2020 in Review

The past nine months have seen an unprecedented disruption in the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It impacted nearly every aspect of the global environmental agenda. In these challenging times, we would like to thank Switzerland, the United Nations Environment Programme, our partners and stakeholders for the continued support, collaboration and for continuing to make Geneva a global hub for international environmental governance. Congratulations and thank you!

In 2020, the Geneva Environment Network organized 50 multi-stakeholder briefings and outreach events, mostly online, in addition to eight student information sessions with universities from Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.

Click here for the list and summaries of our events.

Selection of Quotes for 2020

Geneva is an international hub for environmental governance, in support to the Nairobi hub where UNEP is located. This is a central place to reinforce the synergies among the hubs. Indeed, a lot of international organizations, permanent missions, NGOs, platforms and academic institutions that are contributing to the global environmental agenda are based in Geneva.
– Bruno Pozzi, Director of Europe Office, UNEP (Speaking at The Environmental Agenda of International Geneva, on 1 September 2020.)

Biodiversity is the basis of all our life, but trends in biodiversity are not encouraging. We are experiencing an unprecedented wave of natural destruction. Today, we have to act together to do our part to address the current challenges, we have to reassess our relationship with nature and create the right economic incentives.
– H.E. Franz Perrez, Ambassador for the Environment, Switzerland (Speaking at “It’s Time for Nature” | GENeva World Environment Day Online Roundtable, on 5 June 2020)

It is a most important time to speak about nature-based solutions. Nature is a fundamental solution to multiple planetary crises: climate, biodiversity, development, social and economic recovery. Nature delivers multiple benefits such as jobs and livelihood. It also addresses poverty, a key element of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and helps prevent the emergence of new diseases. Nature-based solutions are ready to be scaled up – nature can be on our side to fight.
– Mario Boccucci, Head, UN REDD Programme Secretariat (Speaking at GENeva Environment Dialogues | The Nature-based Solutions Agenda on 4 June 2020.)

In 2021, we need to protect more, at least 30% should be protected land and sea, but then we have to manage sustainably the rest.
– Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International (Speaking at “It’s Time for Nature” | GENeva World Environment Day Online Roundtable, on 5 June 2020)

Nature is our ally in building back better. Nature-based solutions could provide a reduction of a third of the greenhouse gases and are much more than climate change: Mangroves help reduce flooding and nature-based solutions create jobs.
– Stewart Maginnis, Global Director, Nature-based Solutions Group, IUCN (Speaking at GENeva Environment Dialogues | The Nature-based Solutions Agenda on 4 June 2020.)

It is a time of unprecedented opportunity to build back better, learn what is inherently flawed about our relationship with nature. Epidemiologists have been warning of a pandemic outbreak risk for decades. Drivers of pandemics are not new – not even for coronaviruses – and zoonotic disease emerged largely as a result of human activity. Biodiversity destruction (through deforestation, uncontrolled urbanization, agricultural intensification, landscape and seascape homogenization) increased the probability for domesticated animals to enter in contact with wildlife and generate a spill over.
– Cristina Romanelli, Interagency Liaison on Biodiversity, Climate Change and Health, WHO (Speaking at GENeva Environment Dialogues | Emerging Infectious Diseases and Ecosystems Health, on 3 June 2020.)

As countries exit their lockdowns, we hope to see investment and prioritization of a green economy, circular economy.
– Elisabeth Mrema, Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity (Speaking at GENeva Environment Dialogues | UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP15), on 26 May 2020.)

There are many similarities between COVID-19 and climate change, but both give us opportunities – focus on the recovery, which opens unprecedented opportunities and hope such as recovery in a sustainable, green, healthy and safe manner. The SDGs are the best framework the world has at its disposal.
– Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary, UNFCCC (Speaking at GENeva Environment Dialogues | UNFCCC COP26, on 14 May 2020)

COVID-19 is triggering new questions for us as a society and for the scientific community such as the relation between human health, biodiversity and climate. To keep these risks at the lowest level we need to limit temperature increases to below 1.5°. If we continue on current trends, we are headed towards +4° of increase, which would affect more than 20% of all species, especially in the tropics. Increased exposure to and exploitation of wildlife, which increases the likelihood of diseases jumping species.
– Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-chair, Working Group II, IPCC (Speaking at GENeva Environment Dialogues | The Impact of COVID-19 on Climate Science, on 2 July 2020)

Looking at the figures of plastic use, there is a doubt that the current regime is enough, more has to be done. A robust system has to address the entire lifecycle. We have to shift from this past idea that the main concern and task is to manage the waste. We have to come to a circular economy that thinks about the reduction of use, improve designs of substitutes and so on. We have to do some further work on how can we address the lifecycle, what is a robust regime to address it? What are the voluntary measures that we can take? What are the more legally binding measures that we can take, what are the base steps?
– Felix Wertli, Head of the Global Affairs Section, Switzerland (Speaking at Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues | Plastics and Waste, on 26 November 2020.)

