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Stockholm+50, Plenary,
3rd & 4th Meetings (AM & PM)
ENV/DEV/2048

Speakers Call for International Treaty on Plastic Pollution, Circular Economic Models to Promote Reusability, Reduce Waste, as Stockholm+50 Meeting Concludes

10 Key Recommendations Emerge for Clean, Healthy, Sustainable Environment

STOCKHOLM, 3 June — The international community must urgently transition from unsustainable patterns of consumption and production to circular economic models that promote reusability and reduce waste, speakers stressed as the Stockholm+50 international meeting concluded today, also expressing support for a binding international treaty on plastic pollution.  (For background, see Press Release ENV/DEV/2046.)

As the general debate continued, the representative of the Bahamas joined others in pointing out that, although small island developing States have miniscule carbon footprints, they are most affected by the negative impacts of climate change, including intense storms, sea-level rise and ocean acidification.  Noting that the oceans will soon have more plastics than fish, he said that his country has banned single-use plastics and utensils.

Mexico’s representative, calling for progress in establishing a legally binding plastic pollution treaty, stressed that strong actions and political will are needed to transform current economic models.  These models of accumulation and inequality result in unsustainable patterns, and she urged States to move towards circular economies to address this issue.

On that point, the representative of Türkiye said that his Government is focusing on reducing pollution by implementing a zero-waste project, which has increased the national rate of recycling from 13 to 27 per cent over the period 2017‑2020.  This rate is expected to increase to 35 per cent by 2023, and the Government’s national circular economy action plan aims to reduce the utilization of single-use plastics across the country.

New Zealand’s delegate also called for the development of a new international treaty to end plastic pollution, spotlighting his country’s 2019 ban on the use of plastic bags.  This measure resulted in over 1 billion fewer plastic bags ending up in national landfills, he noted.

“We cannot leave a world drowning in plastic,” stressed the representative of the United States, joining calls for a global agreement that takes a country‑driven approach to addressing the full life cycle of plastics.  She also expressed support for a global agreement to protect areas of the ocean beyond national jurisdiction, along with robust efforts to address illegal and unregulated fishing.

Vanuatu’s delegate underscored that the health of the ocean has special significance for the Pacific islands, providing ecosystem services and more than 50 per cent of the Earth’s oxygen.  Protecting it is a matter of urgency, and he noted that Vanuatu’s Parliament declared a climate emergency in 2022, becoming the first Pacific island country to do so.

The representative of the Marshall Islands said that major economies have neglected the promise made at the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, and like other low-lying island States, her country ‑ awash with plastic waste — has paid the greatest price for this global inertia.  “We are failing the world and we are failing the most vulnerable,” she stressed, adding that the United Nations is losing public credibility as a result.

The Russian Federation’s delegate underscored that Western countries bear a greater responsibility to implement sustainable patterns of production and consumption, calling on the United States, United Kingdom and countries in the European Union to bridle their consumer demand that puts colossal pressure on the environment in developing countries.

Representatives of United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations and major groups then took the floor to offer proposals stemming from their experience and expertise to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

The representative of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat), spotlighting sprawling cities and decreasing natural habitats, urged commuters to shift from private to public transportation as this would improve air quality.  Further, if businesses and individuals used colocation, this would reduce the environmental footprint in urban areas.  Sustainable cities are essential, he stressed.

The representative of the local authorities major group said that local governments — which represent the midpoint between the individual and the nation — are showing leadership on sustainability through innovative solutions that allow local communities to meet national commitments.  Such measures include the transition to circular economies in which water and waste loops are closed, and he said that, despite the potential of inclusive multilateral action, “‘think global, act local’ is still the best four-word plan we have”.

The representative of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) underlined that digital transition must be accompanied by green-energy solutions and the transition to circular economies.  Pointing out that a growing digital society leads to increased energy usage and materials consumption, she said that the Union is working with Governments to develop global e-waste strategies in response.

Two youth delegates from Peru and New Zealand, speaking for the children and youth major group, asked those present to recognize the inequities that prevented fellow youth delegates from the global South from attending the meeting.  They also underscored the importance of transitioning to regenerative agriculture and called for a legally binding fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.  Stockholm+50 must represent a turning point, they stressed, adding that the time for environmental justice is now.

Delivering closing remarks, Annika Strandhall, Minister for Climate and the Environment of Sweden, and Keriako Tobiko, Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Kenya, Co-Chairs of Stockholm+50, presented 10 key recommendations that emerged through discussions in the plenary meetings and Leadership Dialogues.  These recommendations were:  place human well-being at the centre of a healthy planet and prosperity for all; recognize and implement the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment; adopt system-wide change in the way the current economic system works to contribute to a healthy planet; and strengthen national implementation of existing commitments for a healthy planet.

Such recommendations also included:  align public and private financial flows with environmental, climate and sustainable development commitments; accelerate system-wide transformations of high-impact sectors, such as food, energy, water, buildings and construction, manufacturing and mobility; rebuild relationships of trust for strengthened cooperation and solidarity; reinforce and reinvigorate the multilateral system; recognize intergenerational responsibility as a cornerstone of sound policy-making; and take forward the Stockholm+50 outcomes.

Also delivering closing remarks was Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who stressed that much ground has been covered over the past two days, and now it’s time for action.  The 1972 Stockholm Conference spurred the creation of UNEP and started environmental multilateralism, she pointed out, asking those present what can be created in the wake of this 2022 conference and adding:  “It’s in our hands, let’s get it done.”

Also speaking were ministers and representatives of Belize, Ghana, Belgium, Jamaica, Gabon, Tunisia, Zambia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Hungary, Italy, Bolivia, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Côte d’Ivoire, Oman, Switzerland, Republic of Korea, Nepal, Barbados, Guatemala (for the Association of Caribbean States), Republic of Moldova, Eritrea, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Japan, Peru, Kyrgyzstan, Australia, China, Paraguay, Senegal, Greece, Poland, Somalia, Croatia, Slovenia, Tuvalu, Costa Rica, Yemen, Latvia and South Africa.

Representatives of the Economic Commission for Europe, as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations Development Programme and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also spoke.

Also speaking were representatives of the Council of Europe, Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, University for Peace, Secretariat for the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Secretariat of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, International Development Law Organization and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

In addition, representatives of the Latin America Children and Youth Group, interfaith major group, women’s major group, indigenous peoples major group, science and technology major group, business and industry major group and the major group consortium made statements.

The representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Statements

ORLANDO HABET, Minister for Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management of Belize, pointed out that his country is part of several environmental multilateral agreements, which have assisted Belize in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals — particularly, protecting biodiversity and the health of the population.  However, as a small, developing nation with a natural‑resource-based economy, Belize has experienced growing pains while attempting to balance protecting the environment and promoting economic progress.  Against that backdrop, he stressed the need for the factors of equity, need, vulnerability, justice and respective capacity to govern aid given to countries.  He added that the necessary financing must be unlocked to support developing countries in implementing and strengthening their climate commitments and resilience needs.

KWAKU AFRIYIE, Minister for the Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation of Ghana, said the climate crisis is adding to pressures on his country’s natural ecosystems, as are logging, overfishing and the extraction of mineral resources.  Ghana also faces worsening pollution, including from hazardous chemicals as a result of industrialization.  Recalling that the 1972 Stockholm Conference challenged countries to reverse these trends, he said “clearly we have not achieved what our leaders set out for us to do”.  Ghana has submitted revised nationally determined contributions to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, with more than 34 mitigation and adaptation targets, and will continue to work with like-minded countries to implement article 6 of the Paris Agreement on climate change.  Ghana also championed the call for a plastic treaty at the resumed fifth meeting of the United Nations Environmental Assembly.  It also has set up an energy transformation agenda and its carbon trading initiative with Switzerland will soon take effect.

