The Geneva Environment Network’s weekly newsletter includes the latest information on the global environmental agenda, main eventsjob vacancies, learning opportunities, as well as other useful resources and updates. Stay tuned and follow us also on TwitterFacebookLinkedInYoutube, or visit our website regularly for additional updates.

Due to the celebration of Eid al-Fitr on 24 April 2023, a day off for the United Nations in Geneva, this newsletter exceptionally covers the upcoming eight days. The next newsletter will be published on Tuesday 25 April 2023. → Suggestions for a green spring in Geneva

Image of the week | Picturing Health – 75 years of progress and challenges | World Health Organization 75th Anniversary Photo Exhibition, Quai Wilson from 3 April to 1 May 2023 © Geneva Environment Network

Mobilization and Ambition Towards the Plastics Treaty

In the run-up to the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (Plastic Pollution INC-2), to take place in Paris at the end of May, mobilization is growing and stakeholders have been highlighting the need for an ambitious agreement, while the scientific community continues alerting on the impacts of plastics on our health.

The G7 Ministers of Climate, Energy, and the Environment, met last week in Sapporo, Japan, and announced on Sunday that the group is committed to ending plastic pollution, with the ambition to reduce additional plastic pollution to zero by 2040. The G7 intends to play an active and constructive role in making substantial progress in the plastics treaty negotiations and bring us closer to specifying the key provisions of an ambitious international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution and will work toward enhancing their international cooperation to end plastic pollution worldwide, recognizing the need to mobilize financial support from a wide variety of sources, both public and private, domestically and internationally. The group also pledged to accelerate its exit from fossil fuels in all sectors and stressed that fossil fuel subsidies are inconsistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement. → Read the communiqué

The Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee tasked the Secretariat to prepare a document with potential options for elements towards an international legally binding instrument. The document (UNEP/PP/INC.2/4) was released on 13 April 2023, reflecting the views expressed by Member States and stakeholders during the first session of the committee and in their 243 written submissions, to be considered by the committee at its second session, in Paris, at the end of May. Other recent sources providing analyses, perspectives, and options for a plastics treaty include: 

  • Toward a Global Plastics Treaty: A Survey of State Submissions Ahead of INC-2 | Guarini Center, 7 April 2023 | This survey of the submissions made by states and intergovernmental organizations to the INC Secretariat found trends and divergences over objectives, methods, actions, and approaches, and means of implementation.
  • CIEL’s briefing Non-Party Trade Provisions in Multilateral Environmental Agreements: Key Elements for Consideration in the Context of a Treaty to End Plastic Pollution | 6 April 2023 | Provides an introduction to trade provisions involving non-parties in the context of the future treaty to end plastic pollution. Considering the interconnectedness of global supply chains, developing non-party provisions and avoiding ‘free-riding’ benefits around trade issues is paramount.
  • The Plastic Crisis: The Race Against the Clock | CIVICUS | 13 April 2023 | Civil society calls on states to limit plastic industry influences in the treaty development process and to engage with civil society campaigners and their proposals for a strong treaty. A wide range of civil society, particularly from the global south, should take part in the treaty process.
  • Three ways to solve the plastics pollution crisis | Diana Kwon | Nature | 11 April 2023 | Experts at Portsmouth University analyzed more than 130 plastic pollution reduction policies worldwide and found an almost complete lack of evidence of what works and what does not. Only a combination of best policies to reduce production and consumption, improved recycling technology and better plastics design can guarantee solid solutions to the plastics crisis.

Various events in preparation for INC-2 are taking place in Geneva and beyond:

  • The Governments of Panama and Ecuador as part of the High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution are organizing a webinar in Spanish under the title ‘Circularity of Plastics, human health and environment’ on 18 April 2023 at 16:00 CEST.
  • The Geneva Cities Hub is hosting a briefing for local and regional governments to highlight opportunities for contributions while not taking part in the negotiations. → Find more information and register for the event taking place on 21 April 2023 at 13:30 CEST.
  • The next Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogue will discuss preparations for the INC-2 Session. → More info on the session to be held on 27 April 2023 at 15:00 CEST.
  • The Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee will host a series of six online technical webinars in English to inform the discussions of the INC-2, on 28 April and 4, 10, 11, 16, and 17  May 2023. →  More details on the topics, timings, and modalities of the webinars can be found on our regularly updated page Towards Plastic Pollution INC-2

Plastics and Human Health | Scientific evidence on the adverse of plastics on human health is becoming more solid. → More resources and the latest news on the topic are available on our Plastics and Human Health update.

