Norine Kennedy, USCIB’s expert on environment and climate change policy and one of two official business focal point representatives for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), recently attended UN Environment Assembly (UNEA3) preparatory meetings in Nairobi (March 7-10). UNEA represents the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment with universal membership of all 193 UN Member States along with non-governmental organizations and the private sector. The meetings in Nairobi began discussions to develop a new framework of of pollution-related issues for potential decisions and pledges at UNEA3; a substantial element of this framework will be the role of business in causing, remediating and minimizing pollution. UNEA3 will take place from December 4-6 in Nairobi.
UNEA3’s theme will be, “Towards a Pollution Free Planet.” In interventions during last week’s preliminary meetings, government and UNEP officials linked this broad topic with other policy concepts underpinning regulatory efforts, including the circular economy and sustainable consumption. Several governments also emphasized connections with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“At this early stage, most attention seems to be directed at plastics in the marine environment, whether in the form of micro-plastics and smaller debris, or as plastic bottles and plastic bags, with the push coming from Nordic countries, the EU and some African countries,” observed Kennedy. “Other issues under the other pollution sub-headings could still be proposed.
Led by UNEP Executive Director, Erik Solheim, and echoed by numerous government representatives, UNEA3 preparations for UNEA3 are placing a strong focus on business and industry as a source of solutions, resources, and actions, yet much needs to be done to afford adequate time and attention to contributions that business has made to addressing environmental challenges. “In spite of extensive partnership and engagement by business with UNEP over decades, discussions last week frequently seemed to assume that business and industry was not already engaged in environmental and sustainability management,” noted Kennedy. In her intervention on behalf of Business and Industry, Kennedy reminded governments and UNEP of the business community’s ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship and role in advancing innovative technologies to further all elements of sustainability.
Questions remain about how UNEP will identify and invite important business entities to the table, with an emphasis on geographical and sectoral representation, rather than anecdotal examples and individual CEOs. USCIB will continue to advocate for U.S. business involvement and representation, working with UNEP and the U.S. Administration.