Earth Observation

Environment Management Group High-level Dialogue: Strengthening UN system Climate Action in support of Parties to the UNFCCC

2 December 2023 | Dubai, United Arab Emirates


For the UN system, the complexity and urgency of the triple environmental crisis requires a coordinated approach to address biodiversity conservation, pollution, climate change and linkages between human rights and sustainability.

Dais during the event - EMG Side Event - COP28 - 2 Dec 2023 - Photo

Moderator Gabrielle Walker, Co-Founder of CUR8 and Rethinking Removals, welcoming the panelists during the opening of the event.

For the UN system, the complexity and urgency of climate change requires a coordinated approach leveraging the expertise and resources of different agencies. Indeed, a systemwide and holistic collaboration allows for the integration of efforts across various sectors, promoting comprehensive strategies that address not only environmental concerns but also socioeconomic and human rights dimensions. The Environmental Management Group (EMG) of the UN facilitates collaborative action supporting, among others, biodiversity conservation, a pollution-free planet, and linkages between human rights and sustainability among UN agencies. 

Moderator Gabrielle Walker, Co-founder of CUR8 and Rethinking Removals - EMG Side Event - COP28 - 2 Dec 2023 - Photo

Moderator Gabrielle Walker, Co-Founder of CUR8 and Rethinking Removals

This high-level dialogue, organized by the EMG, emphasized the urgent need for a system-wide transformation of UN partners to avert the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, as well as to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Gabrielle Walker, Co-Founder of CUR8 and Rethinking Removals, moderated the event.

Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP and Chair of the EMG - EMG Side Event - COP28 - 2 Dec 2023 - Photo

Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP, and EMG Chair

In opening remarks, Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and Chair of the EMG, highlighted findings of UNEP's Emissions Gap Report 2023, noting that the world continues to be off track in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, which has resulted in increased greenhouse gas emissions. She noted that the first Global Stocktake at COP 28 will inform new national emissions targets for 2035 and added that these must bring emissions to levels consistent with the 2°C and 1.5°C pathways.

Daniele Violetti, UNFCCC - EMG Side Event - COP28 - 2 Dec 2023 - Photo

Daniele Violetti, UNFCCC

Daniele Violetti, UNFCCC, said the 2022 NDC Synthesis Report shows that the achievement of 1.5° pathways has been hampered by the lack of adequate national financial capacities for implementation of the Paris Agreement. He welcomed the operationalization of the loss and damage fund at COP 28. He underlined efforts towards full implementation of the Enhanced Transparency Framework, which will enable tracking of progress in climate change mitigation, adaptation measures, and support provided or received.

1 Dais Panel 1 - EMG Side Event - COP28 - 2 Dec 2023 - Photo

View of the dais during the first panel

In a first panel, Sanda Ojiambo, UN Global Compact, highlighted the role of the private sector in providing technical support and innovation for countries to tackle climate-related challenges. Zoritsa Urosevic, Executive Director, World Tourism Organization of the UN, said green and blue economies are important entry points for climate financing, and underscored the importance of empowering small and medium-sized enterprises. Rola Dashti, Executive Secretary, UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA), noted that there is no one-size-fits-all capacity-building approach and advocated for tailoring capacity development to national and regional needs. 

Valerie Hickey, World Bank, said financial organizations are “robbing” countries of precious time by working in silos and acting in competition rather than collaboration. Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), drew attention to the COP 28 Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action, which has embedded sustainable agriculture and food systems as critical components in dealing with climate change.

Edel Guenther, Director, UN University (UNU) Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (FLORES), called for recognition of the importance of data standards and for cooperation among EMG members to address a wide range of issues, including forests, fisheries, the Ocean, and plastic pollution. Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions, emphasized the interconnections between climate change and chemicals, and the impacts of chemicals on food systems and human health. 

Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (BRS)- EMG Side Event - COP28 - 2 Dec 2023 - Photo

Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary, BRS Conventions

Dais Panel 2 - EMG Side Event - COP28 - 2 Dec 2023 - Photo

View of the dais during the second panel of the event

During the second panel, Aarti Holla-Maini, Director, UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), said satellite imagery is not just photography, but a means of interpreting and predicting major drivers of environmental loss such as deforestation and chemical pollution. She highlighted the benefits for early warning and disaster risk reduction.

Dena Assaf, UN Resident Coordinator for the United Arab Emirates, said regional UN representatives should be empowered in order to localize UN functions in a more cohesive manner. Jorge Moreira da Silva, Executive Director, UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), emphasized the need for coordinated work on renewable energy including for humanitarian interventions, citing the energy crisis in Gaza. 

Andrew Harper, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), emphasised the need to support humanitarian work in transitioning to green energy, noting that over 6000 vehicles providing humanitarian assistance run on diesel. Gernot Laganda, World Food Programme (WFP), called for addressing fragmentation in financing for humanitarian assistance.

Noting the need for science and technology to combat the triple planetary crisis, Najat Mokhtar, International Atomic Energy Agency, drew attention to his organization’s work on technologies for smart agriculture, citing soil mapping among others. Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said the IOC is promoting cooperation in marine sciences for improved management of coastal resources. 

In addition, Moustapha Kamal Gueye, the International Labour Organization (ILO), urged bridging social and ecological dimensions to assure just transition for sustainability, while Li Ailan, World Health Organization (WHO) called for strengthening UN country representatives and urged for tackling issues with a sense of urgency. She noted that COVID-19 pandemic taught the world the need to act with urgency during a crisis. Benjamin Schachter, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), advocated for climate justice noting that the right to a healthy environment and application of a human rights approach are legally-binding, morally required, and key for effective climate policies. Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Secretary General, International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and Ghada Waly, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, also made interventions.

Organizers: UN Environment Management Group
Contact: Hossein Fadaei |
For more info:

Group Picture - EMG Side Event - COP28 - 2 Dec 2023 - Photo

Participants in the EMG High-Level Dialogue

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All ENB photos are free to use with attribution. For this COP 28 side event, please use: Photo by IISD/ENB | Angeles Estrada Vigil