For the first time, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) convenes world leaders in a virtual format to seek action and solutions for a world in crisis. All events are taking place mostly virtually, broadcast live and on-demand on UN Web TV.
In parallel to the Assembly, environment-related events are scheduled, providing an opportunity for leaders to discuss environmental issues.
UN 75: The Future We Want, the UN We Need
The UN marked its 75th anniversary (UN 75) with a one-day high-level meeting at the opening of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 75), on 21 September, under the theme, “The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism”.
High-level Roundtable on Climate Action
The High-level Roundtable on Climate Action convened by the UN Secretary-General on 24 September, showcased high-impact solutions by governments and real economy leaders, in line with the Secretary-General’s six climate-positive actions to recover better together. The event highlighted the vast social and economic benefits of a sustainable recovery and of action to limit global warming to 1.5°C by achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and ensure that people and planet are fully protected from climate change impacts. This Roundtable also jump-started an ambition arc that will take us to the Fifth Anniversary of the Paris Agreement on 12 December, when governments are expected to present ambitious and quality climate plans (the Nationally Determined Contributions – NDCs – and Long-Term Strategies), all the way to COP26 in November 2021.
With the COVID-19 pandemic having disrupted plans to hold the annual international UN climate meeting (UNFCCC COP26) this year, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom have announced that they will instead co-host a “landmark global event” on 12 December, the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.
- Setting out a vision for a Decade of Action and recovering better from COVID-19
- Providing a snapshot on SDG progress
- Highlighting plans and actions to tackle major implementation gaps
- Demonstrating the power and impact of action and innovation by SDG stakeholders
UN Summit on Biodiversity
The United Nations Summit on Biodiversity will be convened by the President of the General Assembly on 30 September 2020, at the level of Heads of State and Government under the theme of “Urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development.”, in accordance with resolution A/RES/73/234, adopted in 2018.
Research shows that biodiversity is declining globally at unprecedented rates in human history. For instance, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published in 2019 a Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services stressing that “1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, 75% of the land surface is significantly altered, 66% of the ocean area is experiencing increasing cumulative impacts, and over 85% of wetlands (area) has been lost.” The recent WWF Living Planet Report 2020, issued on 10 September 2020, underlines that “the population sizes of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles have seen an alarming average drop of 68% since 1970.” Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the relationship between people and nature, calling for urgent action on biodiversity conservation. The Global Biodiversity Outlook 5 (GBO-5), released on 15 September 2020 by Convention on Biological Diversity, stresses that we have not met the Aichi Biodiversity Targets to halt biodiversity loss and protect ecosystems. However, we can still act and change course through the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.
The Summit will give momentum to the development and the eventual adoption of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15), scheduled in 2021. The post-2020 biodiversity framework will define the targets, the means and the mechanisms to assess the progress, in order to accelerate action on biodiversity for sustainable development.
The Summit on Biodiversity will consist of an opening segment, a plenary segment for general discussion aiming to highlight the connections between biodiversity, societies and economies, two leaders’ dialogues, and a closing segment. The first leaders’ dialogue will be on biodiversity loss and mainstreaming biodiversity for sustainable development and the second on harnessing science, technology and innovation, capacity-building, access and benefit sharing, financing and partnerships for biodiversity.
Ahead of the Summit, UNEP and adidas Runtastic are teaming up with Internet of Elephants and other conservation organizations to challenge runners to outrun iconic endangered individual wild animals in a bid to rally support for biodiversity protection worldwide. The Run Wild Challenge is open between 25 September and 4 October, providing citizens with a platform to call for conservation action around the Summit – with an ambitious goal to engage 1 million runners, symbolizing 1 million species threatened by extinction.
Organizations around the world have made various calls to urge action for nature from Heads of State and Government, ahead of the Biodiversity Summit:
- Business for Nature’s Call to Action: 560 companies are calling on governments to take actions to reverse nature loss by 2030.
- Development and humanitarian civil society’s Call to Action: international, national and regional organizations are asking Heads of State to make ambitious decisions to halt biodiversity loss.
- Youth #ForNature Initiative: youth organizations have created a manifesto and an open letter calling for action to achieve the vision “living in harmony with nature”. The open letter will be presented to the UN Secretary-General at the UN General Assembly Biodiversity Summit.
- Post-2020 Pavilion Partnership’s Call to Action: environment and development organizations will submit a call to the UN General Assembly Summit on Biodiversity, aiming to “unite global actions under all Multilateral Environmental Agreements and related policy processes to achieve an equitable, carbon-neutral, nature-positive world”.
- Edinburgh declaration: sub-national governments, cities and local authorities are calling governments to support the implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
- Leaders’ Pledge for Nature: political leaders participating in the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity, representing 64 countries from all regions, have committed to reversing biodiversity loss by 2030 and encourage others to match their collective ambition.
