World leaders gather at UN’s top environmental body to ramp up solutions for sustainable economies

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Over 4,700 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, senior UN officials and civil society representatives gathered in Nairobi for a meeting of the world’s top body on the environment, where they undertook  decisions that will move global societies to a more sustainable path.

The fourth UN Environment Assembly ran from 11-15 March under the theme Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production. Prominent leaders including the Presidents of France and Kenya, Emmanuel Macron and Uhuru Kenyatta, and CEOs from major corporations attended the UN Environment Assembly.

Resolutions are on the table to push harder for sustainable consumption and production patterns, commit to the protection of the marine environment from plastic pollution, reduce food waste, and advance technological innovation that combats climate change, and reduces resource use and biodiversity loss.

The Assembly’s status as the only UN body outside the General Assembly where all member states convene, and its power to bring together all sectors, means that the global environmental agenda is defined here. Decisions have a profound impact on the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as paving the way towards the UN Climate Change Summit 2019 and impacting the overall UN agenda.

Ahead of the meeting, UN Environment’s Acting Executive Director, Joyce Msuya, appealed to nations to step up and start delivering real change.
“Time is running short. We are past pledging and politicking. We are past commitments with little accountability. What’s at stake is life, and society, as the majority of us know it and enjoy it today,” she wrote in a policy letter.

A UN Environment background report for the Assembly, which serves as a basis for defining problems and laying out new action areas, makes a strong case for urgent action. The report puts the value of lost ecosystem services between 1995 and 2011 at $4 trillion to $20 trillion; shows how agricultural practices are putting increasing pressure on the environment, costing an estimated $3 trillion per year, and estimates pollution-related costs at $4.6 trillion annually.

“As never before, the time to act is now,” said President of the UN Environment Assembly and Minister of Environment of Estonia, Siim Kiisler. “We know we can build more sustainable, prosperous and inclusive societies with sustainable consumption and production patterns that address our environmental challenges and leave no one behind. But we will need to create the enabling conditions for this to happen. And we will need to do things differently.”

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