ZAKIA KHATTABI, Minister of the Climate, Environment, Sustainable Development and Green Deal of Belgium, associating herself with the European Union, stressed that natural resources are limited.  The use of technology offers some solutions, which could be implemented through concerted action.  Recalling that at the 1972 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, a new concept for green growth was discussed, she called for national accountability.  And 30 years on, “we know a little better but the time has come to deliver it”, she said, emphasizing the need to put an end to the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, and the importance of green transition to avoid marking another anniversary without results.

MATTHEW SAMUDA, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry for Economic Growth and Job Creation of Jamaica, said that many lessons have been learned over the last two years, including the urgent need to close the inequality gap that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Further, recent geopolitical events have destabilized energy markets, and he stressed that economic recovery, sustained social well-being and environmental resilience must be paramount for all Governments and key pillars in any forward-looking global strategy.  He went on to say that innovative solutions must be actively pursued to achieve a net-zero, nature-positive world, and all stakeholders must actively play their part to ensure that environmental considerations are fully integrated into the development process.  “We do need all hands on deck,” he emphasized.

MICHAEL MOUSSA ADAMO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Gabon, recalling the creation of his country’s first environment ministry, said that, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, the late President Ali Bongo Odimba announced the creation of 30 national parks, an important initiative for a country that is 88 per cent covered by tropical rainforests.  In 2014, two years after the Rio+20 Conference, Gabon adopted a sustainable development plan, and after Stockholm+50, it will submit new nationally determined contributions to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050 and beyond.  Noting that Gabon absorbs more carbon dioxide than it emits, he called on Governments to demonstrate leadership in their development models.  Innovation is needed to develop financial mechanisms that promote biodiversity and ecosystem services, and to integrate natural capital into national balance sheets.

LEILA CHIKHAOUI, Minister for Environment of Tunisia, expressed hope that Stockholm+50 will contribute to creating a green future and saving the planet, on which human well-being depends.  Noting that her country followed agreement in Stockholm 50 years ago through such measures, including enshrining the right to the healthy environment in the Constitution.  It also reviewed and updated national policies, also elaborating a framework law on the environment.  It is also important to step up efforts at the international level, involving various stakeholders, including the private sector, women and youth.  She called for transfer of technology and information to help climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries and an increase in climate-related investment.  “Let’s make Tunisia green again,” he said.

COLLINS NZOVU, Minister for Green Economy and Environment of Zambia, emphasized that the triple planetary crises demand concerted global efforts and leadership to change the current trajectory.  While individual consumption choices do make a difference, it is collective action that will create the transformative environmental change needed to advance to a fairer age where everyone can flourish.  For its part, Zambia is working to end deforestation by 2030 and to promote circular-economy initiatives that are cost-effective and nature-friendly.  He went on to stress that the international community must make it easier for developing countries in Africa to obtain necessary funding, further calling on the developed world to provide more financing to enable the developing world to construct climate-resilient infrastructure.  He also invited those present to invest in Zambia’s mining sector.

VAUGHN MILLER, Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources of the Bahamas, called for pragmatic but sweeping measures to combat the climate threat, meaning “less talk, more action”.  Noting that small island developing States carry grave vulnerabilities to loss and damage from extreme climate events, to biodiversity loss, to traditions and cultures, and to harmful chemicals, he said they also have miniscule carbon footprints, but are most affected by the effects of climate change, which feature more intense storms, sea-level rise and ocean acidification.  The Bahamas has introduced legislation on environmental planning, banned single‑use plastics — notably plastic bags and utensils — as well as doubled the number of marine protected areas and reviewed its commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Climate Change Convention.  Noting that the oceans will soon have more plastics than fish, he expressed hope that young people will realize that it will one day be their duty to demonstrate leadership on the environment.  The Bahamas also hosted the first Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1994 and will continue to take meaningful actions in service of the environment.

ANNA MAZMANYAN, Deputy Minister for Environment of Armenia, outlined national efforts to accelerate the transition to the green economy.  His country is promoting low-carbon growth, energy efficiency and greater forest cover, among others measures.  Armenia is seeking to strengthen integration of the global environmental agenda into national plans and policies.  Under its Strategy 2040, the Government aims to increase the share of solar energy to 15 per cent of the total energy supply.  To address global environmental challenges, Armenia has focused on forestation and development of a circular economy, among other measures, he said, expressing his country’s readiness to cooperate with other stakeholders in that regard.

The representative of Uzbekistan said that his country has suffered severely from the Aral Sea crisis which has caused a dramatic impact on biodiversity loss, land degradation, air pollution and created many environmental challenges.  Once the world’s fourth biggest lake, the Aral Sea has lost nearly 90 per cent of its water and became known as of one of the biggest human-made environmental disasters.  In 2017, a massive afforestation campaign was launched, and as of today, almost 2 million hectares of Aral Seabed have been planted.  In 2018, the United Nations Multi-Partner Human Security Trust Fund for the Aral Sea Region was established.  In 2021, Uzbekistan launched its Green Environment initiative with a target of planting 200 million trees annually over the next five years to increase green coverage in the cities to 30 per cent by 2030.  The country aims to ensure socioeconomic development is in harmony with nature.

NINO TANDILASHVILI, Deputy Minister for Environmental Protection and Agriculture of Georgia, said that her small country is facing challenges such as climate change, loss of biodiversity, deforestation and pollution.  Further, recent events including the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine pose new threats to global stability and food security.  Despite these challenges, however, the Government is fully committed to its international environmental‑protection obligations, and has taken significant steps to fulfil its commitments in the areas of ambient-air protection and sustainable forest management, among others.  Noting that Georgia is currently applying for European Union membership, she expressed hope that a positive decision will be made regarding her country’s candidature.  She added that Georgia understands the responsibilities associated with this, and to that end, is ensuring environmental democracy and strengthening environmental governance by introducing initiatives such as circular economy measures.

ZULFIYA SULEIMENOVA, Vice-Minister for Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of Kazakhstan, called for accelerated action to deliver on the environmental mandate outlined in 1972.  Recalling that Kazakhstan is party to 27 environmental instruments and their protocols, she said it was also among the first to adopt a strategy to transition to a green economy.  Greening of the economy is a priority and Kazakhstan will galvanize its actions in that direction.  Noting that Kazakhstan is also a landlocked country, she said the temperature has risen by 2°C in the last 100 years.  With strong political will, the Government pledged to achieve climate neutrality by 2060 and has set plans to support that course.  While Kazakhstan is a carbon-intensive economy, it nonetheless adopted a new environmental code to accelerate environmental action.  It also introduced the concept of a carbon budget and has integrated 80 per cent of the Sustainable Development Goals into its programmes.  She called for stronger partnerships and closer collaboration on the path to a greener future.

ANIKÓ RAISZ, State Secretary for the Ministry of Technology and Industry of Hungary, described preserving the planet for future generations as “the most important project of mankind”.  For its part, Hungary carries out measures to protect the planet.  Its Constitution includes references to various environmental elements, and the country has an ombudsman responsible for environmental matters.  Hungary is among those countries which have decreased greenhouse‑gas emissions while growing its economy, and it is among the first to prohibit single-use plastics.  Other national initiatives include the planting of 10 trees for each newborn.

ILARIA FONTANA, Under-Secretary of State of Italy, said that to achieve Agenda 21, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement, States must make peace with nature.  The first critical step is to radically transform the linear economic model by embracing a circular economy model that empowers all stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society.  Noting that Italy is drafting its first national strategy for the circular economy and has adopted policies to curb emissions, he said the second pillar is to forge a strong link between scientific assessments and political decisions.  To this end, Italy produces an annual catalogue of environmentally harmful subsidies and an annual report on the state of natural capital, measuring the physical and economic dimensions of stocks and flows of natural capital, according to methodologies defined by the United Nations and the European Union.

