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UNEP GEO Bulletin

Volume 182 Number 8 | Thursday, 24 January 2019


GEO-6 Highlights

Wednesday, 23 January 2019 | Nairobi, Kenya


Languages: EN (HTML/PDF)
Visit our IISD/ENB+ Meeting Coverage from Nairobi, Kenya at: http://enb.iisd.org/unep/geo/6/

The Intergovernmental Meeting on the Sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) resumed on Wednesday, 23 January 2019, to continue a paragraph-by-paragraph reading of the Summary for Policymakers (SPM).  Delegates met in the morning, afternoon and into the evening, and completed the following sections:

  • drivers of, and responses to, environmental degradation;
  • effectiveness of environmental policies; and
  • future pathways.

Section Two: What is Happening To Our Environment And How Have We Responded?

Greenhouse Gases (GHGs): Assessment Co-Chair Paul Ekins presented textual amendments on this segment. Delegates agreed to include text from BRAZIL on anthropogenic GHGs, and ITALY on impacts of fossil fuels.

ARGENTINA, with EGYPT, requested deletion of 1.5 °C, preferring 2 °C. Several opposed, including the EU, NORWAY, SWITZERLAND and urged the use of agreed language from the Paris Agreement, as it is also consistent with GEO-6.

CHINA, supported by INDIA and BHUTAN, requested replacing “pollutants” with  “forcers” for coherence with the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which refers to short-lived climate forcers. SWITZERLAND, supported by the EU, stressed that policymakers are more familiar with “pollutants.” Ekins suggested, and delegates accepted, using both, and defining “forcers” in the glossary.

Biodiversity: NORWAY proposed using the broad title “Biota/Biodiversity,” with Pierre Bioleau, GEO-6 Secretariat, noting that GEO-6 deals with biodiversity and not all biota. BRAZIL called for eliminating political language related to biodiversity loss. SWITZERLAND and the US, supported by the EU, CANADA, and NORWAY, highlighted strong scientific evidence that a major biodiversity extinction event is in progress.

SOUTH AFRICA called for stronger language to make a clear linkage of biodiversity to human health, and CHILE called for clarity on the linkages between resource extraction, biodiversity and human health.

Delegates called for consistency in the use of the terms “native and non-native invasive species,” to clarify that not all invasive species are alien. Discussing pressures on biodiversity, CANADA, supported by the EU, but opposed by BRAZIL, called for the inclusion of agriculture as an additional threat to biodiversity. BRAZIL, citing GEO-6, proposed including agricultural subsidies, but the US opposed. The EU called for deleting references to land use, as this excludes marine environments. SOUTH AFRICA called for a reference to illegal trade in wildlife, and the UK noted that overexploitation is not only linked to illegal practices.

On values of biodiversity, ARGENTINA objected to economic valuation methods, with Assessment Co-Chair Joyeeta Gupta noting that the text is consistent with GEO-6. NORWAY requested inclusion of marine litter as mentioned in GEO-6. SENEGAL inquired, and Gupta confirmed, the inclusion of non-forest products. BRAZIL proposed text to clarify text on fair and equitable benefit sharing, in line with the Convention on Biological Diversity and the GEO-6 citations.

Oceans and coasts: Ekins presented amendments on drivers of change in oceans and coasts, including requests by:

  • CANADA to include ocean pollution and ocean acidification;
  • SWITZERLAND for increased atmospheric temperature;
  • NORWAY to replace “fish stocks” with “marine living resources”;
  • EGYPT to include governance approaches and financial resources for implementation;
  • CHILE on including the precautionary approach for emerging technology; and
  • CHILE, ARGENTINA and BRAZIL to clarify the definition of “blue economy.”

The EU said the precautionary approach contradicts the point on science-based action.

On climate change impacts on oceans, delegates agreed with EGYPT to refer to all, and not just tropical, coral reefs, and with FRANCE to refer to integrated coastal zone management.

On the role of oceans in the global economy, delegates agreed to NORWAY’s suggested text on investment in fisheries monitoring and gear technologies.

Discussing minimizing ecosystem impacts of fishing, ARGENTINA, supported by many developing countries, but opposed by the US and SWITZERLAND, proposed referencing technology transfer. Ekins noted it does not appear in this section of GEO-6. ARGENTINA also proposed removing a reference to improved governance, which the EU and NORWAY opposed. ARGENTINA further called for language on enhanced cooperation to address plastic pollution.

In text referring to marine pollution, ARGENTINA, preferred the terminology “marine litter, including plastics and microplastics,” with the DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (DRC) suggesting “marine plastic litter,” and GUINEA and the US, supporting “plastic litter.” NORWAY, supported by SWITZERLAND, PAKISTAN and the DRC, called for clarity pertaining to land- or sea-based sources of marine litter. ESWATINI and KENYA called for including inland-water sources of marine pollution. Delegates agreed to have separate sections on marine litter, microplastics and ghost fishing gear.

