The resumed session of the fifth meeting of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) opened on Monday 28, February 2022, with good news and bad news. Delegates welcomed the good news of the clean text on the resolution establishing an intergovernmental committee to negotiate a plastic pollution treaty. Consulting informally through the weekend, and into the early hours of Monday morning, delegates had been able to reach consensus on the text of the resolution.
The bad news was two-fold: the state of the global environment, and the number of resolutions to be completed in a day and half. During the opening plenary, the call to address the triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution was loud and clear. UNEA 5.2 President Espen Barth Eide (Norway) reflected on progress achieved in environmental protection in the half century since the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, citing UNEP’s role in combatting ozone depletion, pollution, climate and other crises. Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Keriako Tobiko, warned of the dire consequences of “destroying, commoditizing, and privatizing nature.” In her speech, Zainab Hawa Bangura, Director-General, UN Office at Nairobi (UNON), called for a sustainable and inclusive COVID-19 recovery strategy, setting the world on a path towards prosperity. Highlighting the urgency to deliver for the environment, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen stressed the need to address plastic pollution in order to celebrate a historic environmental agreement.
Opening the Committee of the Whole (COW) to finalize consideration of outstanding resolutions, COW Chair Andrea Meza Murillo, Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica, set the pace for the negotiations when she announced that the Committee had only one day to consider all the resolutions before them. The COW then broke into three contact groups to make progress on the resolutions, which include proposals on sustainable lake management, the science-policy panel on chemicals, waste and pollution, and circular economy. In a stocktaking plenary, the COW approved the Political Declaration of the Special Session of UNEP@50, which will be presented to UNEA for adoption.