The fifth session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-5) is taking place this month, between February 22-23, 2021. This biennial assembly aims to provide leadership, catalyse intergovernmental actions on the environment, and contribute to the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In recent years, the world has faced multiple environmental issues such as wildfires, locust invasions, droughts and floods. These have been on the increase within the past year. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic also halted many activities towards dealing with these issues.
This year, the UNEA-5 aims to tackle three issues, that have been propelled by human pressure; climate change, biodiversity and ecosystems deterioration, and increasing pollution levels.
The theme for UNEA-5 is “Strengthening actions for nature to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.
This theme calls for a concerted effort to protect and restore nature and nature-based solutions with the aim of achieving the 2030 sustainable development goals. With less than a decade for the world to meet the ambitious SDGs targets, specific focus will be laid on strengthened actions that will help the world move closer to the environmental targets. These include goals related to the eradication of poverty (SDG 1) and sustainable patterns of production and consumption (SDG 12). Additionally, the meeting also presents an opportunity to re-look at the commitments to economic recovery post COVID-19.
Unlike previous sessions, this year’s event will follow the new normal by having the first session being conducted virtually, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robina Abuya, the Kenya Markets Trust’s Climate Change Specialist will be participating in this year’s assembly as a delegate.
Expectations for the environment and economies.
In the UNEP medium–term strategy 2022-2025, we see a need to achieve stability in climate, to live harmoniously with nature, and develop initiatives promoting a pollution-free world. This will require economies and societies to develop and work with sustainable and equitable models.
From the situation analysis, some of the issues identified as threats to the achievement of SDGs include:
- Unsustainable patterns of consumption and production which burden the Earth’s resources. With an increase in environmental deterioration, both social and economic well-being are also threatened.
- The growing confluence of climate, nature and pollution crises that affect the world’s ability to eradicate poverty and achieve the SDGs
- The highly uncertain and volatile global economic, social and political outlook that leads to a decline in human development and rising inequalities, inhibiting environmental dimensions of sustainable development
Focus areas of UNEA-5 towards building a sustainable world, in line with the theme are:
- Nature for climate: Restoring and protecting nature on land and in the ocean is among the greatest strategies for tackling the changing climate scenario. To slow down the effects of global warming, UNEA-5 will be urging member states to build green post-pandemic recovery structures which enforcing environmental standards, policies and laws to prevent greenhouse gas emission.
- Nature for sustainable food ecosystem: The world’s population is growing and is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. There is a need to ensure that there is enough, safe, healthy and affordable food to feed this growing population. With food production systems contributing a quarter of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions, UNEA-5 will be calling for global adoption of sustainable climate-smart agricultural practices, that will ensure profitability, environmental health, and socio-economic equity.
- Nature for human and ecosystem health: Zoonotic diseases (such as Ebola, SARS, Zika, HIV/AIDS and COVID-19) and pollution pose serious health, environmental and economic implications. By stopping the destruction of animal habitats and restoring functioning ecosystems, the world can reduce the risk of future pandemics and pollution-related illness.
- Nature for poverty eradication, jobs and economic prosperity: Ecosystems form the core of economic growth and resilience, and form the basis of resources, services and industries. Investments and actions towards protecting and restoring natural ecosystems will lead to overall economic growth and improved livelihoods with better climate change coping mechanisms. UNEA-5 will seek to encourage governments to inculcate environmental sustainability in their COVID-19 stimulus recovery packages.
For more information, visit: https://www.unep.org/environmentassembly/