#UN; #ClimateChange; #WorldMigratory
New York/Canadian-Media: A sure sign of spring in northern Europe is the arrival of the Arctic tern bird, but ahead of the UN’s World Migratory Bird Day experts fear the warming of the oceans in its nesting grounds in the northern Atlantic is threatening its very existence.
Arctic terns protect their offspring extremely aggressively. Image credit: Andreas Weith
A big adventure
“When terns reach Antarctica, they stay close to the ice-brim, and move gradually eastward”, says Guðmundur A. Guðmundsson, animal ecologist at the Institute of Natural History in Iceland. “Swedish and Dutch birds go all the way towards Australia, but the Icelandic and Greenland birds return earlier to the Weddell Sea in the Southern Arctic. From there they set off north in March and up to one and a half months later they reach their destination in our country”.
In the case of Iceland, the terns announce spring in the latter part of April, when they arrive to nest. When the chicks are ready to fledge in August they fly to the south, but not in a straight line, rather in an S-shape trajectory. One of their well-known stop-overs is Cape Town in South Africa in November.
En route to their nesting grounds in Iceland and Greenland they are known to have stop-overs in Brazil and cross the Andes mountain range. “It is a big adventure,“ says Mr. Guðmundsson.
A front row seat at planetary crisesHowever, he is concerned by the decline in Iceland’s tern population – which currently stands at some 250,000 nesting couples – over the last few decades, with climate change the probable culprit.
Because of the warming ocean, algae are blooming earlier in the year, too early for young sand eels to feed. This means that stocks of sand eel, an important food source for migratory sea birds, have collapsed in the seas around Iceland.
Although the tern is not at risk of extinction in the short term, enough concern has been raised for the bird to be added to the be added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of threatened species.
Inger Andersen the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), says that migratory birds have “a front row seat to the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.”
“Climate change is changing and disturbing the migratory patterns of birds,” adds Ms. Andersen. “The destruction of the natural world threatens these pollinators, critical for food security and well-being. And pollution, whether in waterbodies, land or air, is proving toxic for migratory birds.
“Climate change is changing and disturbing the migratory patterns of birds,” adds Ms. Andersen. “The destruction of the natural world threatens these pollinators, critical for food security and well-being. And pollution, whether in waterbodies, land or air, is proving toxic for migratory birds”.World Migratory Bird Day
World Migratory Bird Day
#EnvironmentAndClimateChange; #ZeroEmission; #COP26ClimateSummit; #OECD
All countries should commit to zero carbon emissions by 2050 if the world is to avoid a disastrous 2.4 degree Celsius temperature rise by the end of this century, UN Secretary General António Guterres said on Thursday.
Peatland forests like this one in central Kalimantan, Indonesia, can store harmful carbon dioxide gasses. Image credit: CIFOR/Nanang Sujana
In his keynote speech at a high-level climate gathering in Petersberg, Germany - six months before world leaders convene in Glasgow, Scotland, for the COP26 Climate Summit - the UN chief also offered a message of hope, insisting that it was still possible to avert the worst impacts of emissions-fuelled environmental shocks.
“I see encouraging signs from some major economies”, he said, referring to countries that represent 73 percent of emissions have committed to net-zero emissions by mid-century.
All countries – especially in the G20 – need to close the mitigation gap further by COP26, he insisted, highlighting the threat already faced by developing countries, where “people are dying, farms are failing (and) millions face displacement”.
Degrees of hope
“The bottom line is that, by 2030, we must cut global emissions by 45 percent compared to 2010 levels to get to net zero emissions by 2050. That is how we will keep the hope of 1.5 degrees alive.”
The world’s top priority should be to dispense with polluting coal-fired power stations altogether and replace them with renewable energy, the UN Secretary-General maintained.
This should happen by 2030 in the wealthy countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and by 2040 across the globe.
Dramatic as this transition away from fossil fuel will be, it must be inclusive and “just…involving local governments, unions and the private sector to support affected communities and generate green jobs”, Mr. Guterres continued.
After hailing governments that had pledged to end fossil fuel subsidies, the UN Secretary-General insisted that it was time for all countries to “put a price on carbon and shift taxation from income to carbon”.
And in a direct appeal to concerned citizens, he asked “shareholders of multilateral development banks and development finance institutions” to push for funding solutions for “low-carbon, climate-resilient development that is aligned with the 1.5 degrees (2015 Paris Agreement) goal”.
