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UNEA-5.2 held in hybrid form in Nairobi, Kenya; Special Session UNEP@50 attended by Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav

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Fifth-session-of-the-United-Nations-Environment-Assembly-(UNEA-5The Fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) was held in hybrid form on February 28 – March 2, 2022 on the theme ‘Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’. It was held in Nairobi, Kenya.

UNEA-5.2 was followed by a Special Session of the UNEA, UNEP@50, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the creation of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) in 1972. It was also held online and in person in Nairobi on March 3-4, 2022 under the overall theme of ‘Strengthening UNEP for the implementation of the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.

Highlights of UNEA 5.2:

i.The President of UNEA-5 is Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s Minister for Climate and the Environment.

ii.It was attended by more than 3,400 in-person and 1,500 online participants from 175 UN Member States, including 79 ministers and 17 high-level officials.

iii.It concludes with 14 resolutions to curb pollution, protect and restore nature worldwide to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are the 14 resolutions and one decision adopted by the UN Environment Assembly:

  1. Resolution to End plastic pollution: Towards an international legally binding instrument
  2. Resolution on an Enhancing Circular Economy as a contribution to achieving sustainable consumption and production
  3. Resolution on Sustainable Lake Management
  4. Resolution on Nature-based Solutions for Supporting Sustainable Development
  5. Resolution on the environmental dimension of a sustainable, resilient and inclusive post COVID-19 recovery
  6. Resolution on Biodiversity and Health 
  7. Resolution-Animal Welfare – Environment – Sustainable Development Nexus
  8. Resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management
  9. Resolution on Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure
  10. Resolution on the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste
  11. Resolution for a Science-Policy Panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution
  12. Resolution text on environmental aspects of minerals and metals management
  13. Resolution on the Future of the Global Environment Outlook
  14. Resolution due regard to the principle of equitable geographical distribution, in accordance with paragraph 3 of article 101 of the Charter of the UN

175 nations sign mandate to curb use of plastic by developing a legally binding agreement

Heads of State, Ministers of environment and other representatives from 175 nations endorsed a historic resolution titled ‘End Plastic Pollution: Towards an internationally legally binding instrument’ to end plastic pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024. 

  • The resolution addresses the full lifecycle of plastic, including its production, design and disposal, and the need for enhanced international collaboration to facilitate access to technology, capacity building and scientific and technical cooperation.
  • Under this, an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) will begin its work in 2022 for completing a draft global legally binding agreement.

It should be noted that this resolution to curb plastic use is proposed by merging the three initial draft resolutions from various nations viz.

i.Framework for addressing plastic product pollution including single-use plastic product pollution | Proposed by India on 28 January 2022

ii.Internationally legally binding instrument on plastic pollution | Proposed by Rwanda and Peru | Co-sponsored by 54 Member States and the EU 

iii.International legally binding instrument on marine plastic pollution  | Proposed by Japan | Co-sponsored by 4 Member States 

The two draft resolutions of Peru, Rwanda and Japan were based on the principle of a legally binding target, while the Indian one was based on the principle of immediate collective voluntary action by countries.

Need for this Resolution:

i.Plastic production increased from 2 million tonnes in 1950 to 348 million tonnes in 2017, becoming a global industry valued at US$522.6 billion, and it is expected to double in capacity by 2040. 

ii.The impacts of plastic production and pollution effects climate change, nature loss and pollution

iii.Exposure to plastics can harm human health, potentially affecting fertility, hormonal, metabolic and neurological activity, and open burning of plastics contributes to air pollution.

iv.By 2050 greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal would account for 15% of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (34.7°F).

v.More than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by this pollution through ingestion, entanglement, and other dangers.

vi.Some 11 million tonnes of plastic waste flow annually into oceans. This may triple by 2040.

How will this resolution be beneficial?

This resolution envisages a shift to a circular economy which can reduce the volume of plastics entering oceans by over 80% by 2040; reduce virgin plastic production by 55%; save governments US$70 billion by 2040; reduce GHGs by 25%; and create 700,000 additional jobs – mainly in the global south.

UNEP celebrates 50th Anniversary

In the ‘UNEP@50’, India was represented by Union Minister Bhupender Yadav, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) who visited Nairobi, Kenya for the same.

  • Leena Nandan, Secretary, MoEF&CC presented the national statement of India stating India is committed to addressing plastic pollution to reduce its adverse impact on terrestrial, aquatic ecosystems, and human well-being.

Key Points:

i.The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, was the first-ever UN conference with the word “environment” in its title. This conference spurred the formation of environment ministries and agencies around the world and led to the formation of UNEP.

ii.To mark UNEP’s 50th anniversary, a year-long series of activities and outreach events are taking place under the UNEP@50 banner. These recognize the significant progress made on global environmental matters.

Recent Related News:

i.UNEP with support from the European Commission launched the International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) at the Group of Twenty (G20) Summit 2021.

ii.Beating the Heat: Sustainable Urban Cooling Handbook report by UNEP indicates that cities will be the hotspots, if global warming continues. The temperature increases due to the urban heat island effect by an average of 4 degree celsius by 2100.

About UN Environment Programme (UNEP):

Executive Director– Inger Andersen
Headquarters– Nairobi, Kenya