Report of main proceedings for 24 May 2016
The second UN Environment Assembly of the UN Environment Programme (UNEA-2) continued deliberations in the Committee of the Whole (COW) on Tuesday. Two drafting groups convened during the day, and a third met in the evening. Discussions in all three drafting groups continued late into the evening.
Many side events, panel discussions and exhibitions took place around the conference venue, including at the Sustainable Innovation Expo (SIE).
COW Chair Idunn Eidheim introduced the “Revised Provisional Structure of Drafting Groups,” dated 24 May 2016, which had been approved by the Bureau. The revised structure proposed three drafting groups and the resolutions they would address. She explained this approach would help to avoid thematic overlap in different groups, ensure an even workload and disperse politically difficult resolutions.
Delegates agreed to the proposal, with various Member States reiterating the need for transparency in the nomination of drafting group chairs, and requesting fair treatment in allotting time to different resolutions. SAUDI ARABIA and BOTSWANA noted that not all thematic overlaps had been resolved. Given that similar topics are dealt with in multiple resolutions, the US and CHINA urged delegates to be open to eliminating and merging large sections of text.
BRAZIL encouraged delegates not to reopen paragraphs that had been agreed at OECPR-2. SWITZERLAND noted that while the revised structure provides a good point of departure, some delegations had not participated in the CPR process, and that therefore, it should be possible to reopen language at UNEA.
RESOLUTIONS: The draft resolutions were first introduced in the COW prior to being forwarded to the relevant drafting groups.
Role, functions and follow up to the Forum of Ministers and Environment Authorities of Asia Pacific: PAKISTAN introduced the resolution (UNEP/EA.2/L.3) which was sponsored by the Asia-Pacific and delegates forwarded it to the drafting group without further discussion.
Ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA): Introducing this sub-item (UNEP/EA.2/7), the Secretariat mentioned the corresponding resolution on the sustainable and optimal management of natural capital for sustainable development and poverty eradication (L.14). The AFRICAN GROUP called on Member States to take ecosystems into account in development planning, and requested additional funding to implement the draft resolution. The US registered concern with the draft, noting that it conflates the different issues relating to natural capital accounting, EbA, and sustainable resource management. The RUSSIAN FEDERATION called for UNEP’s work on EbA to be guided by CBD principles, further noting similar work under the UNFCCC.
Emerging and other relevant issues: Discussing the draft resolution on sand and dust storms (UNEP/EA.2/L.23), BRAZIL requested clarification on the rationale for a stand-alone resolution, noting a CPR decision to include it under the PoW, also in light of a similar resolution in the UN General Assembly. Supporting the resolution, IRAN, with SYRIA, IRAQ and PAKISTAN stressed that existing programmes do not adequately address the multidimensional and transboundary nature of this growing environmental challenge.
Noting that this issue is closely linked to UNEP’s work on air quality, the US, supported by the EU, favored retaining this resolution under the PoW.
While supporting a broad programme on air quality, NIGERIA stressed that it should ensure adequate support for developing countries and include both indoor and outdoor sources of pollution.
Chair Eidheim noted that the COW’s consideration of the first cluster of decisions was complete and invited Drafting Group 1 to begin consideration of the eight decisions, announcing the group would be co-chaired by Tita Korvenoja (Finland) and Hesiquio Benitez Diaz (Mexico).
Chemicals and wastes: The EU introduced the draft resolution (UNEP/EA.2/L.8) within the context of the SDGs, the role of monitoring and reporting, and UNEP’s role in governance and management. The AFRICAN GROUP encouraged UNEP to continue its efforts to support national action, and highlighted the need for effective implementation of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions. SWITZERLAND, supported by JAPAN and THAILAND, emphasized the need for harmonized reporting across the BRS Conventions. NIGERIA stated that electronic waste is an important emerging issue. The RUSSIAN FEDERATION noted the links to SCP.
BURKINA FASO, KENYA, COTE D’IVOIRE, BENIN, and SENEGAL all noted that the sustainable management of hazardous solid waste, including recycling of lead-containing batteries and e-waste, wastewater and air pollution was a priority issue for Africa. SENEGAL called for the resolution to refer to the Bamako Convention. COTE D’IVOIRE called for regional approaches to addressing this problem. URUGUAY noted regional collaboration amongst GRULAC members.