Developing countries needed this financial support in particular, as annual adaptation costs in the developing world alone are estimated at $70 billion “and these could rise to $300 billion by 2030”, the UN chief explained.
“I reiterate my call to donors and multilateral development banks to ensure that at least 50 per cent of climate finance is for adaption and resilience”, Mr. Guterres said, noting that “adaptation finance” to developing countries represents only 21 per cent of climate finance today.
The Petersberg Climate Dialogue is an annual event that has been convened by Germany since 2010. It brings together ministers from over 30 countries, top executives, civil society and subnational leaders in preparation for the annual climate COP, which will be held in Glasgow from 1 to 12 November.
#Environment; #ClimateChange; #deforestation; #UN
New York/Canadian-Media: Forests are at the core of our efforts to restore our relationship with the natural world, the deputy UN chief said on Monday at the UN Forum on Forests.
Sunlight streams through a forest in Germany. Unsplash/Sebastian Unrau
Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said we were at a “make-or-break moment”, adding that woodlands provide vital functions, including as guardians of fresh water sources and biodiversity protection.
“Forests are at the core of the solutions that can help us make peace with nature”, she underscored, stressing that "we need all-hands-on-deck" to support of forests worldwide.
Moreover, failure to protect them would have a major, negative impact on damaging and rising carbon emissions.
The deputy UN chief said that forests must be adequately financed, including through alleviating debt burdens for those States which are expected to do more for woodland protection and sustainable agriculture overall.
‘Wide-ranging global crises’
Pointing out that the world is facing “wide-ranging global crises” that are “intrinsically linked” to the health and sustainability of our environment, General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir called the discussion “particularly timely”.
Building political momentum
The UN official drew attention to a high-level dialogue on 20 May that will focus on pandemic recovery and highlight how to help tackle desertification, land degradation and drought.
It will encompass a “strong push around the need to use this momentous recovery effort to create jobs and shovel-ready projects that support land restoration, regenerative agriculture, renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as investments in sustainable land management”, said Mr. Bozkir.
He hoped that the discussion would also help support the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, degradation neutrality targets and national drought plans – in line with the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, the Nationally Determined Contributions of countries’ commitments to increasing climate actions through the 2015 Paris Agreement, and future commitments under the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.
The Assembly president noted that 2021 will be “a milestone year for the three Rio Conventions on Desertification, Biodiversity and Climate Change”, adding that these important issues are linked and actions must be coordinated for maximum impact.
Forests offer hope to heal people, environment and economy -- FAO chief
Liu Zhenmin, head of the UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs, spoke about new research linking successful forest restoration with rolling back biodiversity loss and species extinction.
He maintained that well preserved habitats and healthy agriculture are key pathways forward and also underscored the importance of indigenous people in forest protection and preservation, calling their role “paramount”.
“Investing in forests is investing in our future”, he said. “We must strengthen our global efforts to protect and restore forests and support the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities. Only then can we realize our shared vision for a more just, equitable and sustainable world”.
Forests are key
In his video message, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), called healthy forests the key to “building back better”.
As they provide energy, food security and income while also storing carbon and housing most of the Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity, he said that "forests offer hope to heal people, environment and economy".
"Our generation must be the one that halts deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change...and achieve better nutrition, better production, a better environment and a better life", the FAO chief said.
Global Forest Goals Report
The event also launched the Global Forest Goals Report 2021, which evaluates where the world stands in implementing the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030.
While the world had been making progress in key areas, such as increasing global forest area through afforestation and restoration, findings reveal that the worsening state of our natural environment is threatening these and other gains.
“Before the pandemic, many countries were working hard to reverse native forest loss and increase protected areas designated for biodiversity conservation”, wrote Secretary-General António Guterres in the report’s foreword.
#ClimateChange; #GreenPath; #UN; #VirtualClimateSummit
UN/Canadian-Media: World leaders must act now and put the planet on a green path because “we are at the verge of the abyss”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday in his address to the virtual climate summit convened by United States President Joseph Biden.
Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by US President Joe Biden. Image credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
"Mother Nature is not waiting”, the UN chief warned, as the past decade was the hottest on record, and the world continues to see rising sea-levels, scorching temperatures, devastating tropical cyclones and epic wildfires.
