The UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), the highest level policy making forum on environment in the UN system, opened its 3rd session under the auspices of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP or UN Environment) on December 4 in Nairobi, Kenya. Environment Ministers from over 60 countries and delegates from all UN member states are gathered to refocus UN system environmental policy towards combatting pollution and its impacts.
The overall theme of this session is, “Towards a Pollution Free Planet,” and governments are considering decisions to limit plastic debris in oceans, increase cooperation on air pollution and more closely link environment and health policies, with an emphasis on the “precautionary principle.” Responding to numerous statements welcoming business involvement at UNEA3 and encouraging greater involvement by business at future UNEA meetings by UN officials and government representatives, USCIB Vice President for Strategic International Engagement, Energy and Environment Norine Kennedy stated, “U.S. business is attending this meeting to keep the focus on infrastructure, alignment with SDGs and enabling frameworks for private sector innovation and investment, and is keen to keep this fruitful dialogue and partnership going.”
USCIB and its members have led the U.S business presence at this session, working closely with the American Chemistry Council, American Plastics Council and Croplife, among others. USCIB took part in the first ever Science-Policy-Business Forum, and organized for the first time a Global Business Symposium at UNEA with the Global Business Alliance for Environment. The President of the UN General Assembly, Miroslav Lascak welcomed the business initiative, stating that “Businesses are critical to achieving sustainable development.”
In his presentation at the Business Symposium, Erick Omollo Juma, Novozymes, drew attention to how his accompany is pursuing opportunities to link cooperative implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and environmental protection through business action.
Commenting on the examples of business initiatives to reduce risks from pollution during the Business Symposium, Walker Smith, director of global affairs and policy, U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA), recognized efforts by USCIB members, including the Walt Disney Company, the Coca-Cola Company, Dow Chemical, IBM and Procter & Gamble, to reduce food and plastic waste, and eliminate lead in paint. USCIB has worked closely with the U.S, Department of State, EPA and NOAA representatives attending these meetings to reflect U.S. business views and achievements.
As part of her statement on behalf of the Business and Industry Major Group at the UNEA3 Opening Plenary Kennedy stated, “We need tailored specific responses to each source of pollution, reflecting economic and social circumstances. Business emphasizes the importance of building national capacity and infrastructure to address pollution through sound regulation and management, stimulating innovation and seeking pragmatic policy options and partnerships.”
On partnerships, Kennedy noted, “Business in its diversity is a critical part of solutions and investment, and is ready to work with governments and other stakeholders to act on UNEA outcomes to reduce pollution and associated risks – let’s identify practical solutions and policies and get to work.”
USCIB will present and discuss outcomes and next steps from UNEA3 at its next Environment Committee meeting on December 15 in Washington DC.