The first “universal” meeting of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Governing Council wrapped up last week in Nairobi, Kenya, having agreed on future directions and priorities for the newly strengthened UN body in guiding international policy on issues like the green economy, sustainable consumption and production, and chemicals.
In an important development, Norine Kennedy, USCIB’s vice president for environment and energy, was elected to serve as one of three key UNEP stakeholder group representatives. Representing the business community (with other stakeholder representatives from the indigenous peoples and environmental law communities), Kennedy will advise UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner and other UNEP officials to support the strong involvement of business and other important non-governmental interests in the organization’s new governance structure.
Decisions taken in Nairobi are expected to have an impact far into the future as UNEP establishes itself as the preeminent platform for international environmental policy-making and action. UNEP was mandated by the last year’s Rio+20 summit and UN General Assembly session to lead UN work on environmental aspects of sustainability. The meeting was “universal” in the sense that all 193 UN members are now members of UNEP, which previously had a smaller number of governments involved directly in its decision-making.
In Nairobi, ministers and government representatives from 193 member states adopted numerous decisions regarding UNEP’s operations and work program. These included the transformation of the existing UNEP Governing Council into a UN Environment Assembly, and the creation of stronger links between UNEP’s science-based Global Environment Outlook process and its ministerial meetings – further implementing the call by UN member states at Rio+20 to strengthen the science/policy interface.
According to Kennedy, USCIB places particular importance on UNEP’s efforts to strengthen its scientific base. “We hope to explore additional options for business cooperation with UNEP on expert, science and research matters relating to its work program, such as the recent first meeting of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and EcoSystems Services,” she said.
In the year ahead, UNEP will take up work on human rights and the environment, environmental law and new procedures for non-governmental and business participation in its work. UNEP will also host and coordinate the Climate Technology Center and Network, which will implement the technology-transfer mechanism of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
USCIB’s Environment Committee has provided its recommendations on business priorities in UNEP’s broad work program, particularly relating to protecting and safeguarding information that is commercially important, such as IPR, CBI and trade secrets, in the context of increasing access to information.
Green Economies Dialogue session
In conjunction with the Governing Council, the USCIB’s Green Economies Dialogue initiative held its first African event on February 21 at UNEP headquarters. The side event, entitled “Green Economies in Global Markets: Opportunities for Developing Countries to Innovate and Benefit,” highlighted opportunities and challenges in greening economic development and growth in developing countries, with a special focus on Africa.
The session featured a presentation by Micael Da Costa of CleanStar Mozambique, an integrated food, energy and forest protection business, as an example of an innovative business approach to greening economic activity that fits well with African needs and aspirations. The CleanStar business model offers economic, environmental and social benefits, providing connections between small and large companies and offering tangible improvements in health and development in Africa.
Other speakers included John Matuszak of the U.S. State Department, Robert Dixon of the Global Environment Facility, Asad Naqvi of UNEP’s Green Economy initiative and Green Economies Dialogue Chair Brian Flannery. The side event was attended by representations of governments, academia, business and NGOs, and highlighted priority areas in greener development and enabling frameworks for investment and public private partnership. It provided perspectives on where UNEP can work with business to advance and accelerate priorities for greener growth most relevant to developing countries.
The Green Economies Dialogue project was founded in 2011 by the United States Council Foundation and a host of sponsors and partners. It seeks to provides business perspectives into the international policy debate on ways to promote greener economic, social and environmental progress. It has done so through previous dialogue meetings with national governments and other stakeholders, including the OECD, in Washington, Paris, Beijing, Tokyo, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro. It has also commissioned peer-reviewed papers by respected academic authors on green economy topics of interest to business, published last year in a special “Green Perspectives” volume of the journal Energy Economics.
For more information on the Green Economies Dialogue project, visit www.green-dialogue.org
Staff contact: Norine Kennedy