Highlights and images of main proceedings for 22 February 2021

The online portion of the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) opened on Monday morning with President Sveinung Rotevatn, Minister of Environment and Climate, Norway, noting that the wide participation in the online session proves that “we have adapted to a new way of doing things.”

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen urged all participants to do even more to rise to an environmental challenge of existential proportion and commit to turning 2021 into the year humanity begins making peace with nature.

UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir, Turkey, outlined current worrying trends regarding species’ extinction, global warming, and land degradation, stressing the “pressing demands on a planet whose capacity cannot meet our needs.”

UN Secretary General António Guterres emphasized that the busy year ahead is critical for resetting our relationship with nature and for further articulating the environmental dimension of sustainable development.

Hera Ali and Gyubin Hwang, representatives of the Major Group for Children and Youth, drew attention to the Youth Environment Assembly, calling for incorporating intergenerational concerns in decision making.

Regional groups welcomed the virtual session, notwithstanding the related challenges; highlighted the worrying trends regarding environmental protection; underscored the need to address inequalities and poverty; and stressed the need for cooperation in face of global challenges.

UNEA-5 adopted three decisions on:

  • the medium-term strategy for 2022-2025, and the programme of work and budget for the biennium 2022-23;
  • the date and format for the resumed session of UNEA 5 and OECPR 5; and
  • the management of trust funds and earmarked contributions.

The three decisions were extensively negotiated during the fifth online meeting of the Open-Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR-5), which took place prior to UNEA-5. The decisions were adopted with no further deliberations.

During the afternoon, UNEA-5 started its leadership dialogue. Its aim was to promote an interactive and high-level discussion on the environmental dimension of sustainable development in building a more resilient and inclusive post-pandemic world.

Andrea Meza Murillo, UNEA Vice-President and Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica, introduced the dialogue, stressing the important role of environmental ministers. She called for political will, synergies between bodies and conventions, and the mobilization of public and private funds to achieve environmental sustainability.

More than 30 participants, including Ministers of Environment from around the world shared their ongoing environmental initiatives and their vision for a future post-pandemic world. Among other interventions, Pakistan announced that it will host World Environment Day 2021 in partnership with UNEP. World Environment Day takes place every year on 5 June, aiming to promote worldwide awareness and action for the environment.

UNEA-5  will continue and conclude on Tuesday with a second session on the leadership dialogue and a closing plenary.

Svenja Schulze, Minister for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Germany

Bruno Oberle, Director General, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Malik Amin Aslam, Federal Minister and Advisor to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, Pakistan

John Podesta, Founder, Center for American Progress