iSting: a reader’s thoughts on the UN Environment Assembly 2017

UN Environment Assembly 2017

(UN Environment, 2017)

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by one of our passionate readers Mr Animesh Upadhyay. The opinions expressed within reflect only the writer’s views and not The European Sting’s position on the issue.

Plastique! If current pollution rates continue, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050, said the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) president, Erik Solheim. The head quarter situated in Nairobi, Kenya was filled with eminent leaders from about 193 countries (an astounding 200, as the media stated) in one room discussing and uplifting the previous UNEP assembly held in 2016.

The event occurred from 4th to the 6th of December overcrowded with concerned politicians. All the countries signed a U.N. resolution in Nairobi on Wednesday to eliminate plastic pollution in the sea, a move some delegates hoped would pave the way to a legally binding treaty.

UNEA-3 was convened in an unusually shorter session from the above mentioned date, following an agreement at UNEA-2 in 2016; which was to hold future sessions of UNEA in alternate rather odd numbered years, to align with the UN budgeting cycle and avoid lapses in funding.

A very intelligent decision was made in order to maintain records and to achieve efficient accountability. The Open-Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR), who had their own 3 day meeting starting from 1st of December participated in negotiations that took place in five contact groups, four of which discussed the proposed resolutions, while the fifth group, considered draft decisions on administrative and communication matters.

The latter group agreed to extend the delivery of the Global Environment Outlook report (GEO-6) to 2019, so as to ensure its alignment with the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), which is scheduled to take place the same year.

The concoction of plastic waste with air, water and soil pollution lead to an extreme operation with the overarching theme of UNEA-3 signifying ‘Towards a Pollution-Free Planet’. The assembly aims to deliver a number of tangible commitments to end the pollution of our air, land, waterways, and oceans, and to safely manage our chemicals and waste.

Outcomes are expected to include: a political declaration on pollution, linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); resolutions and decisions adopted by Member States to address specific dimensions of pollution; voluntary commitments by governments, private sector entities and civil society organizations to clean up the planet; and the Clean Planet Pledge- a collection of individual commitments to take personal action to end pollution in all its forms.

The delegates and the assembly highlighted that the UN Environment Programme #BeatPollution campaign had gathered nearly 2.5 million pledges from individuals across the world. In-spite of such an immense response, it remained a mystery that if the youth of today was involved elsewhere in this social campaign, then why many countries were selectively not entailed in it; like India- to name a few. Mr. Atul Bagai – the Indian representative of UNEP, inadvertently showed the participation of the undergraduates and the scholars to be insignificant.

The response of the mass would have been immense, considering it is the 2nd most heavily populated country, and amusingly on the path of surpassing China, if not in any other domain. The most important and immediate right to life is the air that we breathe every day,” said actor Dia Mirza, UN Environment’s newly appointed Goodwill Ambassador for India.

Along with all the hustle, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced a joint project on pro-poor environmental action for the SDGs. The new joint project titled, ‘Poverty-Environment Action for Sustainable Development Goals (2018-2022)’, is a five-year project that will support “equitable and pro-poor sustainable development” in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

The project will seek to apply social and environmental safeguards to government’s legal and regulatory frameworks; enable governments to screen investment proposals and support governments in assessing the economic, ecological and social impacts of proposed investments.

In a press release, UNEP underscored that if “all commitments are met, 1.49 billion people will breathe clean air, one-third of the world’s coastlines will be clean, and US$18.6 billion of investment will come online.”

The social media was surging up with all sorts of tweets and posts. There was hash tagging of various morally correct ideas put together into a single word; for instance “plasticpollution”, “>200Nations” and “BeatPollution” like substantial words. Astonishingly the UNEP even nudged over there, mentioning that “China is the biggest producer of plastic waste but has started making efforts to cut down”.

Is this our future, waiting for the world leaders to decide for the entire globe, the outcome of their implied perspective? Leaders are biased, it is the gift of humanity, to give humans their own point of view, their own opinion. The longing for these ideologically sculpted treaties to become a reality is the only thing we all can hope for, and to realize if it was ever meant to happen or vanish like just another day dream.

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