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Chemicals, air top of UN environment agenda

The first UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) has called for the full integration of the environment into the UN’s post 2015 sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Following the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012, countries decided to extend membership of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to all countries, therefore leading to the creation of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA). This new assembly will meet every two years and has a mandate to take strategic decisions and provide political guidance to UNEP.

At the first Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya from 23 to 27 June, government representatives decided to set up a new programme to build institutional capacity in developing countries to implement conventions on hazardous waste, hazardous chemicals, persistent organic pollutants and mercury. Countries that are party to these conventions will be asked to contribute funding on a voluntary basis, as will industry and charitable foundations.

Another resolution from the Assembly asked governments to take action to cut pollution, including through action plans and implementation of air quality standards. They should also step up efforts on marine litter, as agree at Rio +20.

The head of UNEP, Achim Steiner, said the 16 resolutions adopted in Nairobi will “help shape the global environmental agenda into the future” and encourage collaborative action on the priority issues covered.

Developing countries called for more funding and technological support for sustainable development, while the G-77 group of developing countries emphasised the importance of the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’. The question of how to apply the sustainable development goals to different countries is contentious. A finalised proposal on these goals is expected in the autumn.

Originally posted on 24 July 2014

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