Greenhouse gases are emitted at each stage of the plastic lifecycle and plastic pollution is a significant and growing threat to the earth’s climate. Stopping the expansion of petrochemical and plastic production and keeping fossil fuels in the ground is a critical element in addressing the climate crisis.
– Steven Feit, Senior Attorney for the Climate and Energy Program, CIEL (Speaking at Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues | Plastics, Climate and Air Pollution, on 10 December 2020.)

If we don’t manage wastes efficiently and safely, health consequences will follow.
– Rolph Payet, Executive Director, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions Secretariat

The Water Convention helps countries jointly address issues related to transboundary water cooperation, such as preventing transboundary impacts, preventing pollution, adapting to climate change, responding to water related disasters, and managing water in integrated ways.
– Sonja Koeppel, Secretary to the Water Convention, UNECE (Speaking at GENeva Environment Dialogues | The Water Convention and Transboundary Water Cooperation, on 26 May 2020)

The Minamata Convention can be seen as a solution to build back better, especially for the most vulnerable communities such as millions working in small-scale artisanal gold mining (ASGM) and still using mercury in their practices, indigenous people and communities relying on marine food, and pregnant women and children who are at particular risk to be exposed to toxic mercury.
– Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary, Minamata Convention Secretariat (Speaking at the Special Briefing on the 4th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury | Minamata Online, on 3 November 2020.)

There is a need for international science-based assessment of plastics and chemicals. The assessment should cease cross cutting issues and should increase the visibility of the urgency for action, in a timely way. At the same time, scientific assessment should not delay implementation because we already have robust science on hazardous substances and waste and action is needed now.
– Marcos A. Orellana, UN Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes (Speaking at Chemicals and Waste | From Science to Policy, Global Issues of Concern, Challenges and Opportunities | GENeva UNEA Briefing, on 20 October 2020)

Evidence-based studies show that regulated trade of a specie has an impact on conservation – incentive on preserving the species, since those whose livelihood depends on the trade of that species will want to preserve it to keep the trade possible.
– Ivonne Higuero, Secretary-General, CITES (Speaking at GENeva Environment Dialogues | CITES and its Upcoming Committee Meetings on 5 May 2020)

The recognition of the right to a healthy environment has been constitutionally guaranteed by 110 UN member states, while 101 states guaranteed it through environmental legislation and 125 states signed and ratified a regional human rights agreement mentioning this right – over 80% of UN member states already have a legal obligation to respect and protect this right.
– David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment
(Speaking at HRC43 Side Event | Good practices on the Right to a Healthy Environment & next steps, on 28 February 2020.)

The ILO works with countries on developing skills strategies at the sector level and implementing skill development. They work on green sectors such as renewable energy to help countries to identify which skills will be needed to develop them. The ILO achieves this by mainstreaming the green elements into the tools that they implement in countries.
– Olga Strietska-Ilina, Senior Specialist, Skills and Employability, SKILLS, ILO (Speaking at Launch | ILO Environmental Sustainability Action Plans 2018-21, on 29 October 2020.)

There is a need to hard code environmental goals and norms into the operating system of the digital economy; to use digital technologies to nudge, incentivize, amplify and accelerate sustainable consumption and production; and to collaboratively solve four major problems that will unlock structural transformations in global value-chains.
– David Jensen, Head, Policy and Innovation, UNEP Environment Crisis Management Branch, The Digital Cooperation Agenda (Speaking at The Environmental Agenda of International Geneva, on 1 September 2020.)

COVID-19 can present us with an opportunity: we have a one in a generation chance to build back better. Decisions we take today, in the recovery phase, will either lay the foundations for sound, sustainable and inclusive growth or lock down polluting emissions for decades to come. A recovery that is science-led and that has the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at its heart.
– H.E. Amb. Miriam Shearman, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom to the United Nations in Geneva (Speaking at the GENeva Environment Dialogues on the Impact of COVID-19 on Climate Science, on 2 July 2020.)

2019 in Review

As 2019 comes to a close, we thank you for your support and collaboration and look forward to another exciting year!

Thousands of colleagues working for international organizations, forums, federations, academic institutions, business, non-governmental and governmental organizations contributed again this year to making Geneva a global hub for environmental governance. Congratulations to all your hard work and engagement!

