As Humanity’s Environment Footprint Becomes Increasingly Unsustainable, Global Leaders Recommit to Joint Climate Action, at Opening of Stockholm Summit
‘Lead Us Out of This Mess’, Secretary-General Says, amid Calls for Greater Cooperation in Emissions Reduction, Climate Financing
STOCKHOLM, 2 June — Warning that the impact of humanity’s ecological footprint is becoming increasingly unsustainable, world leaders gathering in Stockholm today recommitted to urgent collective action to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, environmental degradation and pollution, and create a better future for all.
“Today, global well-being is in jeopardy, in large part because we have not kept our promises on the environment,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said at the start of a two-day international meeting titled “Stockholm+50: A healthy planet for the prosperity of all — our responsibility, our opportunity”.
Representatives of Government, intergovernmental organizations and civil society from around the world returned this week to the Swedish capital five decades after the watershed 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, the first international meeting to make the environment a major issue for global cooperation, with the adoption of a series of principles for its sound management, including the Stockholm Declaration and Action Plan for the Human Environment.
Mr. Guterres said that, since the 1972 conference, human demand on natural resources has become unbearably heavy, with ecosystem degradation compromising the well-being of over 3 billion people and a growing tide of pollution and waste costing some 9 million lives annually. While knowledge and tools exist to deal with this, leadership and cooperation are lacking.
“Unless we act now, we will not have a liveable planet,” he warned, appealing to leaders in all sectors to “lead us out of this mess”. Outlining measures that can be taken, he cited a 45 per cent cut to greenhouse‑gas emissions by 2030, dismantling of coal infrastructure, abolishment of fossil fuel finance, investment in renewable energy and restoration of ecosystems. “If we do these things, we can avert climate catastrophe, end a growing humanitarian and inequality crisis and promote inclusive sustainable development,” he said, urging every government, business and individual to play a role.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who also serves as the Secretary-General of the Stockholm+50, recalled that, in 1972, visionary leaders, such as Olof Palme of Sweden and Indira Gandhi of India, spoke of the links between development, poverty, human well-being and care of the planet. “If Indira Gandhi or Olof Palme were here today, what excuses would we offer up for our inadequate action?”, she asked, adding: “They would tell us that further inaction is inexcusable.” Noting that they started the work of the environmental movement, she said: “In the days, months and years that follow, let us be the ones to finish it — by unleashing a paradigm shift for the benefit of future generations.”
Echoing that sentiment, Abdulla Shahid (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, said Stockholm+50 provides an opportunity to rekindle the sense of urgency needed to save the planet and leave its climate and rich biodiversity intact. “That is the bare minimum we owe to our youth,” he said. Seeing signs of hope, he noted that limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels was once only a priority for small island developing States, yet now the whole world has converged around the urgency of meeting that target. And just recently countries agreed to start working on an ambitious and legally binding treaty to tackle plastic pollution. These commitments must be followed by action.
Collen Vixen Kelapile (Botswana), President of the Economic and Social Council pointed out that, despite major progress, environmental degradation has continued and intensified owing to the doubling of the world’s population and the growth in world trade, urbanization, agriculture and unsustainable consumption and production patterns. “But, it is within our power to turn the tide,” he said, calling for transformative action and embedding the environmental dimension of sustainable development into all policies and plans. For its part, the Council will continue to serve as an inclusive multilateral platform to build a more equitable, sustainable future.
Magdalena Andersson, Prime Minister of Sweden, acknowledging that developed countries are the ones who pollute the most while the poorest are hit the hardest, said a socially inclusive green transition is not an option, but a moral obligation to ensure no country or person is left behind. “We have already talked the talk; now it’s time to walk the walk,” she said, outlining the green industrial revolution under way in her country. Pointing to the launch yesterday of the first vehicle built using fossil-free steam, she said it is possible to combine emission reduction and economic development.
Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya and the international meeting’s co-host along with Sweden, noted that his country has hosted UNEP since 1972 and since then, all administrations have given the Programme prominence in national development plans. Kenya banned single-use plastics in 2017 and has accelerated renewable energy generation, which now accounts for 80 per cent of its clean energy profile. As Africa suffers disproportionately from climate change — with crises in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and parts of Southern Africa in particular — the continent’s partners should honour their commitments to double global climate finance to enable developing countries to invest in climate resilience infrastructure and systems.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates outlined national and regional actions towards the green and circular economy and a carbon-neutral future. Many speakers highlighted the importance of multilateralism and global negotiations to agree on a treaty to regulate plastics, while also calling for greater investment in climate action.
Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Climate Change, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, urged developed countries to take the lead in climate action, including the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. While they have provided funds for adaptation, mitigation and capacity-building projects, no financing has been committed to help developing countries cope with environmental loss and damage, she pointed out, calling for funding for such purposes.
Leila Benali, Morocco’s Minister for Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, speaking for the African Group, said African countries must be supported in their just transition plans. Towards that end, she called for less‑complex practices and application requirements for accessing climate finance from different bilateral and multilateral funders.
Ève Bazaiba Masudi, Deputy Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, noted that the forests of the Congo basin are the first global lung when it comes to carbon sequestration. However, her country has not benefitted sufficiently from the Green Climate Fund, she said, calling for equitable compensation. This is not development assistance, but what is due to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she stressed.
Similarly, Iván Duque Márquez, President of Colombia, said Latin American and Caribbean countries must be prioritized in climate financing and the international community must urgently mobilize resources to move towards carbon neutrality and to protect ecosystems. For its part, his country has designated 30 per cent of its territory as a protected area and also led the signing of the Leticia Pact — an agreement formed in 2019 among the leaders of the seven countries in the Amazon to bolster regional collaboration to protect the world’s largest tropical forest.
Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, drew attention to the bloc’s comprehensive strategy known as the European Green Deal, which aims to transform Europe into a resource-efficient and competitive economy.
Some speakers pointed to the connection between protecting the planet and securing enough food for the global population.
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said: “The simple truth is that a healthy planet is a peaceful and prosperous planet.” Russian tanks churning up the Ukrainian breadbasket — and driving up the global price of food — demonstrate the need for sustainable food systems, and now is not the time to pull back from environmental concerns, he said, stressing the need to “double down” instead.
Adrian Pena, Minister for Environment of Uruguay, noting that the planet will soon have 10 billion inhabitants, said her country has the capacity to produce quality food for a population 20 times greater than its own. As such, Uruguay has the enormous capacity as a sustainable food-producing nation to contribute to global food security, he stressed.
In an opening ceremony this morning, Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, said the 1972 Stockholm conference was the starting point for his life-long efforts on environmental conservation. “We have come a long way, but […] we don’t have 50 more years to turn development around,” he said. The next few years are critical. Knowledge and tools exist. “Now is the time to use them,” he said.
Also speaking were the Heads of State and Government and ministers of Botswana, Comoros, Libya, Austria, France, United Republic of Tanzania, Namibia, Venezuela, Algeria, Fiji, Ethiopia, Spain, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Kenya, Andorra, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, United Arab Emirates, Estonia, Norway, Brazil, Liberia, Monaco, Bangladesh, Singapore, Cameroon, Cyprus, Canada, Iraq, Slovakia, Germany, Angola, Madagascar, Romania, Portugal, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Indonesia, Sweden, Jordan, Maldives, Qatar, Gambia, Argentina, Cuba, Finland, Seychelles, Israel, Netherlands, Rwanda, Djibouti, Mozambique, India, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Denmark, Burkina Faso and Philippines. The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine also spoke.
Stockholm+50 will reconvene in plenary at 10 a.m. on Friday, 3 June, to continue its work.