  • Awareness of these risks starts to move governmental and civil society action, as evidenced by EPA’s announcement of new rules to limit toxic air pollutants from chemical and plastics plants and by the strong opposition to the construction of a plastic recycling plant that could send toxic ‘forever chemicals’ into the Susquehanna River, polluting a vital drinking water source.
  • The new Health & Toxics Digital Toolkit developed by Break Free from Plastic offers an overview of the adverse health effects of plastics and aims to counter the narrative of the material being synonymous with safety and hygiene. This tool offers instruments to support advocacy at all levels for holding corporations and plastic-producing countries accountable for the profound harm to health rights, human rights, ecosystems, and economies arising from the production, deployment, and disposal of plastics.
  • The European Investigation Agency (EIA) released two new reports on agriplastics as part of the Cultivating Plastics Series. Environmental and human health harm caused by agriplastics underlines that the effects of agriplastics in the environment are visible in the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. Agriplastics are often burned due to lacking collection and recycling infrastructures, increasing risks of contracting life-long respiratory, neurological, and reproductive health conditions. Agriplastics also represent violations of the human right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, disproportionately impacting the health and livelihood of the most vulnerable, as in the case of seasonal farmworkers and their childrenMismanagement and criminality of agriplastic waste multiply their environmental and human health impacts due to increased leakage into the open environment, extending from farmland to marine ecosystems.
  • Petrochemicals are the thread connecting many chemical accidents. These chemicals are the backbone of plastics and represent certified environmental and health threats. A new investigation in the USA mapped the largest polluters of vinyl chloride used to produce PVC plastics, and the communities that are regularly exposed to this dangerous chemical and its waste products. The recent explosion of a plastics-recycling facility in Indiana, USA is one among the many. Among the plastics that caught fire in the facility, a significant amount had been piling up ever since China banned the import of plastic waste in 2018.

Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week Kicks Off

The 2023 edition of the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW 2023) kicks off online this week, and face-to-face next week. This annual humanitarian conference provides a collaborative space for practitioners and experts from a large variety of humanitarian stakeholders including UN agencies, NGOs, academia, the military, the private sector, and Member States. HNPW 2023 offers a wide variety of cross-network interactive sessions, briefings, technical meetings, and a virtual , where participants can exchange experiences and have the opportunity to network with professionals and experts across many sectors. The programme features a number of sessions addressing environmental challenges and opportunities in humanitarian response. Among the session of interest on the agenda this week:

Advancing the Global Governance of Mineral Resources

UNEA Resolution on Minerals and Metals Management | Preparation of the Global Intergovernmental Meeting on Minerals and Metals, with the aim of developing non-prescriptive proposals to enhance the environmental sustainability of minerals and metals along their full life cycle, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, taking place in Geneva, on 7 and 8 September 2023. Latest updates include:

  • The intergovernmental regional consultation for the Eastern European Group of States on UNEA 5/12 resolution on Environmental Aspects of Minerals and Metals Management is taking place in Geneva from 24 to 25 April 2023. The two-day consultation will take stock of existing activities and actions in the public and private sectors to enhance the environmental sustainability of minerals and metals. Consultations will also explore the topics of (i) sand and sustainability in a session led and organized by UNEP/GRID-Geneva; and (ii) tailings management, providing updates on the implementation of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management. This is the first of various regional consultations taking place in preparation of the Global Intergovernmental Meeting on Minerals and Metals.
  • Pursuant to the request in paragraph 2 of the resolution, Member States are invited to nominate one national focal point to participate in the intergovernmental regional consultations.
  • Member States and other stakeholders are also invited to submit suggestions and proposals in advance of the intergovernmental meetings on enhancing environmental sustainability of minerals and metals management, following this template. → Consult our update on Mineral Resource Governance and the Role of Geneva

Deep Sea Mining | The 1st Part of the 28th Annual Session of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) that took place in Jamaica on 16 – 31 March 2023 concluded with diverging opinions among member states with regards to commercial deep-sea mining, with some countries arguing that commercial seabed mining activities should not begin before a comprehensive set of rules, regulations, and procedures. Such urgency comes after the “2-year rule” was triggered that obliges the ISA to finalize and adopt regulations for deep seabed mining by 9 July 2023, 24 months after Nauru notified its intention to have ISA ‘consider’ and ‘provisionally approve’ a commercial exploitation application under its sponsorship. Relevant resources on the topic include:

Fostering Sustainable Nitrogen Management

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient to support life, but if poorly managed, it can adversely affect the environment, ecosystems, and human health. Nitrogen mismanagement contributes to air and water pollution, degradation of terrestrial and aquatic environments, climate change, and ozone depletion, and its overall impact hinders progress toward the SDGs. To tackle this issue, the United Nations Environment Assembly passed two resolutions at its 4th session in 2019 and 5th session in 2022. Considering the importance of collaboration across environmental bodies to develop strong policy action, Geneva plays a key role as a global hub for international environmental governance. → Discover more about Sustainable Nitrogen Management and the Role of Geneva

An EMG Nexus Dialogue on Sustainable Nitrogen Management will take place in Geneva, on 20 April. The dialogue will give an outlook on nitrogen and its linkages with food systems and the triple planetary crisis, and aim for an understanding among EMG members on how to build a system-wide approach to sustainable nitrogen management, bringing different perspectives and strengths of UN entities and looking at synergies and policy coherence.

