Unite to act in a pivotal time for the environment

by MMC
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Your Excellency, Mr. Firas Khouri, President of the Permanent Representatives Committee,

Ambassadors and colleagues.

A little over 78 years ago, the Charter of the United Nations came into force. As the UN Secretary-General declared on the occasion of United Nations Day, this charter is anchored in the spirit of determination to heal divisions and build peace. This charter is more relevant today than ever.

No innocent person should ever pay the price of conflict, whether in Israel, Palestine, Sudan, Ukraine or elsewhere – through direct damage, through the destruction of environmental infrastructure, or through the destruction of the environment. Yet we have witnessed, and are witnessing, such environmental destruction in every conflict, with long-term consequences.

Just as no innocent should suffer in conflict, no innocent should pay the price for the damage humanity has caused to the planet. Unfortunately, this has happened in many places. Most recently in Libya in September, thousands of people died following violent storms and floods. And in Mexico last week, when Hurricane Otis – one of the fastest intensifying storms on record – devastated Acapulco and other areas. Although not related to climate change, I also send my condolences to the people of Morocco and Afghanistan for the earthquakes that struck their countries.

Trends in extreme weather are largely behind the need to dramatically scale up efforts to tackle three global environmental crises: climate change, loss of nature and biodiversity, and pollution and waste. There is hope in recent advances in this regard.

At the end of last month, The Fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management hosted by Germany, presented the Global Framework on Chemicals. This historic agreement is an achievement of which UNEP can be proud.

Based on 28 objectives, the framework calls for the prevention of illegal trade and trafficking of chemicals and waste. The gradual elimination, by 2035, of highly hazardous pesticides in agriculture. The transition to safer and more sustainable chemical alternatives. And the responsible management of chemicals in various sectors, including industry, agriculture and health. The Global Environment Facility is urged to increase its funding. Although this agreement is voluntary, I call on everyone to go above and beyond to ensure sound management of chemicals and waste.

At the same time, the nature-related financial reporting working group, co-chaired by Elizabeth Mrema, gave a boost to the Global Biodiversity Framework Kunming-Montreal. On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the task force published recommendations and guidance for businesses and financial institutions to report and act on dependencies, impacts, risks and opportunities related to nature. This is a major step forward in UNEP’s work to enable business and finance to integrate nature into decision-making.

The high-level week at UN Headquarters also brought renewed commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, including mobilizing around 12 high-impact initiatives at the SDG Summit. The Climate Ambition Summit shifted the discourse from promises to credible actions, policies and plans. Participants also supported a UN-led effort to create global voluntary principles on minerals critical to the energy transition.

We have also seen steps taken by countries – particularly developing countries – to take matters into their own hands. UNEP was honored to be among the partners who supported Kenya as it co-hosted the African Climate Summit in September with the African Union. For my part, it was also a privilege to attend the G77+China gathering in Cuba, where I was heartened to hear developing countries prioritize a development approach that supports a clean, healthy and healthy environment. sustainable. In my speech, I highlighted that science, technology and innovation can help developing countries move towards a greener, safer and more equitable future.

And as previously noted, under the Indian presidency, the G20 promised to accelerate action to address environmental crises and challenges – in this effort, UNEP looks forward to supporting the upcoming presidencies of Brazil and South Africa. South. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also decided to welcome World Environment Day 2024 with a focus on desertification, drought resilience and land restoration, while the Republic of Korea will host the 2025 celebrations on the theme of the end of plastic pollution.


UNEP is playing its role, in particular by strengthening Nairobi as a hub that unites actions in the face of the three global environmental crises. The 35th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol has just concluded here, following an important meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

At the Montreal Protocol MOP, delegates approved US$965 million for the replenishment of the Multilateral Fund. This replenishment, the largest in the Fund’s history, will support action to phase out hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the latter being the central objective of the Kigali Amendment and crucial to slowing climate change.

Next month, Nairobi will host INC-3, where negotiators will consider the draft of the legally binding treaty to end plastic pollution. At this meeting, negotiators can rely on a solid plan, which contains a full range of options to reduce our plastic footprint. I call on negotiators to make as much progress as possible to give the world a strong chance of reaching a satisfactory and timely agreement.

And of course, early next year, the Sixth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) will take place at UNEP headquarters. At UNEA-6, we will seek effective, inclusive and sustainable multilateral actions to address the three crises. In my report to UNEA-6, I offer suggestions on how the Assembly could initiate multilateral action in some key areas.

As you will have seen in a letter I sent to all Member States in October, the impact of UNEA-6 will depend on strong funding. After two generous contributions from the European Commission and Hungary, the funding gap now stands at US$1,163,000. I invite your government to consider a financial contribution – depending on specific circumstances and capacities – to ensure an inclusive, participatory and successful session.


Let me also draw your attention to some important reports – published and forthcoming.

UNEP has published Global Climate Litigation Report: Status Report 2023 on July 27, one day before the one-year anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly’s declaration that access to a clean and healthy environment is a universal human right. The report shows that climate litigation is becoming an integral part of ensuring climate action and justice.

Launched on the occasion of 19th session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), in August, the African Environmental Outlook for Business features a range of green business success stories as well as data on growth potential across all sectors.

Last week, UNEP released a report on the failure of the Kakhovka Dam in Ukraine in June 2023. Hundreds of square kilometers were flooded downstream, leading to loss of habitats and species. Upstream, thousands of square kilometers of wetlands have been drained. Support is urgently needed for repair and restoration actions, as outlined in the post-disaster needs assessment carried out by the Ukrainian government and the United Nations.

Ahead of COP28, UNEP will release a series of reports on climate change – on the adaptation gap, the emissions gap and the production gap. Without revealing the results, the news is not good. An information meeting on the three was organized on Thursday, November 23, during the annual subcommittee. COP28 must be the moment when nations, particularly the G20, raise their ambitions on mitigation and adaptation.

An important element of the COP will be a focus on sustainable cooling. A Global Cooling Pledge is being developed to increase access to this vital technology without increasing emissions. To support this process, the UNEP-led Cool Coalition will publish a report on cooling, which outlines three priority areas for action to reduce emissions from the sector.

Now, Excellencies, let me close with some organizational updates. A working group, chaired by Elizabeth Mrema in her capacity as Acting Director of the Corporate Services Division, is making progress on UNEP’s new Climate Division, which is expected to be operational early next year. We have posted a vacancy for a D2 level director to lead the division. I encourage you to spread the news to suitably qualified candidates.

UNEP remains committed to promoting geographic diversity and inclusion in staff recruitment. As of September 30, 71 percent of external selections for professional-level positions in 2023 came from less represented regions. The organization has completed the evaluation process for the first cohort of the Young Talent Pipeline. Selections will be announced in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Additionally, the Head of Human Resources traveled with me and the Deputy Executive Director to four Eastern European Group (EEG) countries between June and October. The objective of these visits was also to establish new alliances and partnerships with strategic partners to position UNEP as an employer of choice in the region.

As you know, the Policy and Programs Division is working to improve the delivery model to strengthen efforts to serve Member States at the country level. We are making good progress, in large part due to the leadership of Tim Kasten. However, it is with some regret that I must announce that Tim will be taking early retirement next year.


We are entering a pivotal period, up to UNEA-6 and beyond. I know that you are all fully committed to responding to the three global environmental crises, as is UNEP. If we can put aside our differences and focus on what we can influence in the environmental field, I am confident that together we can put the world on the path to a brighter, greener future.

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