09 March 2022
Landmark UN Environment Assembly adopts key decisions and restores hope on multilateralism

Amidst a week of terrible news, decisions by the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) provide a glimmer of hope – writes Sonia Peña Moreno, Director of IUCN’s International Policy Centre.

Among those key decisions, IUCN welcomes the adoption of a resolution on Nature-based Solutions for supporting sustainable development. In this resolution, world leaders decided on a multilaterally agreed definition of Nature-based Solutions (NbS) largely based on the IUCN one adopted by IUCN Members in 2016, recognising that this is necessary to prevent potential misuse of the concept.

In the words of Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “Having a universally agreed definition of Nature-based Solutions is important. When countries and companies claim that their actions are supporting Nature-based Solutions, we can now begin to assess whether this is accurate and what it entails.”

Since the adoption of the definition at the IUCN Congress in 2016 and the launch of the IUCN Global Standard for Nature-based Solutionsᵀᴹ, IUCN has advocated for the use of this concept and its integration into key multilateral environmental agreements. The UNEA resolution demonstrates the political will to recognise climate and biodiversity links, to advance cooperation on and the implementation of NbS at scale, and to increase investments in conservation to address societal challenges and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. IUCN congratulates Member States for arriving at this positive outcome.

IUCN equally welcomes the passing of a resolution that gives the go-ahead to negotiations towards addressing plastic pollution through an international, legally-binding instrument. In doing so, world leaders have recognised that high and rapidly increasing levels of plastic pollution represent a serious environmental problem at a global scale and negatively impact the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development.

The ambition of completing a draft of this agreement by the end of 2024 is welcomed by IUCN. It will lead to measures to address the full lifecycle of plastics, the design of reusable and recyclable products and materials, and will increase access to technology, capacity building, and scientific and technical cooperation.

This UNEA decision expands IUCN’s ResolutionStopping the global plastic pollution crisis in marine environments by 2030, adopted by IUCN Members in 2020. The Union looks forward to supporting the forthcoming negotiations, and will bring its in-country, national and regional experience to inform the development of the treaty.

Other key resolutions include: a decision supporting the establishment of a comprehensive and ambitious science policy panel on the sound management of chemicals and waste and preventing pollution; a resolution calling for strengthening measures to achieve a sustainable, resilient and inclusive post COVID-19 recovery; one which calls on Member States to reduce health risks associated with trade in live wildlife captured for food, captive breeding, medicines and the pet trade, through regulation and sanitary controls.

Lauded as “the most successful UNEA ever” and followed by two days of commemorations to celebrate the 50th anniversary of UNEP, last week’s Nairobi gathering demonstrated that multilateralism works when there is political commitment to drive it forward. IUCN is proud of having been part of this historic moment.

As mentioned by our Director General in his address to the plenary, “Let us work together to strengthen our institutions, the environmental rule of law, and make sure that we leave no one behind while we strive for a world of living in harmony with nature”.

Source: IUCN

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