FREDDY MAMANI MACHACA, Vice‑Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bolivia, pointing out that few people are able to live well under the current capitalist system, said that the “solution must come through destroying” that system.  A paradigm shift and corrective action is required to align and restore harmony with Mother Earth.  The international community must care for the natural legacy it has been given, and financial and ecological resources must be used towards recovery in balance with nature, rather than being used for productivity in the capitalist system.  For its part, Bolivia has worked to increase the production of clean energy and to reduce deforestation.  However, it — along with other developing countries — requires more favourable financing mechanisms and access to technology, as green transition is more difficult for developing countries.  He added that his country’s preparation for this international meeting, and its proposed structural changes, incorporated discussions with indigenous peoples and farmers.

MARTA DELGADO PERALTA, Undersecretary General for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, called for progress in establishing a legally binding plastic pollution treaty.  Other efforts must focus on combating desertification, forging an ambitious global post-2020 biodiversity framework and implementing the Paris Agreement.  Emphasizing that strong actions and political will are needed to transform economic models of accumulation and inequality, which produce unsustainable patterns, she urged States to move towards a circular economy.  With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Mexico organized public consultations during the Stockholm+50 international meeting.  “Our societies are yearning for action, with immediate impact,” she asserted.  Participants in the consultations spoke of free, prior and informed consent for indigenous peoples and local communities, while young people, in particular, underscored the need for environmental education.  Mexico’s inclusive development must be based on social equality, she added.

FIRDOVSI ALIYEV, Deputy Minister for Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan, said that while the environment plays an important role in daily life, it takes a back seat to other priorities and is even forgotten.  His country is party to numerous international environmental instruments.  Under its national Strategy 2030, several initiatives have been launched, including the establishment and expansion of special protected areas.  Azerbaijan has also renewed its determination to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2050.  Azerbaijan’s ecosystem has been damaged due to Armenia’s occupation of his country.  Projects focused on environmental recovery are a top priority for his Government, he stressed.

MEHMET EMIN BIRPINAR, Deputy Minister for Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change of Türkiye, noting that sustainability remains the ultimate goal, emphasized the necessity of concrete steps to combat environmental and climate‑change challenges.  For its part, Türkiye is a party to the Paris Agreement, has targeted net-zero emissions by 2050, is working to develop national legislation to support climate action and has updated its nationally determined contribution plan.  Further, the Government is focusing on reducing pollution by implementing a zero-waste project that has increased the rate of recycling from 13 to 27 per cent over the period of 2017-2020, with that rate estimated to increase to 35 per cent by 2023.  The Government has also initiated preparations for a national circular economy action plan, which will focus on reducing the utilization of single-use plastics across the country, he added.

SHARON IKEAZOR, Minister of State for Environment of Nigeria, associating with the African Group, said her country is facing desertification and the adverse impact of climate change, notably seen in the shrinking of Lake Chad in the north.  Nigeria recognizes the need to conserve biodiversity, as degradation affects lives and livelihoods of its people, she said, and efforts to fight deforestation and biodiversity loss have led to the designation of three United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reserves, protecting 1.8 million hectares.  Nigeria is also implementing the “Great Green Wall” initiative, and importantly, enacted the climate change act, which provides for carbon budgeting.  Ensuring a healthy planet is the shared responsibility of all, she said, stressing that the focus must be on protecting ecosystems.  She called for bold funding commitments to halt and reverse deforestation, while ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of its benefits.  “If nature prospers, our people will prosper,” she assured.

JAVIER GUTIÉRREZ, Secretary for Climate Change of the President of the Republic of Nicaragua and Vice‑Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources of Nicaragua, said that, after half a century of the development agenda, it is important to ask whether countries have overcome their environmental and social problems or been fair and equitable with financing for those that are most sensitive to environmental degradation.  “The answer is alarming,” he said.  Forests are disappearing at 14 million hectares per year, while people continue to suffer the severe impact of hurricanes, drought and food insecurity.  He called for a development model that defends Mother Earth and respects a “cosmo‑centric” vision, replacing the anthropocentric model in which nature is at the service of humans.  Expressing Nicaragua’s firm belief in multilateralism to address the climate crisis, and commitment to work for a collaborative environmental and climate agenda, he encouraged the international community to achieve a world of understanding, peace, justice, solidarity and sustainable development, in balance with nature.

PHOUVONG LUANGXAYSANA, Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Environment of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said like many other developing and least developed countries, his country has suffered from the impacts of climate change.  Many Lao people are dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods.  Recognizing the threats posed by climate change, the Government has consistently integrated response measures into national policy and development plans, establishing several ambitious goals for economic growth that is efficient, clean, comprehensive, inclusive, fair and resilient to climate change and global economic uncertainties, and to achieve net‑zero emissions by 2050.  His country lies in a tropical area rich in biodiversity.  The Government aims to increase the forest cover by 70 per cent of the country’s territory by 2025, he said, stressing that the Lao People’s Democratic Republic needs technical and financial assistance to protect its biodiversity.

The representative of New Zealand said that the triple planetary crises have cast a long shadow on the future, and while solutions may seem impossible, the first steps took in Stockholm 50 years ago and the many international efforts since show that the international community can collectively agree on the way forward.  Calling for the development of a new international treaty to end plastic pollution, he spotlighted his country’s 2019 ban on the use of plastic bags that has resulted in over 1 billion fewer plastic bags ending up in national landfills.  Further, the Government will soon announce its first national emissions-reduction and adaptation plans, which represent transformational change for communities and institutions.  He added that indigenous worldviews offer new ways of considering and engaging with the environment, stating that recognizing the value of this is an important step in addressing future challenges.

MONICA MEDINA, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs of the United States, asked participants to consider what the world would look like today if the 1972 Stockholm meeting had not taken place, if UNEP had not been created or the environmental movement had not been galvanized.  “What happened here 50 years ago was revolutionary,” she said, especially as leaders had to break through all the pressures upon them to exploit the natural world.  The world is now at a crossroads, with one path leading to more pollution, temperature rise and biodiversity loss, and the other leading to sustainable life with nature.  “We cannot leave a world drowning in plastic,” she asserted, calling for a global agreement that takes an ambitious, country-driven approach to addressing the full life cycle of plastics.  She also expressed support for a global agreement to protect new areas of ocean beyond national jurisdiction, and robust efforts to address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and harmful fishing subsidies.  Noting that the United States has pledged to preserve 30 per cent of its lands by 2030, she called more broadly for faster action to constrain global temperature rise to the 1.5°C limit.  In the Paris Agreement, the solutions are there, she said, asking:  “What if we do not meet this moment?”

BEATRICE ATIM ANYWAR, State Minister for the Environment of Uganda, associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the African Group, said she came to this meeting, filled with momentum and spirit her country has held since the 1972 Stockholm Conference.  The environmental challenges of today require the strengthening of multilateralism.  For its part, Uganda has committed to a 10-year plan of environmental restoration while allowing for economic growth to continue.  Plans are in place to expand the country’s forest and wetland boundaries and to increase renewable energy‑generation.  But, action alone is not enough; international support for environmental conservation is key, she said, seeking a balanced outcome in that regard at the end of the Stockholm+50 meeting.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, detailing his country’s bold vision for 2030, said that the Government has stepped up its commitments to fight pollution, the loss of vegetation and desertification by, among other efforts, mobilizing the broader population to recycle household waste.  Further, it launched the Saudi Green Initiative, which has enjoyed regional and global support, within the framework of efforts to combat pollution and preserve animal species both on land and in the sea.  He also spotlighted a significant mobilization of national funds to reduce the effects of carbon-dioxide gases by 50 per cent by 2040, along with initiatives to generate clean energy and engage in the recycling of carbon dioxide and other sources of pollution.