US commitment and investment The Secretary-General thanked President Biden for hosting the two-day Leaders Summit on Climate, and applauded US commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
In his introductory remarks, President Biden announced the country would slash emissions in half, by 2030. He spoke of the “extraordinary job creation and economic opportunity” that climate response provides, proposing investments in sectors such as energy, transportation, construction and farming.
President Biden acknowledged that no nation can solve the climate emergency alone, and he called for leaders of the world’s largest economies to “step up” in the race to a sustainable future.
“Scientists tell us that this is the decisive decade. This is the decade we must make decisions that will avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” he said.
Net-zero coalition Mr. Guterres used the Summit to amplify his call for a global coalition to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and for countries to ramp up their commitments under the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.
The 2015 treaty aims to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and requires governments to commit to increasingly ambitious climate action through plans known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
#AirPollution; #Covid19; #ESA; #ESACopernicusSentinel5PMission; #Europe; #Tropomiinstrument
New York/Canadian-Media: Nationwide lockdowns put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19 during early 2020 coincided with a decline in air pollution shown by the data collected from satellites. The reverse situation prevailed one year later with relaxation of restrictions of the lockdown and prevalence of regular activities in some countries when nitrogen dioxide levels bounced back to pre-COVID levels, European Space Agency (ESA) news reports said.
ESA. Image credit: Wikipedia
On 23 January 2020, the world saw the first coronavirus lockdown come into force in Wuhan and similar measures were then put in place worldwide in the following weeks and months which resulted in a significant reduction in air pollutants across China as detected by satellites. including reduced emissions of nitrogen dioxide – a gas that pollutes the air mainly as a result of traffic and the combustion of fossil fuel in industrial processes.
With the ease of restrictions an year later, the average level of air pollutants has rebounded and is on the rise again. The maps below show the monthly average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, derived from data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, in the central and eastern portions of China in February 2019, February 2020 and February 2021. The map shows the fluctuation in levels between the three periods, with dark red indicating high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.
Nitrogen dioxide concentrations over China. Image credit: Official website of ESA
Nitrogen dioxide concentrations in Beijing, indicated by the data dropped by around 35 percent between February 2019 and 2020 before returning to similar levels in February 2021, whereas in Chongqing, nitrogen dioxide dropped by approximately 45 percent between February 2019 and February 2020, before returning to almost double pre-COVID numbers.
The data is collected by Tropomi instrument on board the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite – the first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere.
Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, says, “We expected air pollution to rebound as lockdowns are lifted across the globe. Nitrogen dioxide concentrations in our atmosphere do not depend on human activity alone. Weather conditions such as wind speed and cloud cover also affect those levels, however a large quantity of these reductions are due to restrictions being eased. In the coming weeks and months, we expect increases of nitrogen dioxide concentrations also over Europe.”
Claus continues, “The special features of the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, with its high spatial resolution and accurate ability to observe trace gases compared to other atmospheric satellite missions, allows us to generate these unique nitrogen dioxide concentration measurement maps from space.”
Tropomi instrument, which is used to map a multitude of trace gases such as nitrogen dioxide, ozone, formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, methane, carbon monoxide and aerosols is carried by the satellite.
#UNEP; #GreenRecovery; #Covid19Pandemic
UNEP/Canadian-Media: One year from the onset of the pandemic, recovery spending has fallen short of nations’ commitments to build back more sustainably.
Image credit: Twitter handle
An analysis of spending by leading economies, led by Oxford’s Economic Recovery Project and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), finds only 18.0% of announced recovery spending can be considered ‘green.’
The report, Are We Building Back Better? Evidence from 2020 and Pathways for Inclusive Green Recovery Spending, calls for governments to invest more sustainably and tackle inequalities as they stimulate growth in the wake of the devastation wrought by the pandemic.
The most comprehensive analysis of COVID-19-related fiscal rescue and recovery efforts by 50 leading economies so far, the report reveals that only $368bn of $14.6tn COVID-induced spending (rescue and recovery) in 2020 was green.
UNEP’s Executive Director, Inger Andersen: “Humanity is facing a pandemic, an economic crisis and an ecological breakdown - we cannot afford to lose on any front. Governments have a unique chance to put their countries on sustainable trajectories that prioritize economic opportunity, poverty reduction and planetary health at once - the Observatory gives them the tools to navigate to more sustainable and inclusive recoveries.”
Brian O’Callaghan, lead researcher at the Oxford University Economic Recovery Project and the report’s author: “Despite positive steps towards a sustainable COVID-19 recovery from a few leading nations, the world has so far fallen short of matching aspirations to build back better. But opportunities to spend wisely on recovery are not yet over. Governments can use this moment to secure long-term economic, social, and environmental prosperity.”