Marine plastic debris and microplastics: NORWAY summarized the main elements of the draft resolution (UNEP/EA.2/L.12), stressing that plastics in the ocean should be considered a common global concern. AUSTRALIA, the AFRICAN GROUP, JORDAN, SWITZERLAND and others supported the draft. Noting that this issue goes beyond national jurisdiction, AUSTRLIA stressed that its solution must be global, regional, inter-agency and multi-stakeholder.
The AFRICAN GROUP, and the NGO Major Group, called for measures to address land-based sources of pollution, noting the links between these and marine plastic debris, with NIGERIA and the CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC suggesting enforcing the extended producer responsibility principle.
The US expressed concern about the scope of the proposed effectiveness assessment of relevant instruments on marine plastic debris and microplastics, suggesting instead an assessment of best practices at national and regional levels. The NGO Major Group called attention to potential environmental degradation due to practices at treatment centers for plastics.
JAPAN highlighted its use of national budgetary measures to support local government action in managing marine debris. ISRAEL noted the work being undertaken through the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea Against Pollution. THAILAND stated that activities related to the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recyle) are fundamental to addressing this issue.
SCP: The EU introduced a revised draft, supported by NIGERIA, SWITZERLAND, UGANDA, JAPAN and INDONESIA, and called for strengthening the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on SCP (10YFP) and multi-stakeholder partnerships for implementation. REPUBLIC OF KOREA highlighted its national policies on SCP, including the banning of food waste from landfills.
NIGERIA called for strengthening UNEP’s Department of Technology, Industry and Economics, and for UN lead agencies to support Member States to implement country-level activities on SCP.
SWITZERLAND said that the International Resource Panel and the Green Growth Knowledge Platform have been important for SCP, and affirmed the work of UNEP in advancing the 10YFP. The US supported having a “targeted SCP resolution” within the scope of UNEP’s existing programmes, and expressed concern that some of the text did not represent “actionable guidance” under UNEP’s programme.
MAJOR GROUPS AND STAKEHOLDERS noted the draft could be strengthened to give consumers the right to information about purchased goods, including ingredients, method of production and social circumstances surrounding production. The NGO Major Group suggested the resolution promote “internalizing” of environmental externalities. The FARMERS Major Group deplored unsustainable food production practices and called on governments to support the right to land, promote agro-ecological farming, and phase out the marketing and use of highly hazardous pesticides.
Wasted food reduction, rescue and diversion: The US highlighted the links of the draft resolution (UNEP/EA2/L.10) to SDG target 12.3 and expressed hope that the resolution would encourage UNEA Ministers to drive effective action. EGYPT noted the need to avoid duplication with activities by other UN agencies and NIGERIA suggested this resolution could be considered as a subset of the SCP resolution.
Sustainable coral reefs management: INDONESIA highlighted the importance of the draft resolution (UNEP/EA.2/L.13) for, inter alia, the SDGs and for the effective conservation of marine and coastal zones.
Illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products: On this draft resolution (UNEP/EA.2/L.15), the AFRICAN GROUP called for UNEP to continue to mobilize resources, with NIGERIA calling for greater awareness-raising on the impacts of the trade. The DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (DRC) called for remedying the issue through “exorbitant taxes” in transit and recipient countries. GABON suggested also strengthening the effective monitoring of trade. NORWAY, supported by SWITZERLAND, NIGERIA and the EU, suggested harnessing synergies from other organs addressing transnational environmental crime, with SWITZERLAND and NIGERIA highlighting work under CITES. The CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC called for establishing traceability protocols to address illegal wildlife trade. MEXICO and INDONESIA noted the regional specificity of the draft, and called for broadening its focus to include similar issues in other regions.
Mainstreaming biodiversity for well-being: Introducing the resolution (UNEP/EA.2/L.18), MEXICO noted the impact of production sectors on biodiversity. SWITZERLAND questioned whether this should be merged with the resolution on synergies with the biodiversity-related MEAs (UNEP/EA.2/L.19). NIGERIA noted the link with illegal wildlife trade (UNEP/EA.2/L.15) owing to pervading ignorance on the value of biodiversity, and the resulting prevalence of biopiracy.