MAGDALENA ANDERSSON, Prime Minister of Sweden, welcoming participants to the “Stockholm+50: A healthy planet for the prosperity of all — our responsibility, our opportunity” international meeting, pointed to heat waves, water scarcity, storms, floods, wildfires, melting glaciers and warming oceans that will soon contain more plastic than fish. Acknowledging that developed countries are the ones who pollute the most while the poorest are hit the hardest, she stressed the importance of ensuring that no country and no person is left behind. A socially inclusive green transition is not an option, she said, it is a moral obligation. “We have already talked the talk; now it’s time to walk the walk,” she said, adding that the Russian Federation’s brutal war against Ukraine demonstrates that fossil fuel dependency is not only a climate risk, it is also a security risk.
Noting that industry and civil society are looking to political leadership for guidance, she said that the youth movement is a decisive force in the climate transition. The political leaders of the current generation need to do what it takes, she stressed, adding that her country has chosen to make various policy changes that enable a green transition. Noting that climate action is a priority for her Government, she said: “We won’t speed up the green transition because we are kind, but because we are smart.” Outlining the green industrial revolution underway in Sweden, she pointed to the launch yesterday of the first vehicle built using fossil-free steam, as a result of a private-public partnership. It is possible to combine emission‑reduction and economic development, she said, underscoring that going green is the path to jobs and prosperity. Recalling the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm and the birth of global environmental responsibility, she expressed the hope that Stockholm+50 will accelerate action on this front.
UHURU KENYATTA, President of Kenya and co-host of the international meeting, said that, 50 years after the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, the world has deepened its understanding of the grave environmental threat. “We either stand or fall together, because the threat affects all of us across the globe,” he said, stressing that it has made less progress in designing and implementing bold actions to address the challenges. Today’s meeting seeks to accelerate actions that avert crisis and define a pathway towards an environmentally sustainable future. Noting that Kenya has hosted the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) since 1972, he said that, since that time, all administrations have given the Programme prominence in national development plans. He quoted former President Jomo Kenyatta at the 1974 UNEP Governing Council meeting, stressing that the endurance of the planet is now “stretched to the limit”.
Against that backdrop, he said Kenya has taken several actions. The Government enacted a ban on single-use plastics in 2017 and has accelerated renewable energy generation, which now accounts for 80 per cent of its clean energy profile. It provides strong support to the global Nairobi office and has canvassed Member States to maintain support. He urged all Member States to quickly develop and implement a legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution. More broadly, he called on participants to envision more ambitious environmental action for the next 50 years, stressing that Africa, despite its relatively limited global emissions footprint, suffers disproportionately from climate change, facing crises in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and parts of Southern Africa, in particular. He urged Africa’s partners to honour their commitments to double global climate finance, especially for adaptation, to enable developing countries to invest in climate resilience infrastructure and systems. Going forward, participants must change the pace and quality of environment action.
Before the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27), he encouraged participants to develop a transformative package of environmental actions, pulling together the outcomes of the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), the United Nations Environmental Assembly 5.2 meeting, Stockholm+50 and the Oceans Conference, to be held at the end of June.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, recalling that 50 years ago in Stockholm, world leaders recognized a collective responsibility to protect the environment, warned that, “today, global well-being is in jeopardy, in large part because we have not kept our promises on the environment”. Humanity’s environmental footprint has become unbearably heavy. Earth’s natural systems cannot keep up with demands. Humanity is consuming at the rate of 1.7 planets a year. If global consumption stands at the level of the world’s richest countries, resources of more than three Earths would be needed. A triple planetary crisis of a climate emergency, ecosystem degradation that is compromising the well-being of over 3 billion people and a growing tide of pollution and waste costing some 9 million lives annually requires a change of course now and an end to the senseless and suicidal war against nature. Emphasizing that there are knowledge and tools to deal with the crisis, he pointed to the lack of leadership and cooperation. “So, today, I appeal to leaders in all sectors: Lead us out of this mess,” he said, noting that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change show the way.
Later this year, leaders will finalize a new global biodiversity framework to reverse nature loss by 2030, he said, adding that work is ongoing to establish a treaty to tackle plastics pollution. And the upcoming United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon can galvanize efforts to save the seas. But, the climate crisis threatens all progress, he said, warning: “Unless we act now, we will not have a liveable planet”. He went on to stress the need to cut greenhouse‑gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 to reach net-zero by 2050, and urged developed nations to at least double support to developing countries so they can adapt and build resilience to the climate disruption that is already happening.
He called on the Group of 20 Governments to dismantle coal infrastructure, with a full phase-out by 2030 for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and 2040 for all others. All financial actors should abandon fossil fuel finance and invest in renewable energy, he said, emphasizing the need for renewable energy technologies to be seen as a global public good. He urged a shift in subsidies from fossil fuels to support vulnerable people and advance renewables and a tripling of investments in renewables to at least $4 trillion a year. To restore coastal ecosystems and at least 1 billion hectares of degraded land in the next decade, investments in nature-based solutions must be tripled. “If we do these things, we can avert climate catastrophe, end a growing humanitarian and inequality crisis and promote inclusive sustainable development,” he said.
He urged countries to embrace the human right to a clean, healthy environment for all people, everywhere — especially poor communities, women and girls, indigenous peoples, young people and the generations to come. To rescue the global environment, it is necessary to transform the accounting systems that reward pollution and waste. Calling for a shift in a measure of human progress and well-being from gross domestic product (GDP) to a circular and regenerative economy, he said that demands a strengthened, networked multilateralism based on trust and global cooperation, as envisaged in his Our Common Agenda report. Every Government, business and individual has a role to play. “Let us recommit — in words and deeds — to the spirit of responsibility enshrined in the 1972 Stockholm Declaration,” he said. “There is only one Earth.”
ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, said that human progress cannot occur on an earth that is starved of its resources, marred by pollution, and is under relentless assault from a climate crisis. He recalled that, in 1992, when he was a young diplomat, he attended the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio — a summit that was a result of the same Stockholm conference being commemorated today. The relationship between humans and nature has not been properly repaired. “However, I still retain that sense of hope that was kindled in me at Rio,” he said, by reflecting on the progress made since then. For example, the 1.5°C target was once only a priority for small island developing States, yet now the whole world has converged around the urgency of meeting that target. And just recently countries agreed to start working on an ambitious and legally binding treaty to tackle plastic pollution. These commitments must be followed by action.
Stressing the need for solutions that address the common bottlenecks affecting the entire environment agenda, he said Stockholm+50 provides an opportunity to rekindle the sense of urgency that will be needed to save the planet and leave its climate and rich biodiversity intact. “That is the bare minimum we owe to our youth,” he said, stressing that they have begun to take matters into their own hands. “We need to follow their lead.” Stockholm+50 is a critical milestone to accelerate a new kind of multilateralism, one geared towards a sustainable future — as envisioned in the Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda. He said he looks forward to the outcomes of the current meeting, expressing hope that they will be weaved into General Assembly discussions, and future global processes, such as the upcoming Ocean Conference, the Education Summit in September and the Summit of the Future next year. He said he will also be convening a “Moment for Nature” in the General Assembly on 19 July to reflect on the outcomes of the multiple initiatives and conferences that have taken place this year, and to reflect on how to achieve greater synergies and cohesion across the environmental workstream.
COLLEN VIXEN KELAPILE (Botswana), President of the Economic and Social Council, recalled that the conference’s origins date back to Council — and thanks to a proposal of the Government of Sweden — formalized in a letter to the Secretary-General dated 20 May 1968. Stockholm+50 marks half a century of global cooperation on environment and development. Despite major achievements in environmental protection, environmental degradation has continued and often intensified. There have been multiple factors, including the doubling of the world’s population, the growth in world trade, urbanization, agricultural activities intensification and unsustainable consumption and production patterns. The conference also takes place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has reversed decades of development gains and further derailed efforts to achieve sustainable development.
