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 TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, and Youtube, or visit our website regularly for additional updates.

Due to the celebration of Pentecost on 29 May 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 30 May 2023. → Suggestions for a green spring in Geneva

Image of the week | Inauguration of the outdoor exhibition ‘L’eau dans tous ses états’ highlighting the importance of international water cooperation, organized by the European Union and UN Water, available until 31 May 2023, on the shores of Lake Geneva near La Perle du Lac, at Parc Mon Repos. © Geneva Environment Network, 12 May 2023.

Environment @ World Health Assembly

The Seventy-sixth World Health Assembly (WHA76) — the decision-making body of the World Health Organization that meets annually in Geneva — kicked off on Sunday 21 May 2023 after the now traditional Walk the Talk: Health for All Challenge healthy kickstart event. Held this year under the theme ‘WHO at 75: Saving lives, driving health for all‘, WHA76 offers an occasion to address environmental health issues and will conclude on 30 May 2023.

One of the most awaited topics to be addressed is the impact of chemicals, waste, and pollution on human health. A draft resolution on this topic is tabled by Peru, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Monaco, Switzerland, Uruguay, and the European Union and its Member States (contacts Bernardo Roca-Rey Ross & Vanessa Aliaga of Peru), and will soon be available on the WHA76 portal. The draft resolution includes notes and references to various ongoing negotiations as well as UN Environment Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions. Among these:

  • Plastic pollution and the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in charge of developing a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution | Scaling-up work on plastics and health. Indeed its impacts are not given adequate attention as stated by WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during the Geneva Day held at the World Economic Forum 2023.
  • The Strategic Approach and sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020 (SAICM) and the inter-sessional work of the International Conference on Chemicals Management.
  • State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals | Update of the UNEP report to be prepared prior to the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, in line with the resolution UNEA 5/7.
  • Ad Hoc Open-Ended Working Group to establish a Science-Policy Panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution | Contribute to the work of OEWG, and explore the full range of options for the future involvement of WHO for the consideration at the next WHA.
  • Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals (IOMC) | Further strengthening international cooperation and multi-sectoral engagement in the sound management of chemicals and waste.

WHA76 will host a number of side events and a series of strategic roundtables where the environment will feature predominantly. These include:

  • Climate Change: Health leadership for the greatest threat of our times | 22 May 2023, 12:30-14:00 CEST
  • The World Together: Member State-led processes to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response (Strategic Roundtable) | 22 May 2023, 13:00-14:30 CEST
  • The Role of the Health Community in Climate Action: taking stock and moving forward (Strategic Roundtable) | 24 May 2023, 13:00–14:30 CEST
  • Breathing Life with Clean Air Action: Civil Society Drives Change | 25 May 2023, 13:00-15:00 CEST
  • New Investments to Build Climate Resilient Communities | 25 May 2023, 14:00-18:00 CEST
  • Energizing Health: Building Resilient and Sustainable Health Infrastructure for the Future | 25 May 2023, 18:00 CEST

On the sidelines of the WHA:

The World Health Assembly events timetable and locations agenda are regularly updated and available on the WHA portal, the WHO dedicated webpage, the UN Foundation dedicated webpage.

Gearing Up for the Plastics Treaty Negotiations

The Second Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution will officially start on 29 May in Paris, with regional consultations already taking place on 28 May 2023. To inform negotiations and facilitate the addressing of substantive matters,  various documents have been released in the past week. These include:

  • The United Nations Environment Programme released the report ‘Turning off the Tap: How the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy‘, proposing a systems change to address the causes of plastic pollution, combining reducing problematic and unnecessary plastic use with a market transformation towards circularity in plastics. The report has been welcomed with comments by civil society, academics, and scientists, signaling interest in keeping the ambition of beating plastic pollution high.
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity Secretariat (UNEP/PP/INC.2/INF/6) and the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (UNEP/PP/INC.2/INF/7) submitted to the INC Secretariat notes on their bodies’ work to inform negotiations at INC-2 and ensure synergies with other processes.
  • The International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) shared its Quick Views on INC-2, highlighting that for the Plastics Treaty to protect human health and the environment from the impacts of plastics throughout their lifecycle, it must address chemicals in plastics. IPEN highlights that the Plastics Treaty must include: health protection; reduced production; bans or restrictions on plastics trade; funding; basic key principles; and chemical controls.
  • WWF released the report ‘Putting an End to Plastic Pollution: WWF’s Call to Urgently Regulate High-Risk Plastic Products‘ urging governments to support a global ban on the most high-risk plastic items, such as e-cigarettes, plastic cutlery, and microplastics in cosmetics.
  • The Geneva Cities Hub has provided inputs to the compilation that the UNEP Secretariat prepared, based on the States’ submissions. The objective of these inputs on Suggested Language for Cities in the New Plastic Pollution Treaty is to ensure the meaningful inclusion of Local and Regional Governments (LRGs) in the future treaty.
  • The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released a briefing on its Initial Considerations for INC-2, focusing on specific documents on items to be discussed at INC-2, in particular, the rules of procedure (UNEP/PP/INC.2/3) and Options paper (UNEP/PP/INC.2/4).