Revisions to the PoW and budget for the biennium
2016-17: Outlining the revisions document (UNEP/EA.2/14), the Secretariat noted that the changes followed UNGA’s approval in December 2015 of a regular UN appropriation, which was lower than the estimated budget amount.
MTS 2018-21 and biennial PoW and budget for 2018-19: The Secretariat noted that the 2018-19 PoW and budget in the document (UNEP/EA.2/L.22) continues UNEP’s transition to a resource-based budgeting approach.
The AFRICAN GROUP welcomed the resolution and, supported by SWITZERLAND, urged Member States to increase support, in light of UNEP’s new commitments under the SDGs. The EU, supported by SWITZERLAND, noted that UNEP needed secure, stable and adequate financial resources, especially in the Environment Fund, to achieve its objectives and supported the nominal growth proposed.
Management of trust funds and earmarked contributions: The Secretariat introduced the resolution (UNEP/EA.2/L.27). The AFRICAN GROUP noted that the Secretariat had not previously provided the document to Member States and urged that this procedural irregularity be avoided in future.
Review of the UNEA cycle: The Secretariat introduced the resolution (UNEP/EA.2/L.26). The AFRICAN GROUP, supported by the EU, expressed strong support for bringing forward the next UNEA to the second half of 2017, noting that the timing of UNEA’s meetings not aligning with broader UN budgeting processes had meant previous PoWs had suffered from funding lapses. The US, supported by SWITZERLAND, indicated concerns over cost, and whether there would be enough substance for a full UNEA if it is held in 2017. SWITZERLAND proposed holding a shortened, focused UNEA-3 in 2018, with a full UNEA-4 in 2019.
Relationship between UNEP and the MEAs for which it provides the secretariat: On the EU proposal (UNEP/EA.2/L.20), Egypt, for the AFRICAN GROUP, noted that each of the conventions has its own independent structures and decision-making bodies.
The EU, acknowledging some concerns, assured delegates that the EU attaches great importance to the legal autonomy of the MEAs. She clarified that the resolution aims to facilitate cooperation between UNEP and the COPs. She supported drawing up MOUs between each COP and UNEP, which, she said, will provide clear arrangements on administration and finance, and can be understood by all contracting parties.
The US encouraged UNEP to continue to explore ways to improve its internal processes. He did not favor having a resolution, saying the MEAs respond to their own governing bodies and contract with UNEP on a case-by-case basis.
SWITZERLAND said UNEP’s provision of secretariat services to the MEAs provides strength and visibility to the MEAs, anchors them in the UN system, and maintains UN standards. He welcomed UNEP’s work on financial rules, which, he said, will not intrude on the autonomy of the MEAs.
BRAZIL expressed doubt about the value of the resolution, saying that paragraph 89 of the Rio+20 outcome already covers this intention, and the resolution would generate more costs for the Secretariat.
UNEP noted that a review will be conducted from July-August 2016 with the input of MEA secretariats to develop a set of financial guidelines, based on International Public Sector Accounting Standards, including on the treatment of assessed contributions.
KENYA welcomed UNEP’s provision of secretariat support to the MEAs, and called for strengthening cooperation among MEAs, including through joint programmes.
Synergies among the biodiversity-related MEAs: Besides the draft resolution (UNEP/EA.2/L.19), the Secretariat highlighted an options paper (UNEP/EA.2/12/Add.1) that provides details on actions that could be undertaken at the global, regional and national levels in relation to UNEP’s cooperation with the governing bodies of MEAs.
SWITZERLAND said national and international biodiversity policies would become more effective and efficient if Member States would undertake to organize the processes in a similar way to the chemicals and waste processes. He suggested that a modular reporting system could aggregate information gathered by the biodiversity-related conventions and maximize the impact of reporting. He proposed addressing the resolution in Drafting Group 2, rather than Drafting Group 3.
Midterm review of the Montevideo Programme IV on Environmental Law: Responding to the resolution proposed by Uruguay (UNEP/EA.2/L.21), Egypt, for the AFRICAN GROUP, said UNEP should be mandated to provide more technical and financial support to implement an African strategic plan for implementing the Montevideo Programme, highlighting the need for capacity building and training in the region. He noted that the 1st African Colloquium on the Environmental Rule of Law in Nairobi had agreed to establish an African network to enforce environmental rule of law in Africa.
