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In-Person Segment of UNEA-5 to Address Chemicals, Marine Plastics, Green Recovery

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By IISD's SDG Knowledge Hub, January 17, 2022

Chemicals and waste management, marine litter and a green recovery from COVID-19 are some of the issues the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) will address when it convenes for the second part of its fifth session. Environment ministers are also expected to adopt a declaration on strengthening actions for nature to achieve the SDGs. 

The first part of UNEA-5 took place in February 2021 through virtual means due to COVID-19. To complete its agenda, UNEA-5.2 will meet in person from 28 February to 2 March 2022, in Nairobi, Kenya. The theme of the session is 'Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.' 
 
UNEA-5.2 will consider draft resolutions on several topics, using the following proposed clusters:

  • marine/plastic litter;
  • nature-based solutions and biodiversity;
  • chemicals and minerals;
  • green recovery and circular economy; and
  • organizational and administrative matters.  

On marine/plastic litter, Rwanda and Peru submitted a draft resolution on establishing an intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) to negotiate a legally binding global agreement on plastic pollution. The agreement would aim to reduce discharge of plastics into the environment by covering all stages of the plastic life cycle and by adopting a circular economy approach to plastics. Japan also put forward a draft resolution on establishing an INC for an international legally binding instrument to address marine plastic pollution, with the goal of completing its work by UNEA-6.

On nature-based solutions, a resolution on Sustainable Lake Management, drafted by Indonesia and co-sponsored by Pakistan, addresses: protection, restoration and "wise use" of lakes with respect to water quality, erosion and sedimentation, and aquatic biodiversity; integration of lake management into national and regional development plans and policies; and development of international networking and collaboration for sustainable lake management.
 
A draft resolution from the EU supported by Costa Rica, Colombia, and Pakistan, addresses nature-based solutions for supporting sustainable development. A draft resolution on sustainable nitrogen management was submitted by Sri Lanka. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Pakistan, Senegal and South Sudan have proposed a resolution addressing the animal welfare-environment-sustainable development nexus. 
 
On chemicals and minerals, a draft resolution from Switzerland calls for a comprehensive and ambitious new instrument to promote and support the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020. By this text, governments would decide to extend the Special Programme on Institutional Strengthening for the Chemicals Cluster for five years, and they would request the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to identify possible international actions to address issues of concern, particularly regarding risks posed by lead, cadmium and arsenic pollution.

draft resolution from Costa Rica, Ghana, Mali, Norway, Switzerland, the UK and Uruguay supports establishing a science-policy panel to support action on chemicals, waste, and pollution. This follows a request by UNEA-4 that the UNEP Executive Director prepare an assessment of options for strengthening the science-policy interface (SPI). The resulting assessment examines potential impacts of and outputs from a strengthened SPI for chemicals and waste. Per the draft resolution, an ad hoc open-ended working group would prepare a proposal for establishing the panel. The proposed terms of reference for the working group indicate that it would address: the institutional design of the panel; arrangements for identifying and engaging with experts; procedures for agreeing on the panel's reports and assessments; and proposals for financing the work of the panel.

Switzerland submitted a draft resolution co-sponsored by Argentina, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana and Senegal on mineral resource governance. If adopted, the resolution would mandate an ad hoc open ended working group with developing recommendations to reduce the environmental impacts of mineral extraction along the full life-cycle of the mine, including processing and refining, and enhancing responsible business practices. 

On green recovery, a draft resolution from Mongolia focuses on sustainable and resilient infrastructure, encouraging Member States to align infrastructure planning and investments with the SDGs and the Paris Agreement to advance green recoveries from the COVID-19 pandemic. It encourages implementation of the International Good Practice Principles for Sustainable Infrastructure and their integration into national policy and legal frameworks.

UNEA-5.2 will also consider three draft resolutions submitted by the African Group on:

Governments are negotiating a ministerial declaration to be adopted during the resumed session. A zero draft of a ministerial declaration was circulated in October 2021. Following inputs from governments and stakeholders, the first full draft was released on 13 December. The document’s vision stresses that urgent and transformative actions to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services are critical to achieve the SDGs and rebuild a resilient and sustainable post-pandemic world. The December 2021 draft references the outcomes of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 26) and says UNEA-5 will provide input to the Stockholm+50 conference in June 2022.

Following informal consultations in January 2022 convened by the presidency in Nairobi, a final draft will be circulated in February. Additional consultations will take place as needed, with final adoption expected at UNEA-5.2.

A special session to celebrate UNEP’s 50th anniversary will follow the UNEA session from 3-4 March. [UNEP-5.2 Website]