The representative of Côte d’Ivoire described the 1972 Stockholm Conference as a springboard for global environmental action.  The fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, held in his country, led to the Abidjan Legacy Programme, a bold initiative.  He called for ecosystem-based approaches, noting that the ability to anticipate land degradation could allow for boosting prosperity.  Côte d’Ivoire, an agricultural country, has taken various steps, including to rehabilitate its forests, with a new forestry policy that introduces the concept of agroforests.  It also has reviewed its carbon‑dioxide emissions for new nationally determined contributions and committed to creating a new 500-kilometre protected area along its coastline.  He invited development partners, civil society organizations and the private sector to ensure that resources are made available within the framework of the Abidjan Legacy Programme.

The representative of Oman said that five decades have passed since the 1972 Stockholm Conference.  Meetings were convened and measures were taken, aimed at overcoming environmental challenges, but progress is slow, with humanity awaiting true results.  For its part, Oman implemented recycling projects and increased generation of renewable energy, with the aim of becoming “a global centre” of clean energy with 40 per cent of the energy coming from clean sources.  His country has set up many environment-related initiatives, created the Environmental Preservation Prize, increased national parks and protected threatened species.  It created protected areas for sea turtles, dolphins and whales.  Environmental balance is enshrined in its National Plan 2040.

KATRIN SCHNEEBERGER, State Secretary and Director of the Federal Office for the Environment of Switzerland, said that solutions to the triple crisis are possible and exist, provided that the international community “finally decides to act in a concerted way”.  She stressed the importance of capacity-building for global environmental governance, along with the need to strengthen multilateralism so that “common objectives prevail over narrow interests”, such as in the development of an international treaty on plastic pollution.  Further, the international community should examine emerging issues — such as the technological management of solar radiation — to understand the opportunities and risks, and ultimately, create appropriate governance tools.  She went on to urge a strengthened nexus between science and policy, spotlighting the “enormous potential” of the UNEP World Environment Situation Room in this regard.

BEOB-JEONG KIM, Deputy Minister for Climate Change and Carbon Neutral Policy, Ministry of Environment of Republic of Korea, said changes made over the last 50 years would have been impossible without bold action in 1972.  Article 35 of his country’s Constitution outlines that people have the right to a clean and healthy environment, serving as the basis for the Government’s environment actions, including the expansion of protected areas.  Globally, achieving a “net‑zero future” will be impossible without a shift to a circular economy, he said, urging countries to seek out synergies among sectors to unlock such potential and noting that multilateralism should be key to rebuilding trust damaged by the pandemic.  He also called for strengthening policy interface, notably with UNEP, and advancing the common values of freedom, dignity and fairness.

PEM KANDEL, Secretary for Forests and Environment of Nepal, associating himself with the Group of 77, said Stockholm+70 will evaluate implementation of the outcome of the 1972 Conference.  Progress remains insufficient, he said, citing continued environmental deterioration, including biodiversity loss.  Nepal is home to many of the world’s highest mountains, which provide fresh drinking water.  But, these mountains are vulnerable to climate change, as glaciers melt and cause huge losses to the ecosystem and human life.  For its part, Nepal aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045 and seeks to become a leader in green and nature-based solutions.  While the knowledge to achieve such aims exists, steps to achieve them are lacking, he said, stressing the urgent need to take action.

TRAVIS SINCKLER, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, National Verification, Blue and Green Economy of Barbados, said that the triple planetary crises of today dictate an unprecedented urgency of action to address them.  These issues — juxtaposed against widening inequality, conflict, lingering economic stagnation and disrupted value chains — demand that the Decade of Action be undergirded by a new Stockholm spirit which includes the elements of reaffirmation, inclusion and integration.  Article 4 of the 2021 Barbados Charter enshrines the right of every Barbadian to live in a healthy and balanced environment and reaffirms the Government’s commitment to the protection of land, air and marine environment through progressive public policies, including the Coastal Zone Management Policy framework, the Roof-to-Reef programme, and its commitment to carbon neutrality by 2030.

The representative of Guatemala, speaking for the Association of Caribbean States, said that the international community is obliged to act urgently under the principle of common but differentiated responsibility to provide opportunities for sustainable development.  Noting the risks faced by small island developing States in the Caribbean and the Central America Isthmus, and the indigenous peoples living therein, he stressed the need to rapidly increase national capacities to adapt and promote community resilience.  To this end, he called on developed countries to adopt more ambitious mitigation and adaptation commitments and to provide financing and technology transfer to developing countries to confront the loss and damage caused by the effects of climate change.

Speaking in his national capacity, he pointed out that, despite its low emissions contribution, Guatemala is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.  To address this, the Government is conducting national consultations with various stakeholders with the aim of having an inclusive discussion on national policy.  A proposal stemming from such consultations is the implementation of inclusive environmental education programmes that advocate for changes in consumption behaviour.  He added that the Government also seeks to promote investment in green energy and nature-based solutions, and also supports the adoption of indigenous customs that work in harmony with nature.

The representative of the Republic of Moldova, drawing attention to the security, refugee, energy and pandemic crises facing her country, expressed solidarity with the people of Ukraine.  Her Government has prioritized the environment and is focusing on green transformation and energy efficiency.  Chisinau’s aspiration towards European integration will contribute to the modernization of the national economy, she said, adding that, since 2014, the country has been harmonizing its legislation with that of the European Union.  At the moment, the Government is focusing its efforts on zero waste, in order to reduce the volume of uncontrolled landfill waste, as well as on improving water quality.  Another priority area is the expansion of reforested areas by 100,000 hectares in the next 10 years, with a focus on indigenous plant species that can adapt to climate change, she added.

The representative of Vanuatu, noting that his country adopted the Paris Agreement and the soon-to-be treaty on plastic pollution, said it faces adverse climate events and biodiversity loss.  Citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which found that human influences warm the atmosphere, ocean and land, and that failure to take action will lead to dire consequences, he said that, given the magnitude of the threats, strengthened cooperation and comprehensive action at all levels are essential.  He encouraged international cooperation to stop fossil‑fuel production.  Noting that the health of the ocean has special significance for Pacific islands, providing ecosystem services and more than 50 per cent of the Earth’s oxygen, he said protecting it is a matter of urgency.  In 2022, Vanuatu’s Parliament declared a climate emergency, the first Pacific island country to do so, and announced its goal to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice clarifying the legal obligations of States on climate change protection.

The representative of the Marshall Islands said major economies have neglected the promise made at the 1972 Stockholm Conference.  Her country, like other low-lying island States, has paid the greatest price for this global inertia.  The Marshall Islands are awash with plastic waste.  “We are failing the world and we are failing the most vulnerable,” she said, adding that the United Nations has not responded to the crisis in front of it and is losing public credibility.  Here in Stockholm, the Organization must start with honesty and trust, mutual accountability and political will, she said, stressing that her country’s future depends on it.

The representative of Eritrea stated that no pact or renewed commitment can undo the harm done to the planet “unless we start living by our promises”, questioning what actual advancements have been made over the last 50 years to secure a healthy planet for all.  For its part, Eritrea enacted a ban on the use of plastic bags in 2005, and now people use nylon or straw bags, many of which are locally manufactured.  Like most of the countries in the region with vulnerable ecosystems, Eritrea is among those hardest hit by climate change due to its geographic region and low adaptive capacity.  Recurring drought, unpredictable patterns of rainfall, subsequent water shortages and crop failure will erode community resilience and impede sustainable development unless these issues are addressed.  Against that backdrop, she urged the international community to exercise the necessary political will such that another 50 years do not pass without securing a safer world for future generations.