“Our ability to better inform and monitor the investments made by countries to address the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is vital to keep the green, inclusive recovery on track,” says Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. “In this respect, the Global Recovery Observatory and UNDP’s Data Futures Platform offer policymakers a rich new set of data points and insights – expanding access to such resources will help to increase the transparency, accountability, and effectiveness of the investments being made now and their impact on our sustainable future.”
Professor of Environmental Economics at Oxford, Cameron Hepburn: “This report is a wake-up call. The data from the Global Recovery Observatory show that we are not building back better, at least not yet. We know a green recovery would be a win for the economy as well as the climate - now we need to get on with it.”
The report emphasizes that green recovery can bring stronger economic growth, while helping to meet global environmental targets and addressing structural inequality. To keep decades of progress against poverty from unwinding, low-income countries will require substantial concessional finance from international partners.
It raises five key questions for the road to sustainable recovery:
#India;#RiceProduction; #ClimateChange; #Adaptation; #WaterAvailability; #FAO;
New York/Canadian-Media: As the global population grows, the demand for food increases while arable land shrinks. A new University of Illinois study investigates how rice production in India can meet future needs by adapting to changing climate conditions and water availability.
Farm workers plant rice transplants at the Borlaug Institute for South Asia's research farm in Bihar, India. Credit: University of Illinois.
"Rice is the primary crop in India, China, and other countries in Southeast Asia. Rice consumption is also growing in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world," says Prasanta Kalita, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at U of I and lead author on the study.
"If you look at where they traditionally grow rice, it is countries that have plenty of water, or at least they used to. They have tropical weather with heavy rainfall they depend on for rice production. Overall, about 4,000 liters of water go into production and processing per kilogram of rice," he states.
Climate change is likely to affect future water availability, and rice farmers must implement new management practices to sustain production and increase yield, Kalita says.
The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates the world population will grow by two billion people by 2050, and food demand will increase by 60%.
"We will need multiple efforts to meet that demand," Kalita states. "And with two billion more people, we will also need more water for crop production, drinking water, and industrial use."
Kalita and his colleagues conducted the study at the Borlaug Institute for South Asia's research farm in Bihar, India. Farmers in the region grow rice during the monsoon season, when heavy rainfall sustains the crop.
The researchers collected data on rice yield and climate conditions, then used computer simulations to model future scenarios based on four global climate models. The purpose of the study was to estimate rice yield and water demand by 2050, and evaluate how farmers can adapt to the effects of climate change.
"As the weather changes, it affects temperature, rainfall, and carbon dioxide concentration. These are essential ingredients for crop growth, especially for rice. It's a complicated system, and effects are difficult to evaluate and manage," Kalita states.
"Our modeling results show the crop growth stage is shrinking. The time for total maturity from the day you plant to the day you harvest is getting shorter. The crops are maturing faster, and as a result, you don't get the full potential of the yield."
If farmers maintain current practices, rice yield will decrease substantially by 2050, the study shows. But various management strategies can mitigate the effects of climate change, and the researchers provide a series of recommendations.
Traditional rice farming involves flooding the fields with water. Rice transplants need about six inches of standing water. If fields aren't level, it requires even more water to cover the crops, Kalita says. However, if farmers use direct-seeded rice instead of transplants, they can increase production while using significantly less water.
Another practice involves soil conservation technology. "The soil surface continuously loses water because of temperature, humidity, and wind. If you keep crop residue on the ground, it reduces the evaporation and preserves water. Furthermore, when the crop residue decomposes, it will help increase soil quality," Kalita explains.
The researchers also suggest implementing strategies to prevent post-harvest crop losses. FAO estimates about 30% of crops are lost or wasted after harvest, so efforts to reduce those losses can further increase crop availability and food security.
Overall, the best approach to achieve a 60% increase in rice production while minimizing additional irrigation needs is a combination of conservation strategies and a 30% reduction in post-harvest loss, the researchers conclude.
#UN; #PolarVertex; #ClimateChange; #GlobalCarbonDioxideLevels
UN/Canadian-Media: A “polar vortex” was responsible for the freezing conditions in the US state of Texas last month, UN weather experts said on Tuesday, before warning of a worrying increase in global carbon dioxide levels.