In 2019, the Geneva Environment Network organized 44 multi-stakeholder briefings and outreach events, in addition to 31 student information sessions with universities and secondary schools from Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.

Click here for the list and summaries of events organized by the Geneva Environment Network in 2019.

Our selection of quotes for the year

“Nature is sending us invoices, nature is telling us that unless we take care of it, it will send us invoices in the form of droughts, in the form of fires, in the form of inundations. So nature is telling us that unless we take action, it will become more and more expensive.”  “We take care of nature. Because when we take care of nature, nature takes care of us.”
Inger Andersen, UN Environment Programme Executive Director, at the Pechakucha Night for 20 years International Environment House & Geneva Environment Network, International Environment House, 25 November 2019

“We sensed a common understanding of a common problem; today, we have transformed that understanding into action. The Parties to the Basel Convention have done so within a short time: we have established an ambitious partnership, we have amended the convention to reflect the issues related to plastic waste and we have adopted a comprehensive list of actions.”
Sverre Thomas Jahre, Senior Adviser at the Ministry of Climate and Environment, Norway, at the closure of the Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention, International Conference Centre Geneva, 10 May 2019

“2019 is basically the year when to me we went from “oops” to “fuck”, which is the year when we basically understood that human-induced climate change is real, we can’t deny it anymore and that we have to do something.”
Dan Archer, Artivist, at the Pechakuchanight for 20 years International Environment House & Geneva Environment Network, International Environment House, 25 November 2019

“The cost of going to WHO standards globally in the mega-cities is about 700 billion a year. The cost to comply with the 2°C mitigation target is 1 trillion. Guess what happens when you start to act cross-sector and say: “We are going to invest globally into the shared, cross-sectorial policies and actions that will be addressing air quality, energy availability and climate altogether”. The cost is around 650 billion a year lower.”
Pavel Kabat, World Meteorological Organization Chief Scientist, at the World Environment Day Roundtable on Clean Air, International Environment House, 3 June 2019

“States have obligations to protect the life and health of citizens, including access to safe water & clean and healthy environment. No state should be allowed to export & trade chemicals that have been banned in their country for health & environmental reasons.”
Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, at the 41st Session of the Human Rights Council side event on highly hazardous pesticides, Palais des Nations, 24 June 2019 and on many other occasions (3 million tonnes pesticides are applied every year. 3 Mio acute poisoning every year, 220k deaths. We are all exposed on a daily basis. Chronic diseases appear years after exposure.)

“Investing in a cleaning environment is one of the best investments a government can make!”
David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council, Palais des Nations, 4 March 2019

“Costa Rica made possible the impossible. We believe on our decarbonization plan. Decarbonizing is ethical, good for our health and our economy!”
H.E. Carlos Alvarado, President of Costa Rica, UNEP Champion of the Earth 2019, at the “So What” series of the UNOG SDG Lab, Palais des Nations, 17 December 2019

“Land is where we live. Land is under growing human pressure and is part of the solution, but land cannot do it all.” “Land already in use could feed the world in a changing climate and provide biomass for renewable energy, but early, far-reaching action across several areas is required.”
Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC, and Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II, at the Launch of the IPCC Report on Climate Change and Land, World Meteorological Organization, 8 August 2019

“People belong to the land and not the other way around. Everyone belongs to somewhere specific and you can always return. If you lose that connection, you will be lost. What if there’s no more land or no more functional land? Then what becomes of us, not only as a nation or our collective people, but also our own selves. If we leave, there will be no return. What do we become as a culture? For me and earlier generations of Marshaleses, the cost of failure is simple: just 30 years ago our forefathers fought long and hard for our political independence and for our statehood; can you imagine having won an independent state only to realise now that your children and grandchildren might see it disappear? It is time that evidence-based analysis and reports like these do not just need to tell the story of our common demise, bur serve as a wake-up call to act.”
Doreen Debrum, Permanent Representative of the Marshall Islands to the United Nations Office at Geneva, at the 110th Council of the International Organization for Migration, WIPO Conference Hall, 27 November 2019

“Life is integrated! You can’t approach policy by just looking at forests, by just looking at biodiversity or by just looking at climate change: you have to view them all together the way we have done with the SDGs, by making human hopes, human aspirations and human fear the target of your collective policy. Life is complex! The more we try to segment it and put it in little boxes and silos, it does not work that way.”
Nikhil Seth, UNITAR Director General, at the High-Level Discussion: The Role of Geneva in Placing Environment on the Highest Political Agenda, celebrating two decades of the Geneva Environment Network, International Environment House, 26 November 2019