The representative of Sri Lanka said the triple planetary crisis requires transboundary partnerships.  Biodiversity loss is immediate, and pollution is both real and economically costly.  The pandemic, coupled with high inflation, are affecting developing countries and they require urgent, sustainable assistance to mitigate the impact on livelihoods and the environment.  Noting that Sri Lanka is party to all major environmental conventions, he said it has creatively tackled problems with a whole-of-Government approach.  Key actionable policy steps include the establishment of a network of committees to address biodiversity loss and plastic pollution and a sustainable approach to climate action.  It is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and has embedded its ocean policy in its development orientation.  He called for the disbursement of resources for climate action, stressing that vulnerability criteria should apply equally to access to finance and capacity-building.

The representative of Bhutan said that Stockholm+50 is a momentous opportunity to take stock of the last 50 years.  A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cautions that the window of opportunity to avoid irreversible effects is fast disappearing.  Stressing the importance of “intergenerational equity”, he said his country’s commitment remains unwavering.  Bhutan’s biological diversity continues to survive and thrive, and it became the first carbon-negative country in the world.  “Prosperity does not have to come at the cost of environment,” he stressed, expressing deep concern about the effects of climate change on the fragile mountain ecosystem.  Without assistance, least developed and small island developing States will not achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, he said, calling for strong partnerships for renewal energy.

YUTAKA SHODA, Vice-Minister for Global Environmental Affairs of Japan, detailing national efforts to address environmental issues, pointed out that the public and private sectors in his country are working together to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.  Additionally, Japan launched an online platform in September 2020 that consolidates information relating to climate change and recovery from COVID-19, which may be helpful to other countries.  The Government has also developed a road map to protect biodiversity, is working to facilitate transition to a circular economy and has contributed to the intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop a binding international instrument on plastic pollution.  He went on to say that Russian aggression towards Ukraine has seriously damaged the environment, calling for the Russian Federation’s immediate, unconditional withdrawal from Ukraine.

The representative of Peru pointed to the impact of climate change, deforestation, chemical pollution, excess nitrogen, pollution, biodiversity loss and an unjust imbalance in ecosystem resources across the world for the deteriorating state of planetary health.  Stressing that 8 million tons of plastic are poured into the ocean, he said that, without action, there will soon be more plastic than fish.  He recalled that Peru and Rwanda presented the now-adopted resolution on a legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution — a difficult effort.  “We must make sure we commit to negotiations on this important agreement,” he said, which is especially true for industrialized nations.  He also called for decisive action to reduce emissions by 45 per cent.

The representative of Kyrgyzstan said that 75 per cent of his country are mountains.  Their ecosystem requires more careful attention.  For its part, his country is undertaking initiatives to conserve mountain forests and glaciers.  Its rivers provide 75 per cent of water to neighbouring countries.  His country’s emissions are small and it will seek to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.  The Government declared 2022 the year of protecting mountain ecosystems, he said.  The biggest emitters must accelerate industrial transformation by using sustainable transport and reducing the use of plastics.

JAMES LARSEN, Deputy Secretary of the Department for Agriculture, Water and the Environment of Australia, acknowledging the economic and security threat posed by climate change, said his country knows it must act now to reduce emissions, scale up clean-energy technology and strengthen resilience efforts.  Australia plans to reduce its carbon emissions 43 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 in preparation to become a clean-energy superpower.  Noting that the Australian continent is at the forefront of climate change, he said that the Government will work hard to protect the future of the Great Barrier Reef by investing in restoration and preservation measures, along with “real action” on climate change.  Further, in light of the impacts of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, the Government will focus on reducing waste and boosting recycling.  He added that, as First Nations Peoples have a special relationship with the environment, their voices are vital to discussions in this area.

The representative of China, noting that his country is a participant in global environmental governance, said it has placed ecological progress high on its agenda and made various coordinated efforts in that context.  For example, China has increased its forest coverage, optimized its energy infrastructure and currently is pursuing a green and circular economy.  China also is resolutely combating pollution and its air quality is continuously improving.  It promoted the entry into force of the Paris Agreement and announced a goal of carbon neutrality.  It follows the Kunming Declaration on biological diversity and allocated resources for a protection fund.  He urged all nations to pursue harmonious coexistence with nature and to uphold the idea of a community with a shared future.  He also encouraged them to commit to multilateralism, honour international conventions and adhere to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.  Sustained action will “get us to the destination”, he assured.

The representative of Paraguay said that the race against the environmental crisis must be won at all costs, with the participation of Governments, business, civil society and other stakeholders.  In 2020, his country took steps to strengthen national institutions in order to accelerate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, including by restructuring and prioritizing the commission that promotes implementation towards that end.  In July, Paraguay updated its nationally determined contribution for reducing greenhouse‑gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.  Paraguay is one of the world’s leading producers of clean and renewable energy and a significant food producer.  Despite contributing very little to global greenhouse‑gas emissions, the negative impact on the landlocked country’s natural resources and production chains has been great, he said, calling for greater financing to assist developing countries with mitigation and adaptation measures.

The representative of Senegal, noting that a legally binding international instrument on plastic pollution is being negotiated, said that this demonstrates that multilateralism can still make significant contributions “to tackling the challenges of our time”.  He went on to point out that least developed countries have been the hardest hit by the effects of climate change, resulting in loss of life, as well as flooding, drought, destruction of infrastructure and cultural problems.  While many obstacles lie in its path, Senegal is doing everything it can to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.  Towards this end, he stressed the need to be clear about deadlines and what must be done, as well as the need to ensure adequate financing “to achieve what we want to achieve”.

The representative of Greece said UNEP plays a pivotal role in fostering the science-policy interface and coordinating responses to various issues, including in the context of multilateral environmental agreements.  For its part, Greece is implementing a major green transformation of its economy, with the national climate law defining efforts towards “net zero” by 2050 and quantitative emissions‑reduction targets set for all sectors.  Greece is committed to declaring 30 per cent of its land and sea as protected areas by 2030 and supports the transformation of the Mediterranean into a “model sea” by 2030.  He emphasized the importance of green shipping and touring in that regard.  He also pointed to a Greek island as being a pioneer in recycling through the “Just Go Zero” programme for integrated waste management.  Greece is committed to reducing microplastics by 2030, he said, adding:  “Working together, we can shape a sustainable and inclusive future on a healthy planet.”

The representative of Poland said that the triple planetary crisis has been exacerbated by the pandemic.  The Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine has caused another terrible consequence.  The war reminded us that there is no sustainable development without peace.  Billions of dollars of infrastructure have been destroyed, with millions of people displaced.  Urban policy is crucial for the daily functioning of people.  Poland is undertaking measures, including better water management and the “de-concreting” of the cities.  Later in 2022, it will host the Urban Forum under the theme “Transforming Our Cities for a Better Urban Future”.

The representative of Somalia pointed out that his country is facing the brunt of climate change while also experiencing conflict and instability, with over 6 million people in urgent need of food and humanitarian assistance.  Further, resource-based conflict, poverty and food distress are increasing — exacerbated by climate change — and Somalia’s people suffer despite contributing the least to the problem of greenhouse gases.  The climate financing that Somalia has received is not enough to support national efforts to combat climate change, and he called for such financing to be made more accessible to fragile States and for wealthier countries to adhere to their commitments.  The international community knows what the problem is, and knows what actions are needed, he added.

SINIŠA GRGIĆ (Croatia) said that, despite the many positive outcomes of efforts to address global environmental challenges, the triple planetary crisis — climate change, loss of biodiversity and global pollution — and its consequences “represent a direct threat to humanity and life on the planet as we know it”.  These emergencies must be addressed together, and noting the uncertain long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, he further supported the full implementation of the “One Health” approach as a response to future pandemics.  “The global goals we have set cannot be called into question,” he stressed, calling for ambition and unity in implementing agreed commitments on the road to sustainability.  He added that all activities aimed at ensuring the future of the planet — and prosperity on it — will yield results only with lasting peace and stability in the world, calling on the Russian Federation to immediately stop its aggression and withdraw its forces from Ukraine.

