The Biggest Agenda, The Mega Assembly: What Transpired Unnoticeably from UNEA 6 in Nairobi?


Image courtesy of: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

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It may sound like small talk out of the hard talk from the mega assembly that happened recently in Nairobi, Kenya, at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Headquarters. From the outside view, it seems like there is not much buzzing about this event, but an essential event of the highest profile went unceremoniously, perhaps for some people.

The question is whether it was successful or not. The jury is still out, but each of us, the tenants of the planet Earth, stands an excellent chance to judge this critical event that ended recently. As far as it’s known, it’s an apex event that holds the most importance for the future, or rather, ‘ a better tomorrow’. If we let it go unnoticed, our fates are in suspense. Let’s dive deeper and extract insights from this monumental assembly recently concluded in Nairobi, Kenya.

Humans, nature, and the lives of vulnerable populations worldwide were under the spotlight between 26 February and 1 March 2024 at Nairobi UNEP headquarters. As the top and the biggest UN body for decision-making, it was backed by science, politics, and society, where delegates from government, scientific communities, civil societies, and private sectors gathered to ponder environmental policy on the global stage.

It chatted out the avenues to bring into practical discussions and innovative decisions to drive agendas that will help the world achieve a meaningful stand. It was the UNEA 6th assembly and was attended by 5000 delegates from 193 UN state members who discussed the planetary crisis, multilateralism, and sustainability packages; there were several side events, plenaries, higher-official dialogues and meetings, and countries’ statements, amongst other things.

The 2024 Global Resource Outlook, developed by the International Resource Panel with authors from around the globe, was tabled during this session of the UNEA. The report highlighted that massive resource utilization and extraction demand from increased infrastructure development is projected to hinder efforts for biodiversity conservation, climate, pollution, and economic prosperity.

This alarming trend is projected to become very critical by 2060 if not checked, which is so sad for our planet and the efforts vested so far. Worse enough is the fact that ‘Rich countries use six times more resources and generate 10 times the climate impacts than low-income ones, ‘ stated the report. This is a pathetic, unequal, and unfair condition, and the world is yet to stop there in the foreseeable future.

The report further finds pitfalls as the move to stop fossil fuels is gaining momentum, opposing the last agreement, which intended to stop. In the projected trend, emissions and pollution result from excessive extraction related to health and disease impacts. The demand is increasing, counterbalancing the vested efforts to combat GHG emissions and rampant eruptions of diseases globally.

Read related: Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions are at an all time High, What does this mean for Africa?

Regardless of its potential, agriculture is also an issue, as its share of greenhouse emissions spikes globally. It contributes 90% to global land degradation and water stresses, leaving the extractive industry alone. The question of whether we should ditch agriculture completely to save our environment and prevent hunger is at the centre of our judgments. Which one should continue in existence, agricultural or human? Maybe it remains a food for thought!

Unforgettable was the role of youth in the environment. This group took over the podiums to air their voices as an essential population segment. It has consistently been underestimated, but this was the high time to challenge the status of the youth. The youth were integrated, and the balance between regions adjusted towards a fair representation in this important assembly.

The celebration of multilateralism was showcased, with a package of decades-long agreements unveiled. Tonnes of international accords, agreements, and treaties were discussed and highlighted how far they have brought the environmental agenda so far. The differences between these three terms remain a talk of another day. As the interface between science and policy, these were celebrated and termed ‘family reunions.

The UNEA gathering was a socially enticing event that reflected how far the world has come since the era of ozone depletion and the like. Indeed, these agreements, accords, and treaties have so far taken their toll, and more revivals are called upon.

Nations adopted several resolutions to focus more on it, and about 15 were highlighted. The critical rear minerals, the game changers in producing electric vehicles (e-vehicles) batteries, wind turbines, solar panels and the like, were spotlighted. There was a call for sustainable mining as the demand is growing while supplies are dwindling, irrespective of climate change impacts and the need to reduce emissions. Other issues emphasized under the resolutions by nations were dealing with pollution, water resources, land degradation and combating desertification.

Also, read Is the Body of Christ Africa’s Climate Ally or should we cry Climate Hypocrisy?

The discussions about the triple planetary crisis and many other debates concluded that the world is running short of time. Much has been said, and knowledge accumulation has occurred for several decades. What is needed now is putting into action as time is no longer in our favour. Both delegates anonymously agreed on the need to make immediate and meaningful progress in this process. The delays will do nothing to preserve rather than prevent these decisive actions that are urgently needed.

It’s arguably that the combined efforts, either for good or bad, have reached us this far. The climax is not later than what we are now seeing; therefore, the decisions we are making now are in real time. Altogether, it should happen in real time, as should our consciousness and actions per the agreements from UNEA 6.

The breakdowns of implementing strategies should begin in the respective territories and let the groundwork continue. When UNEA meets to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental laws, this is a call to stand firm as our actions are our fates.

Dr. Emanueli Ndossi, a seasoned EIA and EA Expert, directs J & Enviroconsult (T) Ltd, with over a decade of experience. His expertise covers Project Management, Monitoring, and Evaluation (M&E) for comprehensive environmental assessments. Dr. Ndossi, with impactful roles in WCST, TFCG, and the University of Queensland, has shaped conservation efforts work spans diverse sectors, contributing to sustainable practices in tourism and conservation. Dr. Ndossi holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from the University of Göttingen and an M.Sc. in Environmental Management from the University of Queensland. His active engagement in organizations like ISIE, Carbon Lab, Soil Science Society of Germany, WCST, and FCC showcases his significant contributions to the environmental field.

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