“We are clearly on a dangerous path to harming future generations, if we do not act now,” he warned, adding: “But it is within our power to turn the tide.” Stockholm +50 must therefore galvanize support for decisive global environmental action, he said, stressing the need to take transformative actions, and embed the environmental dimension of sustainable development in all policies and plans. The triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution require cooperation across borders and sectors at all levels, in a balanced approach to also achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Emphasizing the importance of stronger multilateralism and international cooperation, he said the Council will continue to serve as an inclusive multilateral platform to build a more equitable and sustainable future, in harmony with the environment, in the context of the Decade of Action and Delivery for Sustainable Development. The high-level political forum on sustainable development to be held in July in New York will review Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans, Goal 15 on life on land and their relationship with other Goals.
INGER ANDERSEN, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, who serves as the Secretary-General of the Stockholm+50, recalled that in 1972, visionary leaders, such as Olof Palme, Indira Gandhi and Maurice Strong, spoke of the links between development, poverty, human well-being and care of the planet. Jomo Kenyatta followed up by offering Kenya as host nation to UNEP. Fifty years later, there are agreements and processes and promises covering every environmental challenge. Climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste — the triple planetary crisis — are issues on everybody’s minds. “We have a human right to a healthy and clean environment,” she emphasized, adding, however, that not enough has been done to ensure it. “If Indira Gandhi or Olof Palme were here today, what excuses would we offer up for our inadequate action?”, she asked. “They would tell us that further inaction is inexcusable.”
Science has delivered the solutions for fair and just transformational changes in the economy, finance systems, lifestyles and governance, she said, adding that “science can swing the needle to action on the moral compass.” Stockholm+50 is a chance for the world to commit, once and for all, to delivering these transformations. The conference is a chance to amplify a global movement for a more caring world, in which the needs of youth, vulnerable communities and indigenous peoples are more important than the lust of the elites for more wealth and power, and people live in harmony with nature. “We are the people who transformed the environment for the worse,” she said. “Now we must be the people who transform it for the better.” In 1972, visionary leaders came to Stockholm and started the work of the environmental movement. “In the days, months and years that follow, let us be the ones to finish it — by unleashing a paradigm shift for the benefit of future generations,” she said.
IVÁN DUQUE MÁRQUEZ, President of Colombia, stressed that more ambitious work is needed given the multiple crises facing the world, which include pollution and the loss of biodiversity. Colombia, despite only being responsible for 0.6 per cent of carbon-dioxide emissions, is one of the countries most affected by global warming. However, for its part, the country is making progress to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, has led the signing of the Leticia Pact to protect the Amazon and has designated 30 per cent of its territory as a protected area. Further, Colombia has planted 180 million trees and has invested in green taxonomy, which allows for solid, transparent criteria with which to mobilize resources for environmental projects. He went on to call for Latin American and Caribbean countries to be prioritized in climate financing and on the international community to urgently mobilize resources to move towards carbon neutrality and to protect ecosystems.
MOKGWEETSI ERIC KEABETSWE MASISI, President of Botswana, highlighted the importance of the Stockholm Declaration and Action Plan for the Human Environment as the foundational text with principles. “We are living witnesses” of the Earth’s fragility and the destructive power of nature, he said, urging measures to limit global development ambitions. Expressing his country’s unwavering support for the commitments made in 1972, he said joint investment in the international frameworks ratified by his country demonstrate such commitment. Botswana has a huge elephant population, which causes conflict between humans and animals, he said, asking for international support to help Botswana and neighboring countries address it. He also called on developed countries to provide technical assistance to climate adaptation measures in developing countries.
AZALI ASSOUMANI, President of Comoros, praising Sweden’s role as a leader in environmental preservation, noted the unique biodiversity of his own country and its carbon sink capabilities. Comoros has ratified various multilateral agreements on the environment and has fulfilled all its commitments, including by placing 25 per cent of land and 6 per cent of territorial waters as national parks. His Government is aiming to bring about an economic transition that places green energy at the heart of development, he said, pointing to the challenges posed by the insular nature of the country and lack of financial resources. Calling for assistance in transforming Comoros into a champion of renewable energy, especially wind and thermal, he said that it is vital that the international community meets financial commitments, especially those in favour of the most vulnerable States.
MOHAMED YOUNUS A. MENFI, President of Libya, noting his country’s close cooperation with regional and international organizations to improve biodiversity protection and combat plastic pollution, said that Libya has signed numerous environment treaties and biodiversity instruments. The Ministry of Environment has declared several nature reserves, some on land, others marine and wetland. Highlighting his country’s planning efforts to protect 20 per cent of its land, he said that Libya is working to enhance renewable energy, reduce greenhouse emissions, and reduce the use of plastic and hazardous materials. The Government is cooperating with civil society organizations to combat land degradation and desertification, he said, pointing to efforts to rehabilitate land and replant the green cover in urban areas. Underscoring the need to pay attention to environmental issues in conflict and post-conflict countries, he called for cooperation in technology transfer and capacity-building.
ALEXANDER VAN DER BELLEN, President of Austria, highlighted the vulnerability of the Alpine regions of his country, whose rivers, mountains, woods and glaciers are threatened by the climate crisis. “The window of opportunity to avoid the worst is rapidly closing. Therefore, we must act now and we must all do our share,” he said. Noting ambitious international accords, such as the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal’s vision of a circular, climate-neutral and resource-efficient future, he said that Austria wants to be climate neutral by 2040. Outlining national efforts towards this, he pointed to the introduction of a carbon tax this year, the creation of a new biodiversity fund, as well as the establishment of a single, affordable ticket for all means of public transport. Calling on the international community to follow the lead of the younger generation, he stressed the need for bold and decisive action as “our very existence depends on it”.
EMMANUEL MACRON, President of France, recalled that, in 1972, a new chapter was opened in the world’s collective history, one of global environmental awareness. In Rio de Janeiro, countries adopted the three pillar conventions in 1992, on climate, biodiversity and desertification. While there have been five decades of awareness raising, these efforts have been insufficient for addressing growing drought, biodiversity loss and other challenges. For its part, France is determined to be among the first to move away from fossil fuels and he outlined a drive for rapid results, marked by an ability to change the behaviour of companies, citizens, investors in productive systems and ways of life. He called for clear targets on biodiversity to be developed, notably to protect 30 per cent of land and seas by 2030. He also called for redirecting public and private financial flows towards the biodiversity agenda, a cohesive trade order that integrates these elements and for solidarity, embodied through actions that accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuels.
PHILIP MPANGO, Vice-President of the United Republic of Tanzania, pointed out that his country is no exception to the climatic and environmental challenges faced across Africa. Deforestation, land degradation, pollution and biodiversity loss are threatening the sustainability of agriculture, food security and hydropower generation. He stressed that, while national efforts aim to address these issues, such interventions alone are not enough to end a global crisis. Further, such efforts are hindered by limited technological and financial capabilities. Against that backdrop, he welcomed investors to partner with his country to provide green technology, including that which aims to turn organic waste into energy. He also invited researchers from developed countries to work with local researchers and technology companies to develop projects to harness his country’s huge potential for solar and wind energy.
NANGOLO MBUMBA, Vice-President of Namibia, noting multiple planetary challenges, including the devastating effects of climate change, said that unless these problems are dealt with seriously, implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to deliver prosperity for all will be impossible. Citing an unacceptable level of poverty, he said the current situation is dire. There is no shortage of strategies and plans, but there is a lack of resources and political will to implement them. Namibia will fulfil its obligations to address climate change and advance sustainable development, he said, and urged others to do the same. His country is well known in its conservation of the environment, including biodiversity and ecological systems. All countries must strengthen implementation of multilateral agreements and they must take collective responsibility for climate challenges. Such cooperation will improve the prospect of current and future generations for peace and prosperous cohabitation. All must recommit to saving the planet, he stressed.
