The second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) is meeting this week in Nairobi, Kenya to define new priorities on global environmental policy action, based on the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This session, which meets as a universal assembly involving all UN member states and including environment ministers from over 100 countries, was also the farewell session for the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) executive director, Achim Steiner, who has led UNEP for ten years. Erik Solheim, executive director of the OECD Development Assistance Committee will succeed Steiner in that post.
Business and industry representatives from the Global Business Alliance for 2030 attended this session, including USCIB’s Norine Kennedy in her capacity as official business focal point for UNEP. Attendees took part in the Science and Policy Forum and several events at the Sustainable Innovation Expo, including the UNEA2 Business Dialogue.
Speaking for the Global Business Alliance for 2030, Barrie Bain of the International Fertilizer Association (IFA) stated that “while technological innovation can come in the form of disruptive change, far more important is to enable continuous evolution and improvement of a wide range of technologies to reduce their environmental impacts.”
After several nights of late night negotiations, UNEA reached over 20 policy decisions, including in the areas of:
- Marine debris and plastics
- Chemicals and Waste
- Access to Information
- Climate Change
- Reducing Food Waste
Addressing the links between health and environmental policy is an emerging issue that has received considerable attention in Nairobi. According to UNEP’s new report, Healthy Environment, Healthy People, 23 percent of all global deaths are due to modifiable environmental factors, with air pollution as the leading factor.
In comments to the UNEA2 Plenary, Kennedy highlighted the importance of creating a strong substantive interface for business and industry to inform and strengthen UNEP programs on environmental science and technology, policy and implementation. She stated that “sustainability and environmental challenges will require new ways of working, through partnership and enhanced cooperation between governments, business and others.”
USCIB members met with the U.S. government delegation attending UNEA2, and took part in side events on women’s economic empowerment, private-sector partnerships with municipal governments, and climate change and chemicals. The next UNEA will take place in the fall of 2017.
A full report of UNEA2 outcomes on issues and opportunities for business will be provided at the next meeting of USCIB’s Environment Committee, June 8 in NYC.