we have climate change and you have climate change”.

“If my air is dirty, probably your air is dirty; my plastic waste becomes your plastic waste. We are on this planet together, which is why multilateralism is critical, and which is why we hope division and centrifugal forces that we hope may take place in the political realm will not show up here but rather that we will take with us the notion of a common planet and intergenerational dimension,” Andersen said.

She said the three planetary crises have had devastating impacts worldwide.

She said there are intense storms, heavy rainfalls, droughts, fires, vanishing nature and species, failing soils, dirty air, oceans stuffed with plastic, and much more.

Andersen said the impacts of the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss, and pollution hit the poor and most vulnerable hardest, and that no one is immune.

The UN Environment Assembly is the world’s highest decision-making body on the environment; its membership includes all 193 UN member states.

It meets biennially to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law;  decisions and resolutions then taken by member states at the Assembly also define the work of the UN Environment Programme.

Leila Benali, President of UNEA-6 and Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development for the Kingdom of Morocco, said, “We are living in a time of turmoil".

“And I know that in this room, there are people who are, or who know, those deeply affected by this turmoil. Our response must demonstrate that multilateral diplomacy can deliver.”

“As we meet here in 2024, we must be self-critical and work towards inclusive, networked and effective multilateralism that can make a tangible difference to people’s lives.”

Benali said voices beyond government, of youth, indigenous peoples and local communities must be included by focusing on issues of gender and human rights, and leaving no one behind.

“And today, and at this UN Environment Assembly, we must accelerate multilateral action to strengthen the environmental foundation of sustainable development.”

Environment CS Soipan Tuya decried that despite the progress made over time, scientific assessments continue to paint a grim picture.

“Whether it is the global assessment report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warning us that nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history with grave impacts and consequences on people around the world, or the IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, presenting evidence that global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate,” Tuya said.

The CS said the message is the same, consistent, and clear.

“We are not doing too well as the global community. We must change course, and we must do so as soon as possible.”

As climate change intensifies, a million species head towards extinction, and pollution remains one of the world’s leading causes of premature death, UNEA-6 will see countries consider some 19 resolutions, part of a broader push to spur more ambitious multilateral environmental action.

The resolutions cover, among other issues, circular economy; solar radiation modification; effective, inclusive, and sustainable multilateral actions towards climate justice; sound management of chemicals and waste, and sand and dust storms.

More than 7,000 delegates from 182 UN member states and more than 170 ministers have registered for UNEA-6, taking place under the theme, effective, inclusive, and sustainable multilateral actions to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

Delegates this week will include heads of state, representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector.

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