Commissioner Sinkevicius’ Opening statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States at the Resumed session of the 5th United Nations Environment Assembly

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Mr President, Madame Executive Director, Excellencies, Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my privilege to deliver this statement on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

Montenegro and Ukraine align themselves with this statement.

I would like to start by thanking the President and the Bureau of UNEA, the Committee of Permanent Representatives, the CPR Chair and the Bureau and the Executive Director and the Secretariat of UNEP, for their unwavering commitment and efforts to deliver an ambitious and meaningful UNEA-5.2. It is thanks to your tireless work that this 5th session of United Nations Environment Assembly is resuming today.

It is however a celebration saddened by the act of aggression by the Russian Federation against a neighbouring country, which has led to a war breaking out in Europe. In these dark hours, our thoughts are with Ukraine and the innocent women, men and children that are victims of this attack.

The EU and its Member States condemn Russia’s continued aggressive actions and threats against Ukraine, and calls on Russia to de-escalate, to abide by international law and to engage constructively in dialogue through the established international mechanisms

The EU and its Member States reiterate their demand that Russia immediately ceases military actions, unconditionally withdraws all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine and fully respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence.

We are also highly concerned about the harmful impact that this military aggression, against Ukraine and its people, will have on the environment. The ecological consequences of this invasion will most likely threaten human lives and health with immediate and long-term effects.

When we gathered one year ago, in an on-line format because of COVID-19, we were acutely aware of the rapid aggravation of the environmental crisis. A triple crisis that is characterized by climate change, the loss of biodiversity and pollution. A crisis which, in the words of a UNEP report published at that time, “put the well-being of current and future generations at unacceptable risk.”

One year later, we are far from overcoming the pandemic. Its tremendous consequences continue to affect our societies. And at the same time, our planet continues to deteriorate. Our unsustainable relationship with Nature is pushing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals out of reach.

We need to act now and make up for lost time. We need to make UNEA 5.2 a springboard for ambitious, coordinated action. Action to tackle that triple crisis – for climate, biodiversity, pollution.

Addressing plastic pollution is very high on our agenda.

Plastic pollution is a global concern, which no nation can solve on its own. The preparatory efforts of many years, under the UNEA umbrella, are entering the final phase, and the  UN member States are converging in support of a new global agreement to combat plastic pollution.

We have the responsibility to seize the opportunity to make a breakthrough in the fight against plastic pollution, and to formally launch negotiations on a legally binding Global Agreement on Plastics.

The Glasgow climate COP offers solid grounds for hope. It revealed a new appetite for systemic thinking, and a clearer understanding of the role of nature. With a theme, which exactly picks up on that and focuses on strengthening actions for nature, UNEA-5.2 has shown itself to be the suitable forum to discuss aspects that are central to advance the international environmental agenda. In this regard, the resolution on nature-based solutions is the perfect example of a concrete step towards bringing together actions for climate and biodiversity.

As the overarching leading environmental authority, UNEA is the right place and time to finally agree on a multilaterally agreed definition of nature-based solutions. Such an agreement would be a milestone not only for UNEA-5.2, but also far beyond. It will be a crucial step to end the misuse of these actions, which have tremendous potential for climate and biodiversity action, if rightfully implemented.

Let me highlight the great leaps forward we have made over the last week in the negotiation of the resolution and, on this note, thank all delegations for their very constructive spirit. This has truly been, especially in such trying times, a great example of multilateral cooperation.

I trust that this milestone resolution will be adopted on Wednesday.

Lastly, on behalf of the EU, a word of support for a stronger Science-Policy Interface at UNEA 5.2.

We look forward to a new Science-Policy Panel to address chemicals, waste and pollution, that should be established without delay and agreeing a renewed, fit-for-purpose Global Environmental Outlook.

That panel will fill an important gap, supplying a level of support equivalent to the IPCC, IP-BES and the IRP. It will give us the knowledge we need to fully address the pollution agenda and the sound management of chemicals and waste.

Distinguished colleagues, I wish us all a fruitful meeting of the Assembly.

I look forward to the adoption of important decisions, with long-term effects, helping us get climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution under control.

Thank you

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