UN Environment Assembly 2017: where the world convenes to #BeatPollution

UN Environment Assembly: Opening of the Plenary
Source: UNEP. Photo: Natalia Mroz

The third session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) is concluding today in Nairobi, Kenya, with more than 4.000 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, UN officials and civil society representatives to partake in this three-day meeting. Pollution and the ways to eliminate all its forms is the target of every leader, activist, scientist and businessman who are taking part in this forum.

It is highlighted that pollution is seriously affecting our planet and health and it is imperative to manage its consequences in order to improve our quality of life. Besides, prosperity and profitability can be derived through sustainable development and investment in climate-friendly technologies according to the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.

UN demands for bolder decisions

The UN published an environmental report last September called «Towards a Pollution-Free Planet» which was discussed during the meeting in Nairobi as it proposes solutions against pollution. More specifically, it recommends that political leaders should take bolder actions, while people’s way of living alters and green investments are promoted.

The head UN environment made it clear during the Assembly that more has to be done in order to improve the ongoing situation. In detail, Erik Solheim, UN Environment’s Head mentioned: “Given the grim statistics on how we are poisoning ourselves and our planet, bold decisions from the UN Environment Assembly are critical. That is as true for threats like pollution as it is for climate change and the many other environmental threats we face.”

Circular economy

Building circularity and resource efficiency is one of the sustainable development goals which tackle pollution. This matter was discussed during the conference where the EU Commissioner Vella talked about plastics and European Commission’s Action Plan to build a new strategy on recycling. Plastic waste is causing enormous damage to the ecosystem which has to bear with 8.8 million tons of plastic that is thrown in the ocean every year according to the environmental group World Wildlife Fund.

Commissioner Vella said: “This is an area where the European Commission has been working very hard. There are two very basic aims. The first is to put this linear approach behind us. To make it not just desirable, but normal and financially advantageous to recycle plastics. The second aim is to cut plastic waste and littering. If you want a strategy to be effective, you need to ensure you are acting in the right areas, with the right instruments.” Furthermore, Erik Solheim commented that plastics must be reduced and the ones used have to be recycled. It must be noted that the UN Environment’s top official was very optimistic regarding the change of the economy in the next two decades, envisioning a transition from a linear economy to a more circular one.

Antimicrobial resistance and human health

The 2017 Frontiers report was released during the second day of the UNEA showing among others the link between pollution and antimicrobial-resistant germs. This report basically outlines that the antimicrobial resistance into the environment is one of the most concerning issues as far as human health is concerned.

The Environment Minister of Norway stressed the significance of these outcomes as they ensure that policy-makers are basing their decisions on facts. Vidar Helgesen precisely stressed: “This report is important because it is connecting science and policy and, more than ever, we need to stand up for knowledge-based politics”. What is more, Erik Solheim cried out for immediate action. His exact words on the issue were: “The warning here is truly frightening: we could be spurring the development of ferocious superbugs through ignorance and carelessness. Studies have already linked the misuse of antibiotics in humans and agriculture over the last several decades to increasing resistance, but the role of the environment and pollution has received little attention. This needs priority action right now, or else we run the risk of allowing resistance to occur through the back door, with potentially terrifying consequences.”

Citizens and leaders’ role on tackling pollution

The UNEA has already added a value to dealing with pollution and climate change based on its proposals and call for bolder measures which could further lead to a cleaner environment.

Last but not least, not only governments but each and everyone of us needs to become more climate-aware in order to contribute to this goal as well. The role and responsibility of citizens is huge in changing policies and creating a fertile ground with their daily behaviour towards a much greener planet.

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