“As an environmental economist, I believe that creative ways have to be explored so that the cost of conservation and enforcement are recognized. Custodians of wildlife and local communities play a vital role in managing wildlife and deserve to be rewarded. The contribution of conservation and legal wildlife trade to sustainable development is evident: it provides for our food, our well-being, our jobs and economic development.”
Ivonne Higuero, CITES Secretary General, at the Opening Ceremony of the 18th Meeting of the Conferences to the Parties of CITES, Palexpo, 17 August 2019

“We need to elaborate global rules for better governance of mineral resources. Mankind cannot hope for a plan B or a planet B.”
Marc Chardonnens, Director of the Federal Office for the Environment, at the World Resources Forum, International Conference Centre Geneva, 23 October 2019

“The real thing with transformation is that it means that you have to transform the system that you are working in, and if we are not transforming our own system, our own decision-making, we will never achieve transformation. If you are not transforming the system of decision-making, you will not transform the outcome of the decisions.”
Marie-Claire Graf, Vice-President, Swiss Youth for Climate, at the High-Level Discussion: The Role of Geneva in Placing Environment on the Highest Political Agenda, celebrating two decades of the Geneva Environment Network, International Environment House, 26 November 2019

“Switzerland and Geneva are committed to contribute to multilateral system. Geneva hosts around 40 International Organizations and 400 NGOs, as well as 179 states in expertise in all areas of today’s critical issues, and particularly on the environment. This positions Geneva as a hub for environmental governance.”
Antonio Hodgers, President of the Canton of Geneva, at the World Environment Day Roundtable on Clean Air, International Environment House, 3 June 2019

“It is my pleasure to welcome you in Geneva today. Geneva, which is a perfect place to develop and put in place new initiatives of cooperation. Geneva, which offers a privileged place of exchange of ideas among the scientific community, the UN agencies, the international organizations, the NGOs, the private sector and the 179 countries represented in Geneva.”
Alain Berset, Swiss Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs, at the Opening Ceremony of the 18th Meeting of the Conferences to the Parties of CITES, Palexpo, 17 August 2019

“The International Environment House is a place where under a common roof a range of UN and non-governmental organizations are active in the field of environment and sustainable development. It is a symbol for a UN that is not restricting itself to its silos but open to engage and collaborate with other UN agencies and stakeholders.”
Sebastian König on behalf of H.E. Franz Perrez, Swiss Ambassador for the Environment, at the High-Level Discussion: The Role of Geneva in Placing Environment on the Highest Political Agenda, celebrating two decades of the Geneva Environment Network, International Environment House, 26 November 2019

2018 in Review

We thank you for your support and collaboration in 2018 and look forward to another exciting year.

Thousands of colleagues working for international organizations, forums, federations, academic institutions, business, non-governmental and governmental organizations contributed this year again to making Geneva a global hub for environmental governance. Congratulations for all the good work you do!

Click here for the list of events organized by the Geneva Environment Network in 2018.

Our selection of quotes for the year

“There’s no excuse any longer for saying we don’t understand how Human Rights apply to the environment.”
Professor John Knox, former Special Rapporteur on Human Rights & the Environment, during the launch of the United Nations Environment Programme Environmental Rights Initiative, March 2018

“At 2°C our islands will be under water!”
Young woman representative from the Marshall Islands, during the 1st-ever Climate Science & Humanitarian Dialogue, October 2018

“Governments must give priority to what is clean, not to what is not clean. Environmentally-oriented policies bring about massive added value for the economy.”
Bertrand Piccard, Initiator & Chairman of the Solar Impulse Foundation, during the WTO Trade Forum, October 2018.

“Half a degree matters, each year matters, each choice matters!”
Valérie Masson-Delmotte, co-chair of IPCC WGI for the AR6, during the presentation of the IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels at the 1st-ever Climate Science & Humanitarian Dialogue, October 2018

“The world has turned the corner on tobacco. Now it must do the same for the ‘new tobacco’ – the toxic air that billions breathe every day,” “No one, rich or poor, can escape air pollution. It is a silent public health emergency.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director general, First WHO Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, October–November 2018

“Humanity doesn’t own nature. Nature has rights. Rivers rights have been recognized by tribunals. Love nature. Think back at your happy times, chances are that you were somewhere with nature. Renaissance of nature is what we need.”
Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General, during the IUCN 70th Anniversary event “Nature’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda” at the Graduate Institute, October 2018

“The severity of the plastic pollution problem and its impacts on human health and the environment are undeniable and require urgent action. We cannot let a few countries or industries sectors prevent much-needed and overdue action from the global community.”
David Azoulay, Managing Attorney, CIEL, during the Basel Convention OEWG11, September 2018