DELCY RODRÍGUEZ, Vice-President of Venezuela, said the triple crisis posed by climate change, loss of biodiversity and environmental pollution is caused by the capitalist production model which is based on exploitation of natural resources. Noting that this economic model has resulted in land degradation, overfishing and deforestation, she said: “We don’t wish to be pessimistic” about the current moment. Also pointing to the global catastrophe caused by plastic pollution which is resulting in the extinction of many species of fish, she cited the World Health Organization (WHO), noting that 92 per cent of the global population lives in polluted areas. Drawing attention to Venezuela’s dedication to reforestation, she said: ”We are a megadiverse country,” and noted that 43 per cent of its territory will be protected. But, the task ahead calls for international unity, she stressed, adding that humanity must consider the pandemic as a message from Mother Nature.
AÏMENE BENABDERRAHMANE, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance of Algeria, stressing that the global health crisis has weakened the potential of developing States to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, said his country has faced multiple environmental challenges, and thus, adopted frameworks, strategies and governmental and sectorial plans, notably for renewable energy. “We rang the alarm bell on environmental problems,” he said. More broadly, Algeria has presented recommendations to the United Nations Environmental Assembly. In finding solutions, the needs and specificities of developing States must be considered, and he pressed developed countries to fulfil their commitments for financial and technical support, underscoring that the principles adopted in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 represent the foundation of all environmental conventions. He also pointed to the decision adopted by African Union Heads of State and Government at the 27 May meeting in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, on the creation of a free trade area which would allow for addressing environmental crises. Algeria committed to financing the first such meeting and invited the international community to support the continental project.
BORIS JOHNSON, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, while noting that “the fate of our planet still hangs in the balance”, said that the current situation would be immeasurably worse without the journey that began in Stockholm in 1972. Yet, despite all the progress that stemmed from that conference, there are still those who question the importance of addressing environmental issues. On that, he emphasized: “The simple truth is that a healthy planet is a peaceful and prosperous planet.” For example, the Russian tanks churning up the Ukrainian breadbasket — and driving up the global price of food — demonstrate the need for sustainable food systems, and now is not the time to pull back from environmental concerns. Rather, he stressed the need to “double down” and pointed out that, for its part, the United Kingdom is investing in climate solutions and working to bring together Governments, businesses and indigenous peoples to protect the nature on which global GDP depends. “Now, we need others to do the same,” he added.
JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister of Fiji, noting that “we need our environment far more than it has ever needed us”, said that it takes humility to understand humanity’s place in the one, connected global ecosystem. Due to three planetary crises — climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss — “we can count the years to ecological collapse on a single hand”, he stressed. Before 2030, coral reefs could be lost across the entire equatorial region, tuna stocks could flee Fiji’s waters for cooler climates and priceless troves of biodiversity could be erased. Against that backdrop, he underscored the need to “treat this crisis like a crisis, before it’s too late”, calling for an end to plastic pollution through an international instrument, along with a new global compact for the environment, the ocean and all life on Earth that has the ambition, political will and financial resources “to save the one planet we have”.
ABIY AHMED ALI, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, said the 1972 Stockholm conference was the first to make the link between development and the environment, placing the issue of poverty “front and centre”. He underscored the need to work together in achieving a healthy planet and called for the creation of “trustworthy ties” between States and non-State actors, notably by “rethinking our futures together” through knowledge‑exchange and learning. He pressed States to consider what they have done to implement the Stockholm Declaration, both individually and collectively, and to prepare for the environmental challenges arising on a regular basis. It is vital to ensure adequate means are in place to strengthen national institutional capacities and to build the capabilities to comply with international environmental agreements. For its part, Ethiopia has launched its Green Legacy Initiative in 2019, aiming to plant 20 billion trees by 2022. Now in the final year of its four-year target, Ethiopia will surpass its goal, he said.
TERESA RIBERA RODRÍGUEZ, Third Vice-President and Minister for the Ecological Transition of Spain, highlighted “incredible advances” humanity has made on the protection of the environment, but it is “very far” from having achieved the objectives. The pace of work is too slow. Stressing the need for deep, radical transformation to address the crisis in biodiversity and pollution, she said the key question is how to rise to these challenges. She then called for better balance and cooperation between the local and national levels. The distribution of resources must be also equitable. Action and expertise are needed for the transformation in three areas — water, energy and soil. It is imperative to accelerate investment in these areas. It is this decade that counts.
ÈVE BAZAIBA MASUDI, Deputy Prime Minister of Democratic Republic of the Congo, noting that her country was able to preserve its environmental assets because of its dedication and efforts, said that it is part of the solution. Highlighting the collective goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C, she pointed out that the Congolese forest is a carbon sink. As per data collected by a tower established in a biosphere reserve in her country, she said, it is clear that the forests of the Congo basin are the first global lung when it comes to carbon sequestration. However, the Democratic Republic of Congo has not benefitted sufficiently from the Green Climate Fund, she said, calling for equitable compensation. This is not development assistance but what is due to the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she stressed. Also drawing attention to the challenge posed by various armed conflicts in the east of the country, she called on neighbouring States to respect her nation’s sovereignty.
BORISLAV SANDOV, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Environment and Water of Bulgaria, denouncing the Russian Federation’s aggression as a threat, called for strong solidarity with Ukraine and its people. More broadly, he advocated for strong multilateralism and collaborative efforts to achieve multilateral environmental agreements and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “This is the only way to address economic and social challenges,” he said. It is imperative to make optimal use of all available financial resources by investing in human capital and in sustainable infrastructure and technologies. He pointed to Bulgaria’s framework for green transformation, which aims to increase the country’s share of renewable energy sources, as well as to its waste management system, which aims to offer citizens a vibrant circular economy. Implementation of the 2030 Agenda is a shared responsibility that requires a holistic approach and the strong involvement of all stakeholders. “The time to act together is now,” he emphasized.
BOJAN MARICHIKJ, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs of North Macedonia, noting that humanity is facing a pandemic, an economic crisis and an ecological breakdown, stressed that “we cannot afford to lose any of these battles”. For its part, North Macedonia has ratified a wide range of United Nations environmental conventions and has set a long-term vision to be a prosperous, low-carbon economy by 2050. He also pointed out the important role of regional cooperation in addressing current challenges, spotlighting the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans in this regard. North Macedonia endorsed that Agenda in December 2020, and further, is the first country in the region to transition a thermal power plant into one that produces photovoltaic energy. He went on to stress that a proper response to environmental pollution, climate change and other global challenges requires coordinated action by different stakeholders and individuals, as well as partnerships between science, business, policymakers and the civil sector.
SHERRY REHMAN, Federal Minister for Climate Change of Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, described several planetary challenges as nature’s response to human activities. The unsustainable pattern of consumption is a doomsday scenario. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified action needed to address climate change and COP26 set ambitious targets to mitigate it. Developed countries must take the lead in these efforts, including the reduction of greenhouse‑gas emissions, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, she said, warning that without financial, technological and capacity-building assistance, developing countries cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Developed countries must deliver on their commitments to help the most vulnerable. While they have provided funds for adaptation, mitigation and capacity-building projects, no financing has been committed to help developing countries cope with environmental loss and damage, she pointed out, calling for funding for such purposes. Poor vulnerable countries need easier access to finance, she stressed. She also called for greater representation of the global South in UNEP, urging the agency to develop a recruitment strategy to achieve better geographical balance.
VIRGINIJUS SINKEVIČIUS, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said that the international community has come a long way from the ground-breaking Stockholm Conference of 1972, with a network of multilateral environments, including the Sustainable Development Goals. However, it is also dangerously close to “potentially irreversible cascading tipping points” of environmental damage, he cautioned, noting that the ocean is, more and more, losing its ability to regulate climate, while 1 million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction. The triple crisis is undermining hard-won development gains, he pointed out, stressing the importance of reducing inequalities. Underscoring the importance of inclusivity in the fight to protect the environment, he said that humankind has the capability to wisely transform its ways and bring to all people the benefits of environmental protection.
