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UN member states are meeting to plan how to tackle the world's environmental crises


The world's top decision-making body on the environment is meeting in Kenya's capital on Monday to discuss how countries can work together to tackle environmental crises like climate change, pollution and loss of biodiversity.

The meeting in Nairobi is the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, and governments, civil society groups, scientists and the private sector are attending.

"None of us live on an island. We live on planet Earth, and we are all connected," said Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which is leading the process. "The only way we can solve some of these problems is by talking together."

At the meeting, member states discuss a raft of draft resolutions on a range of issues that the assembly adopts upon consensus. If a proposal is adopted, it sets the stage for countries to implement what's been agreed on.

In the last round of talks in 2022, also in Nairobi, governments adopted 14 resolutions, including to create a legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution globally. Andersen described it then as the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris Agreement to limit global warming.

For this year's talks, countries have submitted 20 draft resolutions for discussion, including on how best to restore degraded lands, combat dust storms and reduce the environmental impact of metal and mineral mining.

But with countries having different priorities, it's often hard to get consensus on the draft resolutions. However, Andersen said, there's generally "a forward movement" on all draft resolutions for this year's meeting, known as UNEA-6.

With this meeting's focus on multilateralism, UNEP wants to build on past agreements it led between governments, such as the Minamata Convention to put controls on mercury and the Montreal Protocol to heal the hole in the ozone layer, Andersen said.

The first day of the UNEA-5 at the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi, February 28, 2022. /CFP
The first day of the UNEA-5 at the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi, February 28, 2022. /CFP

The first day of the UNEA-5 at the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi, February 28, 2022. /CFP

Björn Beeler, international coordinator for the International Pollutants Elimination Network, thinks there'll be slow progress on more complex issues such as financing around chemicals and waste.

Beeler also expects strong opposition on a draft resolution that wants to phase out the use of highly hazardous pesticides. The draft resolution, which was submitted by Ethiopia and is co-sponsored by Uruguay, aims to create a global alliance of UN bodies like UNEP, the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization.

"If this does go through, it would be very significant because it would be the first time ever to see global movement on highly hazardous pesticides," said Beeler, who is attending the talks.

UNEP anticipates more than 70 government ministers and 3,000 delegates at the talks.

"What we should expect at UNEA-6 is decision makers looking into the horizon, being aware of what is it that's coming to us that could potentially damage our planet, and taking preemptive action to prevent this," said Andersen.

Source(s): AP
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