India set to push major resolutions in UN environment assembly

The fourth session of United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) will take place from March 11-15 in Nairobi, Kenya. It is the highest-level environmental decision-making forum where several heads of states, environment ministers, CEOs, and activists deliberate on the issues plaguing the global environmental sustainability.

India, over the years, has been an active participant in the global environmental negotiations and decision-making. This year too, it is reported that India will be leading two global resolutions at the assembly: one on nitrogen pollution and the other on the use of plastics. It will be a historic event as India has not pushed for such important resolutions at the UN in recent times.

India is the third region to have assessed the environmental implications of nitrogen pollution after the United States and the European Union. In 2017, India completed this assessment under the leadership of N Raghuram, who is the current chairman of the International Nitrogen Initiative (INI). Agriculture has been the main source of nitrogen pollution as cereals like rice and wheat use only one-third of the nitrogen applied through fertilizers discharging the rest into the surrounding environment.

Ahead of the ‘UN decade on ecosystem restoration 2021-30’, the primary focus of the assembly would be to scale up the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems. The theme for the upcoming assembly is ‘Innovative Solutions to Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production’. As the assembly aims to alter our growth trajectory towards a sustainable future, the priorities are set: partnerships, policy integration, and people.

“As never before, the time to act is now. We know we can build more sustainable, prosperous and inclusive societies with sustainable consumption and production patterns that address our environmental challenges and leave no one behind. But we will need to create the enabling conditions for this to happen. And we will need to do things differently”, says Siim Kiisler in his statement as the President of the UNEA.

The UN Environment’s report on the backdrop of the UNEA highlights five major issues of emerging global concern: synthetic biology, permafrost peatlands, ecological connectivity, the nitrogen fix, and maladaptation to climate change. These issues, if not addressed urgently, can accelerate climate change and compromise ecosystem resilience—having detrimental impacts on our economy.

The UN Environment Acting Executive Director Joyce Msuya said that the world at present is facing grave environmental crisis and the time is running out. Before things start slipping out of control all of us need to act in unison to prevent the catastrophic environmental changes. In her statement, Msuya has highlighted how we are changing the world around us and why it is important to reverse or stop our impacts now, more than ever before. She says that this is only possible with active and full co-operation of the member nations.

The UN Environment Assembly meets biennially to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law. Even though UNEA was created only in 2012, it is often considered as a culmination of decades of international push for strong and coherent global environmental governance that began way back in 1972 at the Stockholm conference on Human Environment.

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