June 2019 begins and ends with issues where the environment and the economy intersect.
Experts at the 2019 World Circular Economy Forum in Helsinki this week made the case that we can “meet the needs of all within the means of the planet” by shifting from a “take-make-waste” economic model to a circular one. The results, participants pointed out, are not just environmental benefits but a “transition to healthy, resilient cities with a good life for all.”
With waste so often incinerated, or disposed of into the air, circular economy conversations are linked closely to the theme of this year’s World Environment Day (5 June) – ‘Beat Air Pollution.’ The theme follows on last year’s UN-led push to “beat plastic pollution,” which propelled the issue to the forefront of many high-level discussions. Plastic pollution was the central focus of the ‘Play it Out’ Concert in Antigua on 1 June, organized by the UNGA President, who also announced a ban on single-use plastics at UN headquarters in New York, US beginning on 3 June 2019.
The 56th meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Council will take up waste issues during its consultation with civil society organizations (CSOs) next week. A dialogue on plastic pollution will highlight practical experiences and lessons learned with regard to the production, consumption and waste management of plastics.
Looking further ahead, the air pollution focus of World Environment Day pulls together climate change, energy usage and health concerns, all of which will be linked together again in the course of the high-level week at the UN General Assembly in September 2019. Preparations for this week will be in full swing in mid-June, as governments continue their negotiations on many of the issues in focus during the “week of summits” in September 2019, including the SDG Summit, the Samoa Pathway mid-term review, a high-level meeting on universal health care, and others. These meetings will convene in the same week as the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit, which seeks to set a new bar for ambition at UN meetings and fast-forward delivery of climate commitments around the world.
Another key event in June related to the week of summits is the election of the UNGA President of the 74th session (2019-2020): Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, was elected on 4 June. He has promised a focus on implementing SDGs 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger) and 4 (quality education), and highlighted inclusion, especially of women and youth, and incorporating human rights into the UN’s work. In addition to presiding over a “week-long world gathering to drive results,” Tijani will oversee an entire year expected to focus on boosting ambition, action and delivery for a wide range of global commitments, and strengthening multilateralism, in the leadup to the UN’s 75th anniversary in 2020.
Also in June, the Bonn Climate Change Conference is expected to give greater visibility to its work with other international organizations in light of “intense activity on climate change in the wider UN system.” A high-level stocktaking meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), will hold roundtable discussions on ways to raise ambition, enhance Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and accelerate energy transition. The event will include a meeting of climate and health ministers, acknowledging the climate-health nexus and seeking to identify ways to “avoid billions of dollars in human health costs.” The stocktaking meeting is part of the preparations for the Climate Action Summit in September.
At the end of the month, Japan will hold the G20 Summit in Osaka. Bringing the month full circle, an agreement on reducing plastic pollution of the ocean is reported as a hoped-for outcome from this Group that sets the tone for the direction that the global economy will take.
Earth Negotiations Bulletin teams will be reporting from many of these events as well as other prominent meetings, including the UN Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, the ninth meeting of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR) Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the Multilateral System (MLS), and the ongoing annual general meeting of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED). At the SDG Knowledge Hub, we will be bringing you coverage of these and other events in the realm of environment and sustainable development.