The science is clear, he said, stressing the need to transform consumption patterns, food flows and production models. Emphasizing the need to halt biodiversity loss, establish a circular economy and launch sustainable finance, he drew attention to the Union’s comprehensive strategy known as the European Green Deal, which aims to transform Europe into a resource-efficient and competitive economy, he noted that the bloc is also reducing its external footprint. The world must come together in the multilateral system in the spirit of solidarity, he said, also condemning the brutal invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. Calling all Member States to take responsibility for the common future of humanity, he said: “This is the decade to get things right.”
LEILA BENALI, Minister for Energy Transition and Sustainable Development of Morocco, speaking for the African Group and aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that “the challenges of our time do not give us the luxury to walk in isolation”. She stressed the need for accessible, efficient financial flows to address climate change in Africa, including both mitigation and adaptation measures. On this, she underlined the need for less-complex practices and application requirements for accessing climate finance from different bilateral and multilateral funders. Further, African countries must be supported in their just transition plans, and she called on development partners to support such transitions to secure workers’ rights and provide social protection for affected workers and communities. She also underscored the need to enhance commitments to provide adequate resources to address the drivers of desertification, land degradation and drought and support existing programmes such as the Great Green Wall for Sahara and the Sahel Initiative.
Speaking in her national capacity, she called on Governments and individuals to take measures to reconcile with the environment and achieve sustainable development. The longer the international community waits, the less resilient it becomes. She also highlighted the importance of providing financial resources, technology transfer and capacity-building to developing countries so that the implementation of multilateral agreements is not a burden for these States. For its part, Morocco is engaged in international environmental and sustainable‑development efforts and has implemented ambitious programmes to protect forests and promote clean agriculture and industry. She went on to stress the need to translate commitments into tangible results for the benefit of present and future generations.
CHRIS K. KIPTOO, Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Kenya, associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, encouraged participants to look back to 1972, identify the successes, failures and missed opportunities, and then to project 50 years ahead. “Do we have a future?”, he asked. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report indicates that “we are on borrowed time”, while another describes the situation as “code red” and still others stress that “our house is on fire”. He underscored the urgency of addressing climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation and waste, and urged all States to work together. He expected the international meeting to produce concrete actionable points, along with the ability and means to implement those actions. Kenya has made the case for support, notably for the means of implementation, with developed countries sharing technologies and resources. Noting that 20 countries holding 80 per cent of GDP produce more than 80 per cent of global emissions, he stressed: “We are here for our children.”
SILVIA CALVÓ ARMENGOL, Minister for Environment, Agriculture and Sustainable Development of Andorra, said that environmental challenges like climate change and the loss of biodiversity require a paradigm shift in terms of consumption and production and the move towards a circular economy. On this, she highlighted the close relationship between consumption, health and the quality of the environment. Andorra, as a mountainous country, has directly witnessed the effects of climate change on local habitats and the footprint of consumption on biodiversity. For its part, Andorra hopes to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, and will soon adopt domestic legislation pertaining to the circular economy. She went on to stress the need to educate young people about protecting the environment and adopting best practices in this area, as they are “most affected by the legacy that they will receive”.
ÁNGEL ESTÉVEZ, Minister for Environment and Natural Resources of the Dominican Republic, said his country and Sweden cooperate in forest management. In the past 50 years, a lot has been achieved on the environmental protection, but climate change has been hitting small island developing States, like his, hard. They are responsible for a small percentage of the world’s greenhouse‑gas emission. His country is only responsible for 0.06 per cent. Several Caribbean States are ranked among the top 15 countries that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Haiti, which shares the land with the Dominican Republic, is among the top five. The Dominican Republic is focusing on investing in a green economy, and on expanding the protected land and marine areas to 30 per cent. “We are the last generation” that can reverse the tide.
GUSTAVO MANRIQUE, Minister of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition of Ecuador, noting the growth of environmental consciousness in the international community since 1972, said that much has changed since then, including a pandemic that has redefined human life, as well as more than 500 multilateral agreements. But, this international normative development has been very fragmented, he pointed out, noting that this discouraged the synergy and coordination needed to implement those agreements. Ecuador is among the 20 most megadiverse countries on the planet, he said, noting that this group possesses two thirds of the world’s biodiversity. Drawing attention to various environmental initiatives in his country, he noted that Ecuador was the first nation to recognize the rights of nature within its Constitution. In the last 12 months, the country established seven protected areas and is strengthening the recycling chain, he said, adding that it aims to achieve decarbonization by 2050.
MARIAM MOHAMMED SAEED HAREB ALMHEIRI, Minister for Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates, said that her country is committed to fostering international partnership for low-carbon, circular, nature-positive and resilient growth as the world grapples with the simultaneous impacts of climate, COVID-19 and conflict. Detailing several recommendations for action, she said that net-zero emissions should be framed not just as an environmental requirement, but as a “great economic opportunity of our era”. The international community should collectively help countries identify options that deliver growth, health benefits and jobs unique to their national circumstances. She also stressed the need to bring political visibility to fragile communities and to do more to make current food systems more resilient, equitable and sustainable.
ERKI SAVI, Minister for the Environment of Estonia, condemned the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine as the war has a significant impact on the environment. Broadly, the key to resolving the environmental crisis is to agree on a green transition. Expressing support for the European Union’s Green Deal, he said his country adopted a national policy and reduced its total greenhouse‑gas emissions by 35 per cent from 2017. Estonia is at the forefront of digital solutions, making significant investment in data sets for green transition. He invited all to join the alliance, adding that the green transition must be human centred.
ESPEN BARTH EIDE, Minister for Climate and Environment of Norway, noting the watershed moment, called for “systemic, strategic and transformational change of practically everything”, from industry to housing. Decarbonization has to start right now, he said, adding that, “if the transformation is not just, there will just be no transformation”. Drawing attention to the distributional aspects of change, he added that this also means ensuring justice for future generations. Stressing the importance of biodiversity laws and taking care of the natural economy, especially the oceans, he recalled various multilateral agreements in place. The real value of events such as this lies not in the elegance of words but the measurable impact of deeds. If the difference is too strong, young people will lose faith in democratic systems and multilateral assemblies such as this one, he cautioned.
JOAQUIM LEITE, Minister for the Environment of Brazil, said that the negative impacts on energy, food security and poverty rates imposed by the COVID‑19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine have been felt particularly perversely among developing countries and their most vulnerable populations. Further, developing countries still face scarce financial resources. Outlining Brazil’s environmental challenges — including illegal deforestation in the Amazon, a lack of access to sewage treatment and potable water and very low rates of recycling — he said that his country intends to be a protagonist in the global solution to combat climate change by accelerating policies to reduce carbon, methane and plastic pollution; increasing sanitation and waste-treatment measures; and promoting low-emission agriculture, renewable energy and green hydrogen.
DEE-MAXWELL SAAH KEMAYAH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, stressed that the global community realized five decades ago that “time is not on our side”, urging faster action to address climate change. Otherwise, the gains towards that end will be lost. Liberia is implementing decisions to combat the effects of climate change, including those related to desertification. Noting that the Russian Federation-Ukraine war has an impact on human rights and the environment, he said implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals must be inclusive and participatory. Accelerating implementation means that all must work together, he said, stressing the need to strike a balance between environmental protection, development and sustainable livelihood.
