UN Environment Assembly Calls For Action To Solve Planetary Emergencies

Nairobi:  A two-day online meeting of the Fifth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) was concluded here during which the Assembly warned that the world risks new pandemics “if we don’t change how we safeguard nature”.

Ministers of environment and other leaders from more than 150 nations participated in the event.

Due to the pandemic, the member states agreed on a two-step approach to UNEA-5: an online session that concluded on Tuesday and an in-person meeting planned for February 2022.

Attended by thousands of online participants, including more than 1,500 delegates from 153 UN member states and over 60 ministers of the environment, the assembly – which was broadcast live – also agreed on key aspects of UNEP’s work, kicked off the commemoration of UNEP’s 50th anniversary and held leadership dialogues where member states addressed how to build a resilient and inclusive post-pandemic world.

“It is increasingly evident that environmental crises are part of the journey ahead. Wildfires, hurricanes, high temperature records, unprecedented winter chills, plagues of locusts, floods and droughts, have become so common place that they do not always make the headlines,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in remarks to the Assembly.

“These increasing adverse weather and climatic occurrences sound a warning bell that calls on us to attend to the three planetary crises that threaten our collective future: the climate crisis, the biodiversity and nature crisis, and the pollution and waste crisis.”

The statement said the assembly wished “to strengthen our support for the United Nations and for multilateral cooperation and remain convinced that collective action is essential to successfully address global challenges.”

It went on to warn that “more than ever that human health and wellbeing are dependent upon nature and the solutions it provides, and we are aware that we shall face recurring risks of future pandemics if we maintain our current unsustainable patterns in our interactions with nature.”

Sveinung Rotevatn, President of UNEA-5 and Norway’s Minister for Climate and Environment, echoed the warning.