GABON and CONGO supported the resolution.
Protection of the environment in areas affected by armed conflict: On the resolution proposed by Ukraine (UNEP/EA.2/L.16), the DRC, SYRIA, YEMEN, JORDAN and LEBANON expressed support.
The DRC highlighted issues of concern, including the migration of wildlife species due to armed conflict, resulting in a loss of tourism earnings even after the conflict is over. He invited the international community to assess his country’s physical assets and biodiversity, noting such world heritage is under threat.
SYRIA highlighted sabotage of oil pipelines, destruction of water treatment facilities, and lack of access to solid waste disposal as conflict-related issues with environmental and public health impacts, mentioning, as an example, that uncollected waste attracts insects and rodents that transmit dangerous diseases.
UKRAINE said the resolution was intended to be universal, not country-specific, and called on the international community to cooperate more closely to reduce conflicts.
Field-based environmental assessment of the effects after the November 2012 and July and August 2014 wars on the Gaza Strip: Morocco introduced the draft resolution (UNEP/EA.2/L.17) on behalf of the ARAB STATES and requested UNEP to deploy environmental experts to the Gaza Strip, update its desk study on this topic, and submit a report on implementation of its recommendations.
VENEZUELA, EGYPT, NICARAGUA, SOUTH AFRICA, DJIBOUTI, LEBANON, OMAN and ALGERIA supported the resolution. EGYPT stated that it is within UNEP’s mandate to conduct environmental assessment missions in such areas where deemed necessary by the country under consideration.
DRAFTING GROUP 1: This group was tasked with considering eight resolutions on: the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda; the S.A.M.O.A. Pathway; investing in human capacity for sustainable development; combating desertification, land degradation and drought and promoting sustainable development of pastoralism and rangelands; the Forum of Ministers and Environment Authorities of Asia Pacific; sustainable and optimal management of natural capital; and sand and dust storms. Tita Korvenoja (Finland) and Hesiquio Benitez Diaz (Mexico) co-chaired the group, which met through the day.
Investing in human capacity for sustainable development through environmental education and training: Introducing this Mongolia- and Georgia-sponsored resolution, Korvenoja noted it had been close to agreement at OECPR-2. Delegates reached quick agreement on preambular language and most of the operative paragraphs, and adopted new text referring to “access to” environmental education, training and capacity building opportunities through continued UNEP support. They also agreed to state that such support include capacity building for integrating the environmental dimension in countries’ curricula. The resolution’s final paragraph on progress reporting was marked as agreed, “pending decision on the UNEA cycle.”
Roles of UNEP and UNEA in delivering on the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda: Reporting back on the morning’s informal consultations on this EU-proposed resolution, that the EU noted delegates had discussed the structure and content of the resolution’s preamble, and had begun identifying key issues to be reflected in the operative section. Informal discussions resumed in the evening on the basis of an informal discussion paper prepared by the EU.
Role, functions and follow up to the Forum of Ministers and Environment Authorities of Asia Pacific: Addressing this Asia Pacific-sponsored resolution, delegates introduced new language broadening its scope to include other regional environmental forums, with some delegations expressing reservations. Others noted that text introduced at OECPR-2 already reflected a broader regional scope. Delegates agreed to defer a final decision on this issue. The group agreed on preambular language referencing UNEP’s support to AMCEN and the work of the Forum of Ministers of Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean. Delegates also agreed to remove language calling on UNEP to propose the agenda of regional forums and invite regional stakeholders to provide support for the resolution’s implementation. Korvenoja requested countries to continue informal discussions on whether to request UNEP to provide support to all regional forums
Combating desertification, land degradation and drought, and promoting sustainable development of pastoralism and rangelands: Introducing this resolution sponsored by Swaziland, Namibia and Ethiopia, Benitez noted it combines two texts focusing respectively on desertification and pastoralism issues. Following additional changes by the sponsors, several delegates said they would need more time to review the text. Benitez requested the Secretariat to provide a clean version of the text to enable the group to consider it on Wednesday.