Thomas Park: The US state of Texas endured unseasonably freezing temperatures in February 2021. Image credit: Unsplash
Spokesperson Clare Nullis from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) told journalists during a regular briefing in Geneva that the United States shivered through its coldest February since 1989, thanks to the natural phenomenon:
The vortex is “area of low pressure and cold air, surrounding either of the poles”, she said. “It normally keeps cold air in the Arctic, warmer air in the lower latitudes. It weakened this winter so that meant that the cold air came spinning out of the Artic…warm air by contrast went into parts of the Arctic.”
Ms. Nullis added that no less than 62 all-time daily cold minimum temperature records were broken in the United States from February 11-16, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Cold records, ‘becoming rarer
’February temperatures were also well below the 1991-2020 average over much of the Russian Federation and North America, but they were well above average over parts of the Arctic, and from northwest Africa to southern Europe and China.
The UN agency also cautioned that although February was a relatively cold month, this does not negate the long-term warming trend from climate change.
“Cold records are becoming rarer, in contrast to heat temperature records and heatwaves. We expect this trend to continue”, WMO said in a statement.
Globally, February 2021 was close to the 1991-2020 average, but 0.26 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1981-2010 average. This value represents the coldest monthly anomaly for almost six years, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.
Emissions keep rising
According to the latest data on carbon dioxide concentrations, greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise.
Citing the Mauna Loa station in Hawaii - a benchmark reference station – Ms. Nullis noted that average carbon dioxide concentrations in February were 416.75 parts per million, up from 413.4 parts per million in February 2020.
“The fact that we had a relatively cold month does not negate climate change, it does not reverse the long-term trend in rising temperatures due to global warming, climate change”, she said. “The fact that we’ve got COVID-19 which temporarily put a brake on emissions last year does not mean that the need for climate action is diminishing.”
Mayors, Scientists and Communities along the Mississippi River come together to tackle plastic pollution
#MississippiRiver; #PlasticPollutionInitiative; #environment; #ecosystemHealth
Washington, D.C./Canadian-Media: The Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative was launched today at the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative’s ninth annual Capitol Meeting, where mayors representing over 100 communities along the river corridor are convening to address critical issues that impact the nation’s most important waterway, including plastic pollution.
Plastic pollution. Image credit: Unsplash
Marine debris that continuously enters the Mississippi River poses a large threat to environmental quality and ecosystem health. As the drainage system for 40% of the continental United States, plastic waste and other litter travels through storm drains and smaller waterways into the river and its tributaries, ultimately making way to the Gulf of Mexico and into the ocean.
Approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans each year, with rivers contributing to a significant portion of that amount. In 2016, the U.S. generated 42.0Mt of plastic waste, the largest amount of any country in the world, and was the third-largest contributor of mismanaged plastic waste to the coastal environment globally.
“We enthusiastically applaud the Mayors from along the Mississippi River for tackling the critical challenge of plastic pollution in our rivers and marine environments,” said Barbara Hendrie, Director of UN Environment Program’s North America Office. “With just 9% of all plastic being recycled globally, we have to work together to address the way we produce, use and dispose of single-use plastic.”
To combat this problem, state legislators and Mayors from all ten states along the Mississippi River made a commitment to reduce plastic waste in the Mississippi River Valley in September 2018. To support this goal, the Mississippi River Plastic Pollution Initiative will generate the first-ever snapshot of plastic pollution along the river.
“As one of the world’s most vital waterways, it is incumbent on us to pilot efforts that will help ensure major rivers stop contributing to the plastic pollution of our oceans,” said Sharon Weston Broome, Mayor of Baton Rouge, LA, and MRCTI Co-Chair. “Mississippi River Mayors are taking action by mobilizing local communities and working with key partners to deal with single-use plastic pollution to protect our planet and people.”
This initiative will begin with data collection in three pilot locations along the length of the river: Baton Rouge, Louisiana; St. Louis, Missouri; and St. Paul, Minnesota. The data, which will be collected throughout April 2021, will be generated through a ‘citizen science’ approach, enlisting the participation of thousands of community volunteers.
“Citizen science allows us to work together with communities to capture data on what is entering the environment, close to the source,” said Jenna Jambeck, Distinguished Professor in Environmental Engineering at the University of Georgia and National Geographic Fellow. “This scale of data collection would be impossible without the participation of thousands of community members along the river to inform upstream solutions to plastic pollution.”