ISABELLE BERRO-AMADEÏ, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Monaco, reaffirming commitment to the still-relevant principles of the 1972 Stockholm Declaration, said that event’s legacy should continue to fuel humanity’s cooperation. Scientific knowledge of the seas and their preservation have been at the heart of her country’s concerns, she said, noting the need for multilateralism in the fight against coastal pollution. Her Government will support the drafting of binding legal instruments to combat plastic pollution, as well as on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. Stressing the role of marine protected areas in conserving biodiversity and mitigating global warming, she welcomed the decision of the United Nations Environmental Assembly to set up a group of experts to study the management of chemicals and waste.
A.K. ABDUL MOMEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, pointed out that, ahead of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, this international meeting provides an opportunity to rethink the global community’s role in ensuring a healthy, prosperous planet for all. “There is an urgency to act, not talk,” he stressed. Due to climate change, developing countries face severe weather events, loss of land, poverty and water scarcity — among other challenges — and efforts to attain the 2030 Agenda are seriously threatened. Citing estimates that, due to sea-level rise, approximately 18 per cent of Bangladesh’s coastal areas could be submerged and nearly 40 million people could lose their homes and jobs, he underscored that this could become a global security issue unless immediate, collective action is taken. He went on to call on industrialized nations to fulfil their responsibility to limit emissions and provide pledged financial and technological support.
GRACE FU HAI YIEN, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment of Singapore, said Stockholm+50 is an opportunity to take stock of progress and challenges and to strengthen the collective resolve. Recalling that, 50 years ago, her country established a ministry dedicated to the environment, she said that, earlier this year, Singapore raised its ambition to achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century. The world must shift from the liner to the circular economy. As a resource-scarce country, Singapore is investing in waste management. It is imperative to enhance partnership and faithfully implement multilateral agreements, including the Paris accord on climate change, he said.
HELE PIERRE, Minister for Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development of Cameroon, associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, noted that his country has actively participated in the negotiations that led to the adoption of various multilateral conventions. Following the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Cameroon improved its legislative framework in the field of environment, he said, noting the 2016 establishment of a waste management system that has helped boost the circular economy. Drawing attention to the various agreements that his country has ratified, he said that by implementing these legal tools, Cameroon has made palpable achievements in sustainable development and health. Stressing the crucial importance of the principle of “polluter pays”, he urged all partners to abide by the agreements concerning financing for the environment. The principle of shared but differentiated responsibilities is vital, he said, underscoring the need to improve sources of financing and facilitate access to climate financing to help countries such as his meet the real challenges.
CONSTANTINOS KADIS, Minister for Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment of Cyprus, acknowledged that the pace of environmental progress is not at the desired level. He called for building on the Paris Agreement, the post‑2020 biodiversity framework and other global agreements for ending pollution, noting that his country has adopted the ambitious European goal for climate neutrality by 2050. Further, more than 30 per cent of its territory is already protected, notably for biodiversity conservation. Cyprus is also working to reduce pollution by adopting the principles of circular economy. “We definitely can do more,” he insisted, underscoring its commitment to working together with other States and stakeholders.
STEVEN GUILBEAULT, Minister for Environment and Climate Change of Canada, cited Maurice Strong, a Canadian businessman who became the first executive director of UNEP, who called on participants at the 1972 Conference to “build the new vehicle of international cooperation that will […] provide the optimum environment for human life on planet Earth”. Since then, Canada has encouraged new vehicles to drive multilateral environmental action, notably the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the Arctic Council, the Powering Past Coal Alliance and the post-2020 global biodiversity framework process. “What is at stake goes well beyond matters of environmental cooperation and extends to the foundations of our communities and our social order,” he said. New terminology should be adopted to describe civil society organizations, all levels of government, youth groups, faith groups and others as “partners with Governments”, as they are essential to implementing the actions needed. He also encouraged meaningful and strong engagement by indigenous peoples.
JASSIM AL-FALAHI, Acting Minister for Environment of Iraq, said that his country suffers from many challenges, including desertification that affects 39 per cent of its territory and is causing 50 per cent of arable land to lose the ability to grow crops. Further, due to several dams being built, the vital waters of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers have seen reduced flows into Iraq, and the country will experience a hydrological deficit of 10 billion cubic metres by 2035. Sandstorms are also increasing in frequency and intensity, and due to drought, many people have been forced to leave rural areas and move to urban ones, leading to additional difficulties. Against that backdrop, he expressed hope that his country will receive international support to finance some of the programmes the Government has elaborated to improve the status of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.
JÁN BUDAJ, Minister for Environment of Slovakia, said nature-based solutions have great potential for effective policy in addressing the global crisis. His country has established a recovery and resilience plan, which includes five priority areas, with up to one third of all spending to be allocated to the green transformation. He welcomed the establishment of an intergovernmental negotiating committee to create an international legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution. Even as a landlocked country, Slovakia shares responsibility for taking measures to reduce plastic pollution in the seas and eliminate its sources.
STEFFI LEMKE, Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection of Germany, noting that “multilateral environmental policy started 50 years ago here in Stockholm”, pointed to the numerous agreements that were put in place since then, including the Convention on Plastic Pollution. Even in times of crisis, multilateral environmental policy is necessary, she said, pointing out that it extends to defusing conflicts over resources with a circular economy and preventing the spread of pandemic through biodiversity policy. Environmental policy can contribute to global peace, she stressed, noting the threat posed by the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, with Putin’s army using hunger as a weapon. While tackling this, the international community must also focus on protecting biodiversity, she said, encouraging States to create an ambitious framework for this at the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
CAROLINA CERQUEIRA, Minister for Social Affairs of Angola, said that, in order to reverse current trends, it is necessary to adjust development models and patterns of production and consumption without losing sight of the fact that the eradication of poverty is indispensable to sustainable development. Detailing national environmental efforts, she noted that Angola will favour clean energy from hydroelectric dams and solar energy, acquiring 70 per cent of its energy from non-polluting sources by 2025. Further, investments have been made in economic and social infrastructure to mitigate the effects of the prolonged drought affecting the southern part of the country, with access to water being already assured for 350,000 citizens. She went on to underscore that the means of implementing international agreements must be shared, in full recognition of the special situation and specific needs of developing countries.
ADRIAN PENA, Minister for Environment of Uruguay, said his country has stood out as a pioneer in the implementation of early mitigation measures, but the priority now for the country is adaptation. “For this reason, we demand once again that the necessary financial resources be mobilized to move forward,” he said, noting that, in recent years, 98 per cent of the country’s electrical energy has come from renewable sources, confirming Uruguay’s path towards decarbonization. Since 2021, the Government has been working on a new Sustainable Sovereign Bond linked to the results of Uruguay's climate action. The country will host the first meeting of the international negotiating committee for a binding treaty to regulate plastics. The planet will soon have 10 billion inhabitants. Uruguay, as a small country in South America that is between two giants, Brazil and Argentina, has the capacity to produce quality food for a population 20 times than that of the country. As such, Uruguay has the enormous capacity as a sustainable food-producing nation to contribute to global food security, he stressed.
MARIE-ORLEA VINA, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development of Madagascar, recalling her country’s participation in the 1972 Conference said that new environmental concerns have come to the fore since then. Madagascar is one of the world’s 10 biodiversity hotspots, she said, pointing to the 363 reptile species, 283 bird species and 165 species of fish, that make her country a “fabulous reservoir of ecology”. Highlighting Madagascar’s participation in the multilateral sphere, she noted that the country has signed 15 agreements and has made enormous strides in implementing those. Her Government has prioritized the conservation of natural resources, including by creating protected areas and offering social support for local communities, in order to achieve the greening Madagascar, she said.