The representative of Slovenia, citing gains, said UNEP and the United Nations Environmental Assembly have proven to be a successful framework for environmental action, while agreement has been reached on important resolutions that have measurable impact.  Citing the Russian Federation’s “horrible” and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine and the triple planetary crisis, he called for placing focus on the next 50 years immediately, as the unsustainable relationship with nature is pushing achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals out of reach.  Yet, “we must remain optimistic”, he said.  The twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) outcome offered reaffirmation of the commitment to engage in global climate action, notably by limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C and pursuing nature-based solutions.  Slovenia will continue to support UNEP, as its actions are more important than ever, he added.

The representative of Tuvalu said that COVID-19 and international conflicts have further degraded the environment, making it extremely important and more urgent than ever to address environmental challenges.  For its part, his country banned single-use plastics and is in the process of transitioning to 100 per cent reliance on renewable energy.  It is also seeking to protect its marine areas.  The Government cancelled licenses for deep-sea explorations and permits will be put on hold until further assessment of environmental impacts of such activities.  Fossil fuel accounts for 85 per cent of carbon emissions.  Fossil fuel-dependent developing countries need assistance for their just transition to clean energy.

The representative of Costa Rica said that, despite an increased number of legal frameworks pertaining to the environment, the international community is far from achieving the commitments it made, and further, is running out of time to do so.  For its part, Costa Rica — when it abolished its army — committed itself to sustainable development and dedicated national resources to promoting social security for all citizens.  Additionally, the country’s extensive use of renewable energy has allowed 80 per cent of 1980s deforestation to be reversed and, in line with its nationally determined contributions, Costa Rica will increase its forest cover by 60 per cent and protect 30 per cent of its oceans by 2030.  Other Government policies include decarbonization and adaptation measures and an urban environmental agenda.  Such measures follow intersectoral consultations across stakeholders, she added, as it is important to have transparent, inclusive policies that reflect the commitments of all parts of society.

The representative of Yemen said the fiftieth anniversary is an opportunity to renew the commitment to collective responsibility, citing growing emissions, biodiversity loss, chemical pollution and plastic waste among the challenges to be tackled by honouring all commitments outlined in agreements, protocols and instruments.  “We have to do so,” she stressed, especially before food insecurity, health problems and the weakening of already fragile societies become even more severe.  “Yemen needs the whole world to be supporting it vis-à-vis the arrogance of the Houthis,” who are threating marine biodiversity by holding the deteriorating FSO Safer vessel, which carries more than 1 million barrels of oil — “a ticking bomb”.  She paid tribute to the Netherlands for organizing a donor conference to resolve the Safer issues.  Least developed countries need funds to achieve their environmental goals and access technology transfer, she said, recognizing the dire need to strengthen the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

Right of Reply

In the exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Armenia condemned his counterpart from Azerbaijan for using today’s meeting for its anti‑Armenia campaign.  The Nagorno-Karabakh war was unleashed by Azerbaijan using banned weapons; it caused large-scale forest fires, and other environmental damage.  Any reality created by the use of force is not legitimate, he said.

The representative of Azerbaijan said the region mentioned by Armenia’s delegate is sovereign territory of Azerbaijan.  The wars launched against his country by Armenia in the early 1990s resulted in occupation of that area.  Azerbaijan launched a counter-offensive to liberate that area in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law.

Statements

The representative of Latvia, aligning herself with the European Union, noted that her country has made great effort over recent years to implement the European Green Deal and increase cooperation on the global level.  Stressing that there can be no sustainable development without peace, she condemned the Russian Federation’s unprovoked military aggression against Ukraine and expressed concern over its global consequences.  She also said that unsustainable patterns of production and consumption are the main reasons for current environmental issues, pointing out that her country is working to promote the efficient use of resources, including the recycling of used products.  Further, the Government has instituted green public procurement based on the life cycle approach.  She added that leadership dialogues will help find solutions to strengthen the environmental dimension of sustainable development globally.

The representative of South Africa, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, recalled that the 1972 Stockholm Conference was a seminal moment of human history, with its adopted principles drawing a fundamental nexus between the environment and development.  The common threat for the triple planetary crisis is unsustainable production and consumption.  Her country is firmly committed to multilateral solutions, she said, calling on the international community to support Africa in implementing its Green Stimulus and Green Recovery initiatives.  Egypt will host COP27 in November, she said, calling on the international community to lend strong support for that meeting.

The representative of the Russian Federation, stressing that UNEP should pay attention to boosting the technical expertise of developing and least developed countries, highlighted the importance of sustainable production and consumption patterns.  Western countries have a greater responsibility in this, he said, calling on the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union countries to bridle their consumer demand, which puts colossal pressure on the environment in developing countries.  Noting the environmentally hazardous manufacturing that takes place in many of those countries, he said:  “The price they get for this is far from fair.”  Also calling for equitable geographic representation in the scientific work of the Programme, he added that its activities should be strictly non-political.  Addressing statements about his country’s activities in Ukraine, he said the special military operation is aimed at demilitarizing that country so it can become a peaceful State.

The representative of the Council of Europe pointed out that the Council has adopted several fundamental texts over the years pertaining to topics including human rights, the environment and cultural heritage.  Further, the European Court of Human Rights has developed case law on the human right to the environment, and the manual on this topic has recently been updated.  She also noted that the Council’s Committee of Ministers recently adopted recommendations to implement the Council’s landscape convention with the aim of promoting development that is both sustainable and harmonious.  Such recommendations also invite schoolteachers to raise awareness in schools about these issues, and a teaching booklet has been crafted on this topic.  She emphasized that these measures do not seek to make the young generation feel guilty; rather, they seek to make young people aware of the riches and beauty that surround them “so they can become masters of their own destiny”.

The representative of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization said a lot has been done since the 1972 Stockholm Conference, but not enough for the present and future generations.  Regional organizations must follow in the footsteps of the United Nations.  Adopted in 2001, her organization’s economic agenda includes a goal on environmental conservation.  In addition, it adopted strategies for and climate adaptation and fostering a green economy.  The Common Maritime Agenda for the Black Sea adopted in 2019 established a platform for the blue economy, she said.

The representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies pointed out that, since the Stockholm Conference of 1972, planetary crises have become humanitarian crises.  Climate-related natural hazards are already displacing more than 20 million people every year, he said, adding that degraded ecosystems are amplifying disaster risks, destroying livelihoods and increasing health threats.  Noting that his organization works with the people most affected by these crises, he called on the international community to recognize the humanitarian impact of environmental crises.  Governments must put in place coherent multisectoral policy and legal frameworks that provide the incentives and obligations for climate action, he said, also highlighting the need for increased and flexible climate finance, from both public and private sources.

The representative of the University for Peace stressed the need to reaffirm principles approved 50 years ago and to commit to providing Governments with the requisite resources to fulfil their commitments.  He said that the University trains students in areas such as conservation and sustainable development and works in partnership with other United Nations agencies — especially in the global South — to build environmental resilience together with local communities.  However, education is a tool that has yet to be fully implemented amongst the broader public to raise awareness of environmental degradation and concomitant risk of major conflict.  Emphasizing that the best way to defend peace is to educate people, he said that the University is ready to offer its services, expertise and experience for sustainable development.  “If you want peace, prepare for peace,” he added.

The representative of the Secretariat for the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer emphasized how the Vienna and Montreal instruments have led to the healing of the ozone layer, with the latter phasing out ozone‑depleting emissions.  They have contributed significantly to climate mitigation.  The Montreal Protocol will mark its thirty-fifth anniversary.  The Protocol has worked because everyone was on board, including Government, the private sector, academia and civil society and serves as one of the most successful cases of multilateralism.

