In February 2021, representatives of the 193 Member States of the UN, businesses leaders, civil society and environmentalists from around the world will come together virtually for the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), the world’s highest environmental decision-making body.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) answers frequently-asked questions about this biennial assembly, which aims to galvanize international action on climate change, pollution and ecosystem loss.
Given the enormity of challenges the world is facing, why are environmental conferences like UNEA important?
UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has said it best: Humanity is waging a war on nature. And this is suicidal. In 2020, the world faced flooding, wildfires, locust invasions and a pandemic that has brought life-as-we-know-it to a halt. The message could not be clearer.
Human economic activity has put extreme pressure on the planet, propelling climate change, destroying biodiversity and ecosystems, and rising pollution levels. UNEA will help strengthen international efforts to tackle these three crises.
Apart from the fifth session of UNEA, the year 2021 will see other landmark environmental conferences, including the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the Food Systems Summit, the UN Ocean Conference, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26), and the Convention on Biodiversity (COP 15).
It’s a busy year – and a pivotal one. At the international level, there is a tremendous will to safeguard the planet for generations to come.
In recent years, we have seen countries pull back from their international commitments. Is there still a place for international assemblies, like UNEA?
Even before COVID-19, progress across the Sustainable Development Goals was uneven. But where multilateral action was taken, it has made a difference. Last year, for example, marked the 35th anniversary of the International Convention to protect the ozone layer. As a result of decisive, coordinated action, the ozone layer is now healing, saving millions of lives and avoiding untold economic damage.
Inclusive multilateralism is the only way to solve the challenges we face. It is time to revisit the Paris climate change agreement – renew the leadership and solidarity that made that landmark accord possible – and lay the groundwork for a more sustainable future. Read more…