BARNA TÁNCZOS, Minister for Environment, Waters and Forests of Romania, stressed that, today, more than ever, humanity and the environment need the international community’s attention in the context of the Russian Federation’s unprovoked, unjustified act of aggression against Ukraine, which endangers the environment and contributes to global food and energy crises. Against that backdrop, he said that this international meeting should build on historical achievements and launch negotiations towards a legally binding global agreement on plastics. Further, the international community should accelerate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the post-2020 global biodiversity framework by effecting post-COVID-19 recovery and resilience plans. For its part, Romania is targeting investments and reforms in various environmental sectors, including water, biodiversity, waste and the circular economy. He added that his country, as a member of the European Union, recognizes the importance of placing environmental management at the centre of relevant national policies.
DUARTE CORDEIRO, Minister for the Environment and Climate Action of Portugal, said that, despite the lessons learned since the 1972 Stockholm Conference, considerable challenges remain in achieving sustainable development and ensuring a healthy planet. “Climate change is happening,” he stressed, calling for accelerated implementation of international agreements and efforts to “turn words into actions”. For its part, Portugal planned to shut down its coal plants by 2023, and achieved this goal two years early. Further, it has developed a green hydrogen strategy, made strong investments in renewable energy and seriously engaged in ocean conservation. He went on to spotlight the 2022 United Nations Oceans Conference that will occur in Lisbon as another important milestone in the road to a healthy planet for the prosperity of all.
YASMINE FOUAD, Minister for Environment of Egypt, paid tribute to those leaders who laid the foundation for environmental protection 50 years ago. Her country has since been committed to protecting the environment and is renewing its commitment here in Stockholm. For its part, Egypt has enacted a new waste‑management law and issued the first sovereign green bond in North Africa and the Middle East. The African continent is vulnerable, she stressed, calling for a paradigm shift. Her country will host COP27 in November, which will be inclusive and will focus on implementation and ambitious climate action.
FODAY JAWARD, Minister of Environment of Sierra Leone, noted that the earth is warming, air and water quality is deteriorating, and the forests are disappearing. “The problem lies with us,” he acknowledged, noting the abundance of incontrovertible scientific evidence connecting human action to environmental degradation. Political leaders have been prioritizing short-term economic gain in fear of backlash from voters, he said, calling for evidence-based policymaking that focuses on tackling environmental challenges. Sierra Leone’s Government has combined all departments with environmental mandates into a standalone ministry and established a climate change secretariat within that ministry. Currently the Government is reviewing its national laws to incorporate environmental aspects and will also develop new legislation concerning management of plastic and electronic waste, he said, calling for assistance in building capacity.
SITI NURBAYA BAKAR, Minister for Environment and Forestry of Indonesia, emphasizing the importance of solidarity and collaboration, said that concrete implementation of international agreements is key and that all stakeholders must step up their actions to address the climate, biodiversity and pollution crises. She called for the sharing of innovation, technology, knowledge and financial resources to fill the implementation gap between countries. She also urged that greater space be afforded to youth in common environmental undertakings, spotlighting her country’s recent mangrove rehabilitation programme in this regard. She went on to stress that the international community should focus on sustainable, inclusive recovery, as COVID-19 taught the valuable lesson that no single country can recover on its own.
HANS DAHLGREN, Minister for European Union Affairs of Sweden, said a lot has been achieved since the 1972 Stockholm Conference. Now, 50 years later, the urgency is even greater, he said, underlining the need to embrace the ongoing green industrial revolution. In his country, thousands of jobs have been created by new, green technology. Thousands more will follow. Increasing the speed of the green transition is the way forward. Stockholm+50 is all about saving the planet, and about making it habitable for all future generations.
MUAWIEH KHALID RADAIDEH, Minister for Environment of Jordan, noting the environmental management efforts made in the past 50 years, pointed to his country’s location in the Eastern Mediterranean region, a climate hotspot. That challenge is amplified by resource limitations, population growth and regional crises including an influx of refugees, he said, noting that, despite these problems, the country has made significant strides in environmental protection within multilateral frameworks on biodiversity, chemical use and waste management. Acknowledging support from Sweden on various issues from regional economic integration to human rights, he said his Government is updating its environmental policy with the goal of reducing its greenhouse‑gas emissions and moving towards the global pursuit of carbon neutrality. Developed countries must fulfil their pledges to enable developing countries to fulfil their aspirations, he stressed.
AMINATH SHAUNA, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Technology of Maldives, noting that only 90 months remain to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C, said that more must be done to enhance collective efforts to achieve a safer world. As a coral-reef island nation, Maldives is working towards policies that will address coastal challenges through measures such as early warning and knowledge‑sharing. Further, it has legally protected 13 per cent of the country’s reefs, as such protection is critical to national economic and social well-being, and is working to protect 20 per cent of its ocean space. Also highlighting the pressing environmental issue of plastics, she noted that her country has banned the production and sale of selected single-use plastics from 1 June onwards.
FALEH BIN NASSER BIN AHMED BIN ALI AL-THANI, Minister for Environment and Climate Change of Qatar, said today’s meeting focuses on common responsibility. The representation at the meeting shows the interest of the international community. For its part, Qatar has established its national strategy on climate change that guides all environmental actions. His country recently announced a ban on the use of plastic bags, which will be replaced by environmentally friendly materials. Qatar also contributes to global environmental protection by providing assistance to small developing States. For instance, it announced a grant of $2 million to meet the challenges related to the FSO Safer oil tanker in Yemen. It will host the first World Cup football tournament in a carbon‑neutral format.
ROHEY JOHN MANJAN, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources of the Gambia, stressing the importance of responding to environmental challenges “now and not tomorrow”, added that many of the principles adopted in Stockholm 50 years ago, including the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, remain extremely crucial today. Stressing the importance of solidarity, she reflected on how far the international community has come since then, adding that the Gambia has domesticated several international treaties and has established many key policies aimed at a healthy planet. Calling for an increase in developmental financing to ensure that her country can attain the environmental goals it has set for itself, she noted the major economic, social and humanitarian challenges posed by COVID-19. The pandemic also exposed the deep inequality in the world, she said, calling for partnership and coherent coordination in order to secure a better future for all.
JUAN CABANDIÉ, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development of Argentina, stressed that the international community must change its systems of production and consumption, along with the way it relates to nature. Sustainability must be urgently achieved, he added, “because there is no Plan B”. This will not be easy — as economic interests will be affected — but the fairest thing to do is to apply the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Developing countries are not the instigators of the environmental crisis, and responsibility lies with developed countries that did not pay due attention to environmental concerns. Noting that developing nations must face the double burden of transforming production systems and addressing the challenges of poverty and exclusion, he called on developed countries to provide the required resources as no fair transition can occur without the fulfilment of financing commitments.
ELBA ROSA PÉREZ MONTOYA, Minister for Science, Technology and Environment of Cuba, said the world grapples with triple planetary crisis, with extreme poverty having risen in 2021. Many countries must deal with food insecurity, and lack of access to drinking water, health and education. Stressing the need for a new environmental governance, she called for a whole-of-society approach to sustainable consumption by 2030 under the One Plant Network initiative. Additional funding is needed for climate action. Military spending could have been used to solve many climate issues. Cuba is the country facing the longest economic blockage, but it will implement multilateral commitments for the environment.
EMMA KARI, Minister for Environment and Climate Change of Finland, recalling how a group of visionary leaders gathered in Stockholm to launch a new environmental agenda 50 years ago, said: “Today, we need to be just as bold.” The past two years have shown that the world is capable of quick transformations, she said, stressing the importance of involving youth in all decision-making that affects their future. Underscoring the importance of creating a sustainable and circular economy, as well as tackling overconsumption of natural resources, she highlighted her ministry’s work in establishing a new nature protection act. Finland is also leading efforts to implement global strategy on this front, she said, pointing to the need to scale up and mobilize finance and governance reforms.