ARGENTINA further called for language for enhanced cooperation to address plastic pollution. The UK preferred retaining a reference to area-based measures to track management and restoration efforts.

Land and soil: NIGER and SENEGAL expressed concern that soil degradation is not highlighted. MONGOLIA supported the use of the term “livelihoods” over “food.”

Gupta noted BRAZIL’s proposed qualifier “in some parts of the world” would not be accepted since deforestation is a global phenomenon. She also said they could not accept proposed text from MONTENEGRO on constructed areas under land management, ARGENTINA on the role of enhanced plant genetics, and NORWAY on payment for ecosystem services. FINLAND suggested adding a reference to nature-based solutions. The authors accepted SWITZERLAND’s proposed substitution of “agricultural soil” for “farmland” in language on land-use planning. PALESTINE proposed a new text on land-use in occupied territories.

Freshwater: On pressures on water resources, Ekins agreed to accept CHILE’s proposal to include water pollution. ARGENTINA, supported by BRAZIL, suggested “unsustainable economic development. Ekins suggested “current patterns of economic development.” GABON recommended qualifying population growth with “uncontrolled,” and urbanization with “unmanaged.” AFGHANISTAN suggested including language noting that since water resources are unevenly distributed, the impacts of pressures are also unevenly distributed. Ekins accepted CANADA’s suggestion to add health impacts to outcomes of slow-onset disasters, and changed the qualifier on increased migration to “in most regions.”

In text related to water quality, SWITZERLAND called for a general reference to the decline in water quality globally. JAPAN supported retaining a reference to freshwater plastic pollutants, with the EU suggesting referring to microplastics. MADAGASCAR called for references to persistent organic pollutants. BRAZIL and ARGENTINA preferred including a reference to the inappropriate use of fertilizers as a water quality stressor, with CHILE proposing the inclusion of nutrients. The US, CANADA and others suggested referring to “nutrients” instead of “fertilizers.” SENEGAL stressed the need to also include sanitation issues.

Delegates agreed to CANADA’s insertion on the positive impacts of access to water for women in developing countries, and NORWAY’s suggestion to include more sustainable management of surface and groundwater. NORWAY’s text on promoting water-use efficiency was reformulated to include broader water management. SWITZERLAND’s suggestion on the role of wetlands in relation to climate change and water quality was accepted. Ekins presented reformulated text on peatlands that takes into account pristine peatlands in countries such as the DRC. NORWAY urged including restoration measures such as rewetting.

BRAZIL, supported by COTE D’IVOIRE, ARGENTINA, and GUINEA requested deletion of circular economy approaches as a part of good governance. BRAZIL favored sustainable production and consumption approaches, which also include circular economy. SWITZERLAND explained that circular economy is suitable under messages on freshwater as it includes a wide range of water management.

Delegates accepted NORWAY’s proposed new paragraph on the role of multilateral environment agreements (MEAs) in embedding integrated water resources management in legislation, and on the need for investment in standardized water data.

Cross-cutting issues: ARGENTINA suggested that the text implies that Antarctica is part of the global commons, but Gupta noted that the text refers only to polar regions in general.

ARGENTINA, opposed by the EU and SWITZERLAND, proposed substituting “global consumption, especially urban” for “urban footprint.” MONTENEGRO proposed referencing various sustainable development indicators. Gupta confirmed that the proposal is inconsistent with the GEO-6.

In text regarding gender equality in relation to environmental protection, MADAGASCAR suggested including additional language on access to land, information and technology. On education, GEORGIA urged strengthening language that informal education for sustainable development is vital for lifestyle changes.

Changing environments: On a paragraph on climate change as a cross-cutting issue, ARGENTINA, supported by CHILE, and NIGER, noted that a strong link has not been established between climate change, human mobility, and conflict. The EU, SWITZERLAND, MALDIVES, GEORGIA and CANADA preferred retaining the language on this issue, with JORDAN and IRAN calling for a separate paragraph to address it. PALESTINE suggested including text regarding the vulnerability of peoples under occupation. KENYA, the DRC, GEORGIA, EGYPT and the US suggested deleting references to specific vulnerable regions and populations.

On policies to address resource exploitation, delegates agreed to accept ARGENTINA’s suggestion to qualify circular economy as one of the approaches to sustainable development.

An Assessment author said statistics on global energy consumption are supported by the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook, which takes into account Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. COTE D’IVOIRE suggested all statistics in the SPM should have footnotes indicating their source.

