United Nations Environment Assembly(UNEA)- 5th Session

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently hosted the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi. The session ended with 14 resolutions aimed at strengthening efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. The resolution will contain both binding and voluntary approaches from member nations.

This article will help you immensely in preparing such topics for the IAS exam or any Government Exams. Environment is a very important topic when it comes to preparing for either Prelims or Mains. In this article you will learn in detail about the important resolutions adopted in the fifth session of the UNEA.

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Highlights of the UNEA-5

  • The theme of UNEA-5 is “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals“.
  • It aimed to end plastic waste and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024.
  • Draft for 14 Resolutions with the purpose to strengthen the efforts of SDGs were made.
  • Following the assembly, a two-day Special Session of the Assembly “[email protected]“, to commemorate UNEP’s 50th anniversary, where member states are supposed to discuss how to construct an inclusive and resilient post-pandemic world, as well as to endorse a draft Political Declaration, was held.

Click here to know in detail about the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

History of UNEA

  • The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) was established in June 2012, after global leaders proposed that the UN Environment be reinforced and upgraded during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, better known as RIO+20.
  • It is the UN Environment Programme’s governing body and the world’s highest-level environmental decision-making body.
  • The Assembly, composed of the 193 UN Member States, meets every two years to enhance global environmental policy.

Highlights of the Previous sessions

  • The UN Environment Assembly’s first and second sessions addressed and adopted resolutions on major issues such as illegal wildlife trade, air quality, environmental rule of law, financing the Green Economy, the Sustainable Development Goals, and “delivering on the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
  • Third Environment Assembly was hosted by  Nairobi In December 2017, with the overall theme “Towards a Pollution-Free Planet.
  • The fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) was held in 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya with the theme “Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production”.
  • In the UNEA-4, nations unanimously decided to drastically reduce the use of single-use plastic goods such as cups, cutlery, and bags by 2030.

The topic can be asked as a Current Affairs Question in IAS Prelims. Visit the attached link to attempt practice quizzes on current affairs.

Fifth Session of UNEA – Key Highlights

  • Outcome of the meet to end Plastic Pollution:
    • The world’s environment ministers decided to form an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) with the mission of forging an international legally enforceable agreement to reduce plastic pollution.
    • INC will begin its work in 2022, with the ambition of completing a draft global legally binding agreement by the end of 2024. This is regarded as the most significant environmental agreement since the Paris Agreement in 2015.
    • Under the legally binding agreement, countries will be expected to develop, implement, and update national action plans that reflect country-driven approaches to contribute to the instrument’s objectives. 

As a result, the resolution is expected to promote national action plans to work toward the prevention, reduction, and elimination of plastic pollution, as well as to support regional and international cooperation.

Read more about Plastic Pollution in the linked article. 

What is the need for a binding resolution to limit plastic pollution?

Plastic manufacturing has increased tremendously in recent decades, reaching 400 million tonnes per year — a figure that is expected to quadruple by 2040. The effects of plastic manufacture and pollution on the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution are a disaster waiting to happen as evident by-

According to the UN Report- 

  • Under the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (34.7°F), GHG emissions linked with plastic manufacture, use, and disposal would account for 15% of allowed emissions by 2050.
  • Plastic exposure can impact human health by disrupting reproductive, hormonal, metabolic, and neurological activities, and open burning of plastics contributes to air pollution.
  • This pollution affects over 800 marine and coastal species by ingestion, entanglement, and other hazards.
  • Every year, 11 million tonnes of plastic garbage enter the seas. This figure is expected to quadruple by 2040.

Therefore Plastic Pollution was one of the key issues discussed in the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly to take immediate action to reduce its impact. A shift to a circular economy has the potential to reduce the volume of plastics entering the oceans by more than 80% by 2040, reduce virgin plastic production by 55%, save governments US$70 billion by 2040, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, and create 700,000 new jobs, primarily in the developing world.

  • Resolution on Health and Biodiversity:

It urges member states to use legislation and sanitary measures to prevent the health hazards connected with the trade in live animals caught for food, captive breeding, pharmaceuticals, and the pet trade.

  • Resolution to strengthen Post Covid Measures:

The Assembly endorsed a “resolution on the environmental dimension of a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive post-Covid-19 recovery” to reinforce measures aimed at achieving a global recovery that is sustainable, robust, and inclusive.

  • Resolution on Management of Chemicals and Waste:
    • It promotes the formation of a comprehensive and ambitious science policy panel on the safe management of chemicals and waste, as well as pollution prevention.
    • The Ministerial Declaration acknowledges humanity’s inability to manage chemicals and trash to date, a concern exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic due to widespread use of single-use plastics and disinfection chemicals.
  • Resolution on Minerals and Metals:

It encourages the creation of projects with the goal of improving their environmental sustainability throughout the course of their whole lives.

  • Resolution Prioritising Ecosystem Restoration:

This resolution put an emphasis on ecological restoration, biodiversity conservation, resource efficiency, consumption and production patterns, climate mitigation and adaptation, job creation, and poverty alleviation.

Read about Dangers of Plastic in the linked article. 

  • Resolution focused on Nature-based Solutions:
    • It focuses on nature-based solutions in the spirit of the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration initiatives to maintain, conserve, restore, utilise sustainably, and manage ecosystems (2021-2030).
    • The resolution urges that UNEP should help in the implementation of community and indigenous peoples’ rights protection measures.
  • Resolution on Animal Welfare:
    • It urges member countries to safeguard animals, their habitats, and their welfare requirements.
    • It acknowledged the potential of future pandemics and other health hazards if mankind did not change its patterns of contact with the environment by adopting a holistic approach like ‘One Health.’
  • Resolution on Sustainable Lake Management:

It encourages member nations to conserve, manage, and restore lakes, as well as appropriately use them, while incorporating lakes into national and regional development plans.

  • Resolution to Reduce Nitrogen Waste:

It demands immediate action to dramatically decrease nitrogen waste from all sources, particularly agricultural practices, with the goal of saving USD100 billion per year.

  • Resolution on Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure:

It urges member countries to include environmental concerns into all infrastructure initiatives.

Other Resolutions:

Further, Assembly resolutions and decisions concern the date and location of UNEA-6, the future of the Global Environment Outlook (GEO), and fair regional representation and balance in UNEP’s secretariat.

Proposal of Draft Resolution by India-

  • India has issued the Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2022, which notified the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) guidelines for plastic packaging.
  • Also the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 have been updated to expedite the phase-out of single-use plastics and encourage alternatives.
  • On the premise of prompt collective voluntary action by countries, the Indian draft resolution, titled “Framework for tackling plastic product pollution”, including single-use plastic product pollution, was formed. 
  • However, India has given consent to the formation of an INC in order to draft a new international and legally enforceable convention.
  • The INC is expected to present a legally binding instrument that would reflect various alternatives to address the full lifecycle of plastics, the design of reusable and recyclable products and materials, and the need for increased international collaboration to facilitate access to technology, capacity building, and scientific and technical cooperation.

Note: As UPSC 2022 approaches, use BYJU’S free Daily Video Analysis of The Hindu Newspaper to augment your preparation.

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