FLAVIEN JOUBERT, Minister for Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment of Seychelles, said that many have prospered over the years at great cost to the environment. To leave a legacy for the next generation, urgent action must be implemented. Smaller States face existential threats, and he called for concrete, meaningful action to reverse the climate change, biodiversity and poverty crises. Strong, collective ambition and action is required, with appropriate attention paid to the different responsibility and capability of nations. For its part, the Seychelles has phased out single-use plastics and works to protect its blue-carbon stocks of seagrass and mangroves. He went on to say that, while this international meeting provides the opportunity to celebrate progress achieved over the last 50 years, the international community should also reflect on its failures over that period and how to remedy them.
TAMAR ZANDBERG, Minister of Environmental Protection of Israel, recalling how the Conference in Stockholm 50 years ago laid the foundation for environmental multilateralism, said that the international community has not achieved enough in the intervening time. While climate change has received enormous attention and vast resources, COVID-19 was a wake-up call and a reminder to not neglect other existential challenges facing the planet, including biodiversity loss and pollution. Stressing that there is room for optimism regarding increased international environmental cooperation, she added that, “following the historic Abraham Accords, new winds of peace are blowing through the Middle East, and with them new opportunities to make peace with nature”. As a global hotspot for climate change, Israel cannot afford otherwise, she said, pointing to regional discussions on bold new environmental initiatives, including a joint regional action group to address climate adaptation and other burning environmental issues.
VIVIANNE HEIJNEN, Minister for Environment of the Netherlands, stressed the need to pass the baton to the next generation and empower youth in environmental efforts. The world is tackling the triple planetary crisis while trying to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. She called for more ambitious action in transition to the circular economy. Water is also crucial, and more action is needed in this area. Her country will host the 2023 Water Conference with Tajikistan. Then, she gave the floor to a young woman from the Youth Council, who encouraged other countries to include youth in multilateral negotiations.
JEANNE D'ARC MUJAWAMARIYA, Minister for Environment of Rwanda, noting that her country has consistently put the environment first for decades, stressed that investing in people is key to this. Highlighting the unprecedented health and economic challenges brought forth by COVID-19, she said that the international community must not allow the pandemic to further deteriorate the economy and the environment. Recalling a consultation with multiple stakeholders in Rwanda, who answered the question of what a green future might look like, she said they envisioned a climate-resilient planet, with zero plastics and dignified green jobs. To achieve this, the country needs to start investing in the future, she said, calling for finance for climate change adaptation. New financing partnerships must be accompanied by accountability measures to ensure that pledges are honoured, she said, adding that there is no shortage of ideas or will to address the crisis.
ABDOULKADER MOUSSA HELEM, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development of Djibouti, detailing his country’s environmental achievements since 1972, said that the creation of a specific ministry pertaining to the environment was necessary because the situation today is “alarming”. Every three seconds, a football field’s worth of land is lost as a result of human activity. For its part, Djibouti is on the front lines of the fight against climate change, developing adaptation measures to strengthen resilience and halt environmental degradation. He also spotlighted the situation in the Horn of Africa, where countries in the region are facing increased droughts that will lead to a humanitarian crisis if this issue is not urgently addressed. Close to 17 per cent of Djibouti’s population has been impacted by the adverse effects of drought, and additionally suffer from food insecurity due to rising food prices, exacerbated by the Ukrainian crisis, he said.
IVETE JOAQUIM MAIBAZE, Minister for Land and Environment of Mozambique, highlighted her country’s ability to prevent loss of life in climate change‑induced extreme weather events. During national consultations stakeholders underscored the importance of developing partnerships and increasing access to finance to address climate change. They also highlighted the need for inclusive decision-making and for a special institution that responds to environmental issues. Her country will occupy a non-permanent seat in the Security Council for the 2023-24 term and is resolved to promote a climate change agenda in the organ.
BHUPENDER YADAV, Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India, reaffirming the importance of climate justice said it is crucial to empower local communities around the world financially and technologically in order to achieve environmental protection. Outlining his country’s various ecological initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance, he stressed the crucial role of common but differentiated responsibilities. Noting that India has one sixth of the world’s population, he pointed to the country’s investments in renewable energy, wildlife restoration and increasing forest cover. Also drawing attention to the large-scale inclusive development India achieved in recent years, he highlighted the role of the country’s youth who are at the centre of creativity and innovation and indigenization of technologies for climate change adaptation. “Mother Earth is all for us,” he said, stressing that his Government is promoting mindful consumption and promotion of resource-efficiency.
NISREEN TAMIMI, Minister, Head of the Environment Authority for the State of Palestine, said that, along with deteriorating methods of consumption and production and an increase in waste, the pandemic affected global environmental efforts. In the State of Palestine, initiatives are under way to manage natural resources in a way that would serve future generations. However, the Israeli occupation is exacerbating existing threats, hindering the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the implementation of environmental programmes. The occupying forces control water resources, confiscate Palestinian land and wage an unending war against the Gaza Strip. All of these actions have environmental impacts, and she called on the international community to take action to end the Israeli occupation.
SUAD ELTAYEB HASSAN ABDELGADER, Minister for Labour and Administration Reform of Sudan, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that it is vital to step up the efforts for sustainable development. A great many millions have lost their jobs and entire sectors of economy have been destroyed by the pandemic, she said, also drawing attention to the looming debt crisis in the developing world. Calling on the international community to assist Sudan in achieving food security by investing in the necessary technologies, she outlined various national initiatives aimed at sustainable development and asked the international community to assist her country in implementing these, as well as in measuring progress made regarding the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
N. M. NDHLOVU, Minister for Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry of Zimbabwe, said that efforts to recover and rebuild must go together with the recognition for an urgent global response to existential challenges. The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals is lagging, and the pandemic has caused further setbacks. Against that backdrop, the international community must do more to ensure that the most vulnerable are not left further behind. Further, all must demonstrate the political will required to bolster climate action and effect the transformative change needed to realize the Paris Agreement. He said that, for its part, the Government acts to address the triple planetary crises by advancing the principles of sustainability and intergenerational equity in its national policies.
LEA WERMELIN, Minister for Environment of Denmark, stressing that Governments cannot and should not make the transition to green economies by themselves, told the young people in the audience, “we hear you” and passed the microphone to a young delegate from her country.
The youth delegate from Denmark stressed that it is crucial to recognize the environmental crisis’s impact on health and equality across generations. Meaningful youth participation is essential for a just future based on the principle of intergenerational equality, he said, reminding decision makers that all action for a sustainable future should not just be “for youth”, but also “by youth”. Calling for accountability for those countries that do not live up to their obligations under the Paris Agreement, he stressed that economically richer countries must support those that are affected by climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
MAMINATA COULIBALY, Minister for Environment, Energy, Water and Sanitation of Burkina Faso, said that, despite being highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, her country has chosen to contribute to global efforts to stabilize greenhouse-gas emissions. The Government has ratified several multilateral environmental instruments, and is implementing initiatives to restore degraded land, develop ecovillages and harness renewable energy. She called for the implementation of concerted, strong and inclusive actions that will positively impact the lives of communities as — “over and beyond speeches” — it is results that will show present commitment to future generations. She added that Burkina Faso will play its part in this new beginning, detailing national measures such as a new law regulating the use of plastic packaging and bags.
The representative of the Philippines, associating himself with the Group of 77, said that the international community is back in Stockholm to ask whether the world is better. “The answers are staring us in the face,” he said, noting existential threats that leave countries such as his deeply vulnerable. Pointing to various national initiatives to enhance environmental resilience, he spotlighted the landmark climate change act. His Government is also benchmarking the greening of governance systems and strengthening the whole-of-society approach, he said, stressing that enhancing transparency and accountability is key. “To survive and thrive, we need to do more,” he said, adding that climate justice means those with the most resources should assist those with the least resources and those most at risk. “Unlock climate finance now before it is too late,” he said, adding that climate finance flow should be demand-driven and responsive to the needs of developing countries. Also highlighting the crucial role of private sector investment in green projects, he added that there is no room for inertia.