German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke reflects on UNEA session in Nairobi
Although UNEA was overshadowed by Russia’s wrongful war against Ukraine, the assembly achieved good results. Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke commends the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) as a great success signalling the strength of the international community. At UNEA’s session in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, trailblazing initiatives for global environmental protection were adopted, including a mandate for a legally binding UN agreement to end plastic pollution of the environment and oceans. Directly after the session, there was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of UNEP. The United Nations Environment Programme is the most important player in the international community in the area of environmental policy and receives various forms of support from the German government. It is the highest UN decision-making body in environmental protection.
Minister Lemke commented: “UNEA, too, has shown how important multilateralism is in these pressing times. Whether the focus is on the climate crisis, biodiversity loss or plastic pollution in the environment, we are thinking globally about these international crises and tackling them together with our international partners. UNEA endorsed historic resolutions. For instance, the international community will work swiftly and in consensus to launch a legally binding agreement against unnecessary, harmful plastic and plastic waste. This is a great success, comparable in its significance to the Paris Agreement. We also celebrated the 50th anniversary of UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme, which I was delighted to take part in. UNEP acts as a warning signal for policy and a driver for greater sustainability. As the strong voice of the environment, the programme plays a key role in the UN system and in international policy. Germany is a major donor country for UNEP. The German government will continue and expand its excellent cooperation with the programme for better environmental protection.”
UNEA placed a strong focus on the importance of intact nature and views committed action as its responsibility. 14 resolutions were adopted to curb environmental pollution and to protect and restore nature. The adopted mandate for negotiations on a plastics agreement encompasses all types of plastic waste pollution, including microplastics and specific impacts in marine environments. Key components include a whole-life-cycle view of plastic products, conscious consumption, value-conserving product design, sustainable circular economy and resource efficiency through circularity. The timetable is ambitious, and the finished agreement is planned for 2024.
In addition, UNEA adopted a resolution on nature-based solutions that is relevant for the upcoming negotiations of the Conference on Biological Diversity (COP-15) on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The German government is working for an ambitious framework. Beyond this, we also want to make even more effective use of the synergies between climate action, environmental protection and resource conservation. UNEA made it clear that many crises of our time are interlinked and mutually reinforcing. Accordingly, the resolutions and discussions centred on holistic approaches.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have grave impacts on the entire world, on people and their livelihoods, on health systems and economies and on nature. The scientific findings provided to us, for instance, by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) are clear: our health ultimately depends on the health of our planet.
Without preventive strategies, pandemics will emerge with greater frequency and are likely to have increasingly devastating consequences. For this reason, the German government established the initiative “Biodiversity for Health and Pandemic Prevention” with its partners in the Multi-Partner Trust Fund. Germany will provide the initiative with 50 million euros under its International Climate Initiative. This will be a major contribution to acknowledging biodiversity and climate action as key factors in the health of humans and animals.
This year, the UNEA session was also linked with an official ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the UN Environment Programme. Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke represented Germany at the fifth UNEA session and also at the celebration, where she delivered a national statement. She was in Nairobi, Kenya from 1 to 5 March 2022.