Nature for Life
The virtual event, Nature for Life, organized by UNEP, UNDP and CBD, taking place ahead of the Summit on Biodiversity, proposes multiple sessions to discuss how to halt biodiversity loss. This four-day conference take audiences on various thematic journeys, delving deep into specialist topics, practical solutions and ambitious actions.
- SDG Day: “Recognizing the value of nature in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.” | 24 September
- Business and Finance Day: “Greening our wallets in development, finance and business.” | 25 September
- Global Ambition Day: “Creating a planetary response to our planetary emergency.” | 28 September
- Local Action Day: “Celebrating the power of local action on nature for development.” | 29 September
All the sessions are broadcasted live.
Climate Week NYC 2020
The Climate Week NYC 2020, hosted by the Climate Group, in association with the United Nations and the City of New York, took place virtually from 21 to 27 September. It represente an opportunity to showcase climate action and discuss how to achieve the transition towards a zero-emissions world, by regrouping business and government leaders. Various organization from international Geneva were engaged in the Summit. The program focused on 10 thematic areas:
- Clean Energy Transition
- Transport and Infrastructure
- Industry and Built Environment
- Finance, Investment and Jobs
- Food and Land Use
- Nature and Science
- US and International Policy
- Youth, Public Mobilization and Justice
- Sustainable Travel and Tourism
- Climate Impacts and Adaptation
In the occasion, the Climate Group launched, an application to guide people through the 350+ events taking place as part of Climate Week NYC around the world.
Uniting Business LIVE
To mark the opening of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, the United Nations Global Compact organized the virtual event “Uniting Business LIVE”, from 21 to 23 September. It convened leaders from business, Government and civil society to discuss on the key pillars and priorities of the UN to strengthen peace and security, human rights and development, and to encourage businesses to support the work of the UN to build a more equitable, inclusive and sustainable world. Various organizations from international Geneva took part in the debate.
Global Goals Week
The Global Goals Week, held from 18 to 26 September, are a shared commitment between 100+ partners across civil society, business, academia, and the UN system to accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially during the UN General Assembly High-level Week.
Actions for achieving the SDGs have been shared on Facebook and Instagram with the “Global Goals Wheel” effect, developed by the UN.
Sustainable Development Impact Summit
The fourth Sustainable Development Impact Summit aimed to initiate, accelerate, and scale-up entrepreneurial solutions to tackle climate change and advance sustainable development. It took place in the context of the UNGA, from 21 to 24 September 2020, the Summit was organized by the World Economic Forum and convened leaders from government, business, international organizations and civil society along with a diverse group of experts and innovators.
SDG Action Zone
The SDG Action Zone took place, in the context of the United Nations General Assembly, from 22 to 24 September. It convened leading thinkers, actors, creators, and activists to discuss on how to drive exponential change to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through debates, conversations, showcases and creative experiences. It provided a space for open, transparent, and inclusive multi-stakeholder engagement and global audience participation during the UN General Assembly’s high-level week.
SDG Media Zone
Since 2016, the SDG Media Zone has been one of the main features of the UN General Assembly high-level week, bringing together various actors to highlight actions and solutions in support of the SDGs. UNGA75 marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations as well as five years since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. In the occasion, the SDG Media Zone, organized by the UN Department of Global Communications, focuses on the power of science, solutions and solidarity to build back better through interviews, panel discussions and talks, from 17 to 29 September 2020.
New UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Coral Reefs
A new, first of its kind fund to protect coral reefs was officially launched on the sidelines of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly, with a coalition of partners convening to mobilise resources to make coral reefs more resilient. The Global Fund for Coral Reefs seeks to raise and invest USD $500 million in coral reef conservation over the next 10 years.
High-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
A High-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, held in accordance with General Assembly resolution 74/54 and decision 74/562 (A/74/L.75) will take place on 2 October 2020.
First anniversary of the Principles for Responsible Banking
On 22 September 2020, UNEP celebrated the first anniversary of the Principles for Responsible Banking, launched in 2019 at UNGA74.
- UNEP at 75th session of the UN General Assembly
- UN and UK announce new climate summit to step up action on global warming | Pip Cook | Geneva Solutions | 25 September 2020
- China pledges to become carbon neutral before 2060 | Fiona Harvey | The Guardian | 22 September 2020
- New York climate week: what happens and why it’s important | Bruno Jochum | Geneva Solutions | 21 September 2020
- Special broadcast | “Nations United: Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times” | United Nations | 19 September 2020
- UN General Assembly – look back at some environmental highlights | UNEP | 27 September 2019