The representative of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, known as the International IDEA, noting that his organization has been working to strengthen democracy globally since 1995, said the recognition of the rights-based approach, which is grounded in public participation and access to information, is crucial for framing the Stockholm+50 conversation.  Stressing the importance of ensuring inclusive governance institutions, he said that halting biodiversity loss, restoring ecosystems and making progress on climate adaptation requires democratic participation from indigenous peoples and local communities.  Citizens’ voices must be heard for societies to collectively agree about what a just transition to sustainable socioeconomic systems implies, he said, adding that democracies can be more effective against climate change by allowing freedom of expression, full and fair elections and institutional checks and balances.  Noting that global warming could result in increased social conflict and institutional collapse, he stressed that democratic governance agendas should actively seek out innovative forms of political deliberation, through citizens’ assemblies and lowering the voting age.

The representative of the Secretariat of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, describing it as a smartly designed and fully implementable agreement that aims to phase out mercury, said that, in 20 years, there will be no new mercury pollution. Drawing a straight line from Stockholm to the adoption of the Convention in 2013, she recalled how activists came to that conference to educate the international community about the harms caused by mercury.  That led to the negotiations that eventually culminated in the adoption of the Convention’s coherent and legally binding obligations, which are practical and grounded in science and equity, she said.  Mercury is no longer used in products or processes because better alternatives exist, she said, noting that there is no longer a market for that element.

The representative of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) recalled the Commission’s work to raise awareness of environmental issues leading up to the 1972 Stockholm Conference and pointed out that, today, the Commission hosts 16 international legally binding instruments on the environment.  The Commission will continue to facilitate dialogue between Member States and other stakeholders to address the triple planetary crisis, and he stressed the need to ensure that multilateral environmental agreements have an actual impact on the ground in Member States and across borders.  To this end, he called on more Member States to join relevant agreements.  He added that the Commission will be a partner “in making the spirit of Stockholm and the decisions of this meeting a reality”.

The representative of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‑Habitat), said that development cannot come at the cost of the environment, pointing to the 2016 New Urban Agenda for solutions.  Warning against sprawling cities and decreasing natural habitats, he urged commuters to shift their mode of transport from private to public transportation, which would improve air quality, and for businesses and individuals to use colocation, which would reduce environmental footprint.  Sustainable cities are essential.  However, cities alone cannot create them, he said, stressing that Governments must work together toward that end.

The representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reaffirming commitment to environmental stewardship, said that her organization has been delivering programmes and setting standards in food and agriculture.  Noting that these two fields disproportionately feel the negative impact of the environmental crisis, she added that agri-food systems must also be considered part of the solution.  Increasing their sustainability and resilience is crucial to tackle hunger and undernourishment in a world that will soon reach 10 billion people, she pointed out, adding that it is not possible to build an economically secure future or imagine sustainable development on an unhealthy planet.  Noting that the poor, most of whom depend on food, agriculture, forest and fisheries for their livelihoods, are hit the hardest, she called for human-centred solutions that harness the power of science to support smallholder farmers, indigenous people, women and youth.

The representative of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) said that cross-industry public-private partnerships are at the heart of the Union’s work, highlighting the importance of working together to ensure that digital transition goes hand in hand with green-energy solutions and the transition to circular economies.  Noting that a growing digital society leads to increased energy usage and materials consumption, she said that the Union is working with Governments to develop global e-waste strategies.  She went on to point out that dissemination of data is key to evidence-based policymaking, and a growing number of stakeholders need high-quality data to make informed decisions.  It is important to protect the radio spectrum allocated to Earth monitoring and meteorological systems, she added, as this data is essential for monitoring progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The representative of the United Nations Development Programme said that UNDP and partners facilitated national consultations in over 50 countries as part of preparations for Stockholm+50.  They resulted in a series of recommendations.  That included a call for stronger partnerships and improved means of implementation, including capacity-building, technology transfer, digitalization, and North-South and South-South cooperation.  They also called for strengthening environmental governance to enhance participation, access to information, risk knowledge, trust and a focus on the needs and knowledge of women, youth, indigenous peoples, local communities, people with disabilities and other groups.

The representative of the Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, said that the 1972 Stockholm Conference was one of those extraordinary moments that sparked the creation of national legislation around the world and established the core principles of international environmental law.  The Stockholm principles are embedded in the work of her Secretariat, she said, noting that the Convention is the only global agreement which covers all kinds of migratory species, from birds to fish.  Migratory species are an integral part of nature and healthy ecosystems, she said, pointing to their contributions to national and local economies, food and jobs, and carbon sequestration.  “We are losing wild species of animals at alarming rates,” she warned, noting that the two biggest threats are habitat destruction and overexploitation, which also increase the risk of zoonotic diseases.

The representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), noting that pollution, climate change and loss of biodiversity are devastating peoples and communities around the world, recalled the Commissioner’s warning that these represent the “greatest human rights challenge of our era”.  In response, in October 2021, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution recognizing the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.  All people, everywhere, are entitled to breathe clean air, drink clean water, eat safe food and freely access information and justice in environmental matters.  Ensuring that environmental defenders can safely exercise these rights must be at the heart of efforts to protect the environment, he stressed.  Further, the international community must deliver concrete, actionable commitments for gender-responsive, rights-based environmental action that protects those most at risk from environmental harm.

The representative of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity said safeguarding the Earth’s biodiversity is a defining task of this decade.  The post-2020 global biodiversity framework, being prepared for adoption at the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity later in 2022, will be crucial to this objective.  The new framework will address not only the direct drivers of biodiversity loss, but also the underlying drivers which lie in unsustainable patterns of production and consumption.  Without an ambitious biodiversity framework with adequate means of implementation, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals will be jeopardized.

The representative of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), highlighting its work in ensuring rule of law around the world, said that the spirit of the Stockholm Declaration is still with the international community.  Justice, human rights and equity are intertwined with the causes of and solutions to climate change.  Stressing the fundamental role of rule of law in building a greener future, she said that it promotes the inclusive governance of natural resources and gives greater agency to local communities and those who have the least capacity to advocate for their rights.  Rule of law is also essential for empowering women and girls to participate in climate actions, she said, adding that it also provides an effective basis for the cooperation that is required internationally, regionally and within civil society.  By addressing corruption, rule of law imparts confidence that agreements will be upheld, she said, also noting the intergenerational justice element of creating a greener future.

The representative of the children and youth major group called on decision makers to move away from the profit-driven economic model that destroys the environment, ensuring instead an economic system focused on well-being.  Further, the fossil-fuel era must be ended now, a real price tag must be placed on carbon and communities that depend on extraction must be supported.  Noting that the extractive economic model has not led to sustainable development in the global South and continues to drive global conflict, she called on decision makers to ensure that mining can only happen under strict conditions and to make local communities partners in those operations.  She also called for a transition to circular economies, with products designed to last, be repaired and be recycled, adding that “throwaway items have no place in the future”.

The representative of the Latin America Children and Youth Group stressed the need to build on citizen science to ensure active and meaningful participation of “culturally relevant” groups, such as women, youth, indigenous peoples and local communities, in decision-making processes, as well as in implementation and monitoring.  He proposed creating mechanisms to ensure accountability and a greater role for women, by improving access to finance among women.  It is crucial to provide future generations with new green knowledge.

The representative of the interfaith major group noted that his statement is the result of seven global meetings, with contributions from more than 40 interfaith groups and is endorsed by more than 200 faith leaders.  The current crisis is human and existential, he said, adding that its causes are deeply fuelled by structural greed and apathy.  “We humans have failed” in the responsibility to protect the planet, he said, affirming the crucial role that faith leaders must play in global governance and policymaking.  Faith traditions have unique capacities to convince and convene, he said, calling on the international community to recognize the role of spiritual values in the fight to safeguard the environment.  Calling for the recognition of ecocide as an international crime, he expressed the Group’s commitment “to practise what we preach”, and live in harmony with nature.