In a paragraph related to synthetic and hazardous chemicals, Gupta noted that the authors had drafted a new paragraph, which includes issues related to chemicals management under MEAs. The EU, supported by the RUSSIAN FEDERATION and MADAGASCAR, called to retain reference to nanotechnology as an emerging issue. INDIA called for the inclusion of the relevant SDG target related to chemicals management. SENEGAL, supported by the RUSSIAN FEDERATION, proposed also addressing electronic waste (e-waste). CANADA proposed setting up a drafting group to address outstanding issues in this text.

Resources and materials: Delegates accepted NORWAY’s new paragraph on resource efficiency.

On food system pressures on local ecologies and the global climate, ARGENTINA and BRAZIL suggested referencing “unsustainable food production” instead of “agriculture.”

Section 3 - Effectiveness of Environmental Policies

In this section, Ekins said the NETHERLANDS’ suggestion to include carbon taxes could not be included, since this paragraph only refers to policies evaluated in GEO-6 case studies. Delegates accepted the UK proposal to cite the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as a regulatory approach. GEORGIA suggested adding a reference to the role of MEAs. ARMENIA proposed adding a call to evaluate methodologies for assessing natural resources.

CHILE expressed concern on using the adjective “enormous” regarding innovations in environmental policies, and Ekins explained that the statement acknowledges the enormity of the innovations, but does not suggest they adequately address environmental problems.

Delegates accepted ARGENTINA’s submission to consider national circumstances for policy diffusion. ARGENTINA, ECUADOR, SENEGAL and GUINEA supported inclusion of text on public participation. CANADA, supported by MADAGASCAR, suggested gender integrative approaches for more effective policies.

On a paragraph related to the inadequacy of environment departments to enforce environmental policy, the US suggested linking this with text on integrative environmental management measures. SENEGAL called to include environmental impact assessments as a means to streamline environmental issues in development plans.

Delegates accepted CANADA’s deletion regarding policies unresponsive to changing conditions and accepted a UK amendment identifying policy gaps in pollution control, efficiency improvement and planning.

On meeting the SDGs and internationally agreed environmental goals, delegates accepted ITALY’s suggestion on the reconfiguration of production systems and structure.

Regarding successful environmental governance models, delegates accepted SOUTH AFRICA’s amendment on compliance and ITALY’s on assessments.

Section 4 - Changing the Path We Are On

Need for urgent, sustained and inclusive actions: INDIA and SOUTH AFRICA suggested the message on not meeting internationally agreed goals be reformulated, positively, so politicians do not devalue the SDGs. They suggested, emphasizing that unless something is done to change the business-as-usual scenario, the SDGs will not be met.

Regarding the need for urgent action, the EU and SOUTH AFRICA opposed SWITZERLAND’s suggestion to substitute “reducing greenhouse gases” for “climate action,” noting the latter includes adaptation.

Transformative change and an integrated approach: On targets related to climate change, air pollution and sustainable energy for all ARGENTINA, with BRAZIL, called for substituting “low-carbon or carbon-free” technologies with “low-GHG,” but Gupta said this would dilute the GEO-6 message. ARGENTINA, supported by INDIA but opposed by the EU and SWITZERLAND, said there is too much focus on agriculture’s impacts. Several delegates including ARGENTINA, BRAZIL and DRC objected the use of “green infrastructure” in reference to biological resources. Some preferred using SDG language, “sustainable and resilient infrastructure.” SWITZERLAND proposed and delegates agreed to the Ramsar Strategic Plan 2016-2024 terminology, “ecological infrastructure,” which is also used in the GEO-6.

Discussing synergies between specific measures and sustainability targets, ARGENTINA, BRAZIL, PARAGUAY, SOUTH AFRICA, and DRC, objected to lowering of agricultural production since this would compromise socioeconomic sustainability. They also objected to promotion of less meat-intensive diet. BRAZIL opposed by GERMANY urged for inclusion of bioenergy as a means of lowering GHG emissions.

Innovation for systemic transformation to achieve environmental goals: BRAZIL requested and delegates agreed to include other forms of regional cooperation, including triangular, North-South, and South-South.

The benefits that will result from following more sustainable future pathways: On investments in policies that address environmental issues, EGYPT requested text to ensure existing financial resources are not compromised. Several delegates including the EU, the US, and COTE D’IVOIRE, supported text formulation by Gupta for ensuring funding for sustainable development.

On economic benefits of improved health outcomes, delegates accepted CANADA’s proposal on access to sexual health services.

ENB+ SUMMARY: The Earth Negotiations Bulletin summary of GEO-6 will be available on Sunday 27 January 2018 at http://enb.iisd.org/unep/geo/6/

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