Sand and dust storms: Several delegates said they had not anticipated the reintroduction of this resolution, recalling that it was withdrawn at OECPR-2. Delegations in favor of considering the text stressed the limited scope of relevant programmes in the PoW in light of the transboundary and interdisciplinary nature of the challenge faced by affected countries. With no shift in the main positions, the group agreed to carry out a first reading of the text to register their views, with some delegates calling for deletion of all paragraphs, or placing a reserve on the entire text. The group then agreed to forward the text to the COW for its decision.
DRAFTING GROUP 2: This group was tasked with addressing nine draft resolutions on: sound management of chemicals and wastes; marine plastic debris and micro-plastics; SCP; wasted food reduction, rescue and diversion; oceans and seas; sustainable coral reefs management; supporting the Paris Agreement; illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products; and mainstreaming biodiversity for well-being. John Moreti (Botswana) co-chaired the group, and another co-chair remains to be appointed. The group convened in the afternoon.
Sound management of chemicals and wastes: Delegates carried out a first reading of the draft resolution sponsored by Japan, Mongolia, the EU and Burkina Faso. They agreed to “highlight” rather than “note” the role of the Basel Convention in the environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes. They were unable to agree on a paragraph referencing cooperation and coordination of the conventions within the chemicals and waste cluster, with one suggesting a specific mention of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, while others preferred to keep the reference more general, noting that the Minamata Convention is also under this cluster.
On a new paragraph on the role of regional centers of the Basel and Stockholm conventions in assisting regions to implement these conventions, many countries, opposed by one developed country, supported that these centers also carry out other relevant activities in the chemicals and waste cluster in the countries in which they serve.
In discussions on the work of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paint on raising awareness on the dangers of lead in paint, delegates were unable to agree on whether to “note” this work or “welcome” it; and were also unable to agree on the inclusion of language referencing the Alliance developing laws for other instruments to eliminate lead in paint.
Many of the 36 paragraphs remained bracketed as discussions carried on into the night.
DRAFTING GROUP 3: This group was tasked with considering eight resolutions on: MTS 2018-2021 and biennial PoW and budget for 2018-2019; management of trust funds and earmarked contributions; review of cycle of the UNEA of UNEP; relations between UNEP and the MEAs for which it provides the secretariat; enhancing the work of UNEP in facilitating cooperation, collaboration and synergies among biodiversity-related MEAs; midterm review of the Montevideo Programme IV on Environmental Law; protection of the environment in areas affected by armed conflict; and field-based environmental assessment of the effects after the November 2012 and July and August 2014 wars on the Gaza Strip. Mohammed Khashashneh (Jordan) and Corinna Enders (Germany) co-chaired the group, which convened in the late afternoon.
MTS 2018-2021 and the PoW and budget for 2018-2019: Delegates debated whether the group could bracket previously agreed text. Discussion focused on whether references to the voluntary indicative contributions (VICs) should be retained, with some developed country delegates arguing that openly referencing the VICs in this resolution was crucial to obtaining funding from cash-strapped governments while other developed countries advocated more general reference to UNEP having to become more innovative in fundraising. Developing countries also differed in their support for deleting or retaining reference to VICs. Khashashneh asked the key proponents to consult overnight and present agreed language.
Management of trust funds and earmarked contributions: The Secretariat introduced this resolution, dated May 23, noting it is procedural, in conformity with UN regulations, and that while it had not been presented to the CPR, it had been shared online. Some delegations stressed that every resolution should be presented in the COW and that the fact that the resolution is procedural does not preclude delegates from discussing and amending it. One regional group announced it would be introducing new language on Wednesday morning and delegates agreed to defer further discussions until then.
Discussions on other resolutions continued into the night.
IN THE BREEZEWAYS
With the set-up of three drafting groups, delegates were finally able to roll up their sleeves and get into serious negotiations, but continued to be stymied by fundamental differences.
While the co-chairs of drafting groups cajoled delegates to maintain momentum and avoid reopening agreed texts, strong language, such as “breach of confidence” and “conflict of interest,” began to emerge. In one group, some reflected that certain resolutions should not have been tabled at all, while in another, the tabling of unexpected new text sparked outrage. “This is unacceptable,” said a delegate whose preparations had been based on a previous version. “We thought we were playing tennis, and now we’re swimming.”
Even the most optimistic observers were unsure how the day would end, as negotiators labored on into the night.