The representative of the women’s major group underscored that women and girls have the right to meaningfully participate in decision-making pertaining to climate and the environment.  Women must be at negotiating tables at the regional and national levels because they are among the most affected by climate change in terms of mortality and exposure to climate-induced conflict and gender-based violence.  She called on all countries to commit to a gender-responsible, just transition to green economies to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis.  She further called on all countries to strengthen and expand gender-responsive social protection systems to build resilience to the economic and environmental shocks faced by women and girls.  Additionally, she urged that the international community ensure public participation and access to information and justice for women, youth, indigenous people and those with disabilities.

The representative of the indigenous peoples major group said indigenous peoples have safeguarded biodiversity in traditional territories and most of the planet’s remaining biodiversity is in these territories.  Now is the time for a paradigm shift in conservation that recognizes the role of indigenous peoples and supports their ways of conserving and sustainably using lands.  To achieve the bold progress urgently needed to secure a better future on a healthy planet, Member States need to take clear action to uphold their commitments under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Another representative of the indigenous peoples major group, from Kenya, thanked the Sami people for giving her “the right to be here”, noting the role of indigenous people in different discussions at Stockholm+50.  Calling on the international community to listen to and respect the needs of the indigenous peoples, as reflected in all the relevant agreements concerning biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development, she said that food security, environment and biodiversity are all interconnected issues.  “We want you to honour the agreements and pledges,” she said, calling for implementation of different instruments concerning the rights of indigenous people.  Drawing attention to a declaration from her group, she noted that it will be submitted to the conference for wider distribution.  Underscoring the need to respect the human rights of indigenous people, she stressed that Governments must include them in every decision-making process.

The representative of the local authorities major group pointed out that local governments provide many of the services on which people rely and constitute the midpoint between the individual and the nation.  Local governments are showing leadership on sustainability by finding innovative solutions that allow local communities to meet national commitments.  Stressing that decisions taken by local authorities over the next few years will shape the future for decades, he said that this international meeting represents an opportunity to set out a vision for the future characterized by integrated solutions in which subnational authorities enable a healthy planet.  This will be accomplished through plans for the efficient use of resources, the phasing-out of fossil fuels and the transition to circular economies in which water and waste loops are closed.  He added that, despite the potential of inclusive multilateral action, “think global, act local is still the best four-word plan we have”.

The representative of the science and technology major group said that, as reflected in scientific assessments, there is knowledge to cope with the common threat to the planet.  However, “we need a new watershed moment” to close the implementation gap and spur action.  Science can facilitate shifts to redefine the relationship between humans and nature and to spur greater investment in a sustainable future.  But, current commitments must be met first.

Two youth delegates from Peru and New Zealand, making a combined statement on behalf of the children and youth major group, asked the international community to recognize the inequities that prevented fellow youth delegates from the global South from attending the meeting.  Stressing the importance of inclusive processes that ensure that all youth’s voices can be heard, they drew attention to a global youth policy paper, that incorporates inputs from young people around the world.  Member States must produce concrete commitments to take action to protect all ecosystems by halting environmentally destructive processes, they said, also stressing that ecocide must be considered a crime.  Underscoring the importance of transitioning to regenerative agriculture that protects biodiversity and supports smallholder farmers, they also called for a legally binding fossil fuel non‑proliferation treaty.  Stockholm+50 must become a turning point for a better future, they said, adding that the time for environmental justice is now.

The representative of the business and industry major group, noting estimates that $1.8 trillion is spent globally on subsidies that destroy nature, called for fossil-fuel subsidies to be reformed by 2025 as part of an ambitious global biodiversity framework.  He also stressed the need to secure the universal human right to a healthy, clean and sustainable environment in the General Assembly in June, so that the legal aspect of sustainable development can be strengthened.  He went on to say that a global baseline for corporate sustainability reports will provide transparent, comparable and consistent information for capital markets, calling on financial regulators in all geographies to align with the International Sustainability Standards Board’s baseline across environmental, social and governance factors.

The representative of the major group consortium said that the 1972 Stockholm Conference was the first intergovernmental environmental meeting that allowed the participation of civil society.  The Consortium has published a report with 20 pages of recommendations related to environmental narratives structured around seven themes, including multilateralism, human rights, education and governance.  He asked that the report be added to the outcome of Stockholm+50.

The representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources stressed the importance of “collaboration, adaptation and innovation” in the battle to tackle the climate crisis.  Great strides were made in the last 50 years, she said, pointing to the recovery of the ozone layer and the increasing recognition of the close links between human life, prosperity and the environment.  Calling for courageous and bold action to change consumption patterns, she noted that Governments spent immense amounts of money to subsidize fossil fuels which should be redirected to nature-based solutions.  The international community has the technological expertise to make this happen, she said, stressing that the need for greater political will.

Closing Segment

ANNIKA STRANDHALL, Minister for Climate and the Environment of Sweden and KERIAKO TOBIKO, Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Kenya, Co-Chairs of Stockholm+50, presented 10 key recommendations that emerged through discussions in the plenary meetings and Leadership Dialogues.  They are:  place human well-being at the centre of a healthy planet and prosperity for all; recognize and implement the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment; adopt system-wide change in the way the current economic system works to contribute to a healthy planet; strengthen national implementation of existing commitments for a healthy planet; align public and private financial flows with environmental, climate and sustainable development commitments; accelerate system‑wide transformations of high‑impact sectors, such as food, energy, water, buildings and construction, manufacturing, and mobility; rebuild relationships of trust for strengthened cooperation and solidarity; reinforce and reinvigorate the multilateral system; recognize intergenerational responsibility as a cornerstone of sound policy-making; and take forward the Stockholm+50 outcomes.

INGER ANDERSEN, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, who also serves as the Secretary-General of Stockholm+50, stressed that much ground has been covered over the past two days and now it’s time for action.  She outlined several actions that cannot wait.  It is necessary to ensure the human right to a healthy environment, as too many environmental rights defenders have been killed.  Reshaping the economy is also key, she said, stressing the need for circularity and nature-based solutions.  Decarbonization cannot wait, nor can making good on financing commitments or realigning financial flows.  There are more than 1 billion young people in the world, and their voices must be heard.  A sick environment cannot deliver for young people.  “If we don’t change, the triple plenary crisis […] will only accelerate,” she said.  The triple crisis will only make the world less equitable.  The 1972 Stockholm Conference spurred the creation of UNEP and started environmental multilateralism.  What can be created in the wake of this 2022 conference, she asked, adding:  “It’s in our hands, let’s get it done.”

Mr. TOBIKO then highlighted the richness of the debate and the variety of voices that spoke during the last two days, stressing the importance of accelerating system-wide action to build back better and greener.  Underscoring the importance of building bridges, he added that the conference was a gathering of open minds.  Noting also the intensive preparatory process, he said that accelerating a holistic process of change is the only alternative.  This is our only chance to build a future for the coming generations, he said, reaffirming trust in the multilateral processes.  Stressing the importance of inclusion, especially of youth, women, indigenous people and other stakeholders.

Ms. STRANDHALL, noting that it is vital to rethink how economic growth is measured, called on the international community to accelerate efforts to implement the politically recognized right to a clean and healthy environment.  No one can attain the Sustainable Development Goals alone, she said, adding that trust and solidarity are essential for continuing this process.  National implementation is key to success, she stressed, also underscoring the role of the important international agreements on biodiversity and plastics, as well as the climate commitments.  “We now have a blueprint,” she said, for building a healthy planet for all.

For information media. Not an official record.