The data collected will generate a critical baseline for decision-makers in both the private and public sectors, against which to judge the success of their efforts to reduce plastic pollution flowing into the river and to inspire effective policy action.
Under the leadership of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI), the Mayors of the Mississippi River in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), National Geographic Society, and the University of Georgia, launched the initiative.
#UNEP; #LanetaryEmergencies; #GlobalEnvironmentalPolicies
UNEP/Canadian-Media: Ministers of environment and other leaders from more than 150 nations today concluded a two-day online meeting of the Fifth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) in which the Assembly warned that the world risks new pandemics if we don’t change how we safeguard nature.
UNEP. Image credit: Twitter handle
The UN Environment Assembly 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 Program (UNEP). Due to the pandemic, Member States agreed on a two-step approach to UNEA-5: an online session (22-23 February 2021) and an in-person meeting planned for February 2022.
Attended by thousands of online participants, including more than 1,500 delegates from 153 UN Member States and over 60 Ministers of the Environment, the Assembly – which was broadcast live – also agreed on key aspects of UNEP’s work, kicked off the commemoration of UNEP’s 50th anniversary and held leadership dialogues where Member States addressed how to build a resilient and inclusive post-pandemic world.
"It is increasingly evident that environmental crises are part of the journey ahead. Wildfires, hurricanes, high temperature records, unprecedented winter chills, plagues of locusts, floods and droughts, have become so common place that they do not always make the headlines," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in remarks to the Assembly. "These increasing adverse weather and climatic occurrences sound a warning bell that calls on us to attend to the three planetary crises that threaten our collective future: the climate crisis, the biodiversity and nature crisis, and the pollution and waste crisis."
In a political statement entitled “Looking ahead to the resumed UN Environment Assembly in 2022 – Message from online UNEA-5, Nairobi 22 – 23 February 2021” endorsed at the close of the Assembly, Member States reaffirmed UNEP’s mandate as the leading global environmental authority and called for greater and more inclusive multilateralism to tackle the environmental challenges.
The statement said the Assembly wished “to strengthen our support for the United Nations and for multilateral cooperation and remain convinced that collective action is essential to successfully address global challenges.” It went on to warn that “more than ever that human health and wellbeing are dependent upon nature and the solutions it provides, and we are aware that we shall face recurring risks of future pandemics if we maintain our current unsustainable patterns in our interactions with nature.”
Sveinung Rotevatn, President of UNEA-5 and Norway's Minister for Climate and Environment, echoed the warning.
"Everyone gathered at the Environment Assembly today are deeply concerned about how the pandemic causes new and serious health, socio-economic and environmental challenges, and exacerbates existing ones, all over the world," he told a press conference on the closing day of UNEA-5.
"We shall work together to identify actions which can help us address climate change, protect biodiversity, and reduce pollution, at the same time,” he added.
The Assembly agreed to a new Medium-Term Strategy, Programme of Work and budget for UNEP. The new Strategy – which will take UNEP from 2022-2025 – sets out a vision for UNEP’s role in delivering the promises of the 2030 Agenda.
“The strategy is about transforming how UNEP operates and engages with Member States, UN agencies, the private sector, civil society and youth groups, so we can go harder, faster, stronger,” said Ms. Inger Andersen, UNEP ‘s Executive Director. “This strategy is about providing science and know-how to governments. The strategy is also about collective, whole-of-society action – moving us outside ministries of environment to drive action.”
At an event commemorating UNEP’s upcoming 50th anniversary in 2022, Ms. Andersen acknowledged the importance of the moment to reflect on the past and envision the future.
“Indeed, the strides taken so far towards safeguarding the environment are testament to UNEP’s work,” President Kenyatta noted. “UNEP has had a lasting impact on how we care for the environment, nature and our livelihoods.”
In the run-up to the Assembly, UNEP launched a major report, together with UN Secretary-General António Guterres – Making Peace with Nature – which provides a comprehensive blueprint for solving the triple planetary emergencies of climate change, biodiversity and pollution. A number of events were also held in support of UNEA-5, including a Global Youth Assembly, a Science Policy Business Forum and the launch of a Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency.
“The last few days have been encouraging. We saw a new global effort on resource-efficient, circular economies. A push on financing emission reductions from forests. Governments, scientists and businesses coming together to look at big data as a tool for change. Youth raising their voices and telling us ‘nothing about us, without us’ and calling for targeted funds to enable their deeper engagement,” Ms. Andersen added.