UN Environment Assembly call for urgent action to solve planetary emergencies

By Sarauniya Usman, Abuja

President of UNEA-5 and Norway’s Minister for Climate and Environment, Sveinung Rotevatn,warned that the world is at risks of new pandemics, if we don’t change how we safeguard nature.

He said, “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,”

The warning was echoed at the just concluded two-day online meeting of the Fifth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) in which the Assembly and other leaders from more than 150 nations were in attendance.

The essence of the meeting was to biennially set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law; decisions and resolutions taken by Member States at the Assembly.

The meeting was well 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.

President of Kenya,Uhuru Kenyatta said in remarks, “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.”

President of UNEA-5 and Norway’s Minister for Climate and Environment, Sveinung Rotevatn, echoed the warning, “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.”

“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,”

“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.

Executive Director, UNEP,Ms. Inger Andersen, said, “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,”

According to her ,“this strategy is about providing science and know-how to governments and about collective, whole-of-society action – moving us outside ministries of environment to drive action.”

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.”

UNEP also 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.

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