Due to venue capacity and to ensure safety measures, the INC Secretariat announced that observers will receive one badge per organization to attend INC-2. Given the momentum generated around plastic pollution since the adoption of the UN Environment Assembly resolution, various stakeholders reacted to this announcement, as seen in articles from The Guardian, CIEL, Greenpeace International, and Magnus Løvold.

Other recent news and updates on plastics include:

  • Single-use take-away cups of paper are as toxic to aquatic midge larvae as plastic cups | Bethanie Carney Almroth, Alice Carle et al. | May 2023
    This study highlights the risk posed by take-away packaging and its associated chemicals, once discarded into the environment.
  • Who Said Recycling Was Green? It Makes Microplastics By the Ton | Inside Climate News | 16 May 2023
    A study finds one plastics recycling plant in the U.K. produces as much as 3 million pounds of microplastics a year—and that’s with filtering.
  • The Tide is Turning on Chemical Recycling | GAIA | 16 May 2023
    The Parties to the Basel Convention adopted most of the text of updated technical guidelines for environmentally-sound plastic waste management. Despite intensive lobbying from the petrochemicals industry in the four years of negotiations to recognize what they call  “chemical” or “advanced” “recycling,” as a solution to the plastics crisis, all that was obtained in the guidelines was mostly unadopted, bracketed, and appended text, instead of full inclusion.
  • It’s time investors tackled single-use plastic at source | Marcus Gover, Minderoo Plastics Initiative | 16 May 2023
    Investors need to actively engage to stop the building of new fossil fuel-based polymer facilities or divest their capital. They should also demand time-bound targets for producers to use recycled feedstock rather than that generated by fossil fuels. Governments could play their part too, such as by introducing a levy on virgin plastic producers.
  • Convention on Plastic Pollution. Essential Elements: Microplastics  | EIA | 15 May 2023
    Addressing microplastic pollution is no simple task. It will require dedicated programs of work to create comprehensive sectoral strategies with interventions across the value chain. Negotiators should therefore work to ensure that the new ILBI is fit for purpose, containing the tools necessary to end microplastic pollution.
  • Plastics Treaty: Phase Out Fossil Fuels to End Pollution | Human Rights Watch | 15 May 2023
    Governments negotiating a Global Plastics Treaty should ensure that it addresses the role of fossil fuels in plastic production and includes human rights protections.

Countdown to the 53rd Session of the Human Rights Council

Ahead of the 53rd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC53), taking place in Geneva from 19 June to 14 July 2023, the Geneva Environment Network and its partners are convening an information-sharing session on activities and events related to the environment taking place during this session.

This event will seek to discuss and share information on planned environment-related activities at and around HRC53, such as in-person and online events, publications, or exhibitions, among others, and exchange on possible synergies. They will feed the Geneva Environment Network page on HRC53 which will provide an updated calendar of these environment-related events. → Join the info-sharing session in-person at Palais des Nations, in room H-307-1, or online on Thursday 25 May 2023, at 9:00 CEST, and submit relevant information on your events.

19th Session of the World Meteorological Congress

The World Meteorological Congress, the supreme body of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), holds its 19th session this week and next week, at the International Conference Centre of Geneva (CICG). The Congress is expected to approve the Strategic Plan 2024-2027 to promote WMO’s vision that “by 2030, we see a world where all nations, especially the most vulnerable, are more resilient to the socioeconomic consequences of extreme weather, climate, water, and other environmental events.”  One of WMO’s top strategic priorities – implementation of the UN Early Warnings for All Initiative – will be the focus of a high-level dialogue on the opening day. The theme is Accelerating and Scaling up Action at the