Protecting Environmental Defenders

Escazú Agreement COP 2 | The second meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean – known as the Escazú Agreement – will take place on 19 – 21 April 2023 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A landmark agreement for the region, the treaty is the first legally binding instrument to include specific provisions for the protection and promotion of human rights defenders in environmental matters, under Article 9 “Human rights defenders in environmental matters”. This agreement comes at a crucial time as environmental defenders from the region remain most vulnerable to attacks. Resources on the topic include:

Climate Activists, Civil Disobedience, and the Response of European Governments | Environmental defenders in the European region have also recently made headlines. Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on environmental defenders of the Aarhus Convention, stated in an editorial that the criminalization of environmental defenders is not an adequate response to civil disobedience. He also asks that discussions start taking into account why defenders are using civil disobedience and how authorities need to adapt accordingly. From civil disobedience to reprisals, other events that took place in Europe include:

→ Find more information on Environmental Human Rights Defenders in our dedicated update that takes a look at the steps taken by the international community in Geneva to protect, promote, and uphold the rights of environmental defenders around the world.

Status of Acceptance of the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies

For the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies adopted at last June 12th WTO Ministerial Conference to enter into force, two-thirds of WTO members must formally accept the amendment Protocol to insert the Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies into Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement, by depositing an “instrument of acceptance” with the WTO. As of 14 April 2023, four WTO members formally submitted their acceptance of the agreement: SwitzerlandSingapore, Seychelles, and the United States. Information for members on how to accept the Protocol of Amendment can be found on the WTO website.

Remi Parmentier, Founder and Director of Varda Group and Adviser to Friends of Ocean Action, highlighted that the current pace of acceptance might not ensure a swift entry into force of the agreement.

World Trade Organization dominoes. If my calculation is correct, the WTO Fisheries Subsidies Agreement will not enter into force before… November 2026 if instruments of ratification/acceptance continue to come in at the same slow pace. Wake up, WTO!

What (Else) to Read Next?

  • The true face of hydrogen: How robust definitions and chain of custody systems can help unmask fossil hydrogen in disguise | Ecos | 13 April 2023
    While hydrogen is considered to be an important component of the green energy transition, it is important to reduce its climate impact as much as possible, favoring production from renewables to carbon.
  • Banking on Climate Chaos. Fossil Fuel Finance Report 2023 | Rainforest Action Network (RAN), BankTrack, Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), Oil Change International (OCI), Reclaim Finance, the Sierra Club, and Urgewald | 12 April 2023
    The world’s 60 biggest banks poured over $5,500,000,000,000 over 7 years into the fossil fuel industry, driving climate chaos & causing deadly local community impacts.
  • Major International Negotiations on Chemicals and Waste for Researchers from All Disciplines to Watch for in 2023 | Mengjiao Wang, Giulia Carlini, and Zhanyun Wang | 10 April 2023
    Other important appointments on the chemical and waste agenda require inputs from all scientific disciplines, such as industrial and agricultural chemicals, biodiversity, sound management of wastes, governance, and legal matters.
  • Mexico negotiates to revoke sanctions for failure to protect vaquita | Mexico News Daily | 7 April 2023
    Mexico’s President López Obrador sent eight officials from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to Geneva, to discuss with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) trade sanctions imposed for its failure to protect the endangered vaquita porpoise. Following their visit, CITES sent a notification to its parties on the withdrawal of its recommendation to suspend trade
  • PFAS: The “New” Forever Chemicals | Open Access Government | 11 April
    The term “forever chemicals” has become part of the lexicon in lay science, reflecting growing evidence that exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a class of synthetic chemicals widely detected in our natural environment, our foods, and our bodies, is associated with adverse human health effects and harm to ecosystems.
  • Rights expert welcomes Vatican’s rejection of ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ | UN News | 6 April 2023
    UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples José Francisco Calí Tzay welcomes the Vatican’s rejection of the 500-year-old Catholic decree used to justify the seizure of indigenous lands by colonial powers, known as the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’. The SR expresses hopes that this “[…] important step towards reconciliation and healing” will be followed by other governments as well.
  • IUCN SSC guidelines on human-wildlife conflict and coexistence: first edition  | IUCN | 3 April 2023
    With increasing and intensifying human-wildlife conflicts, these guidelines offer conservation practitioners, community leaders, decision-makers, researchers, government officers, and others tools and approaches to resolve them and improve coexistence. 
  • Marine pollution from sunken vessels | IUCN Issues Briefing | April 2023
    Marine pollution from sunken vessels is predicted to reach its highest level this decade, with over 8,500 shipwrecks at risk of leaking approximately 6 billion gallons of oil. Such pollution bears important effects financial burdens, health, biodiversity, and livelihoods of coastal communities.
  • Global antimicrobial-resistance drivers: an ecological country-level study at the human-animal interface | The Lancet | April 2023
    Reduced rates of antibiotic consumption alone will not be sufficient to combat the rising worldwide prevalence of AMR. Control methods should focus on poverty reduction and aim to prevent AMR transmission across different One Health domains while accounting for domain-specific risk factors.
  • Natural gas is a bridge to climate and nature disaster | WWF | 28 March 2023
    WWF’s Global Energy Lead Dean Cooper claims that a transition from non-renewable energy sources to natural gas can be skipped and that shifting directly to renewable resources is not only 100% possible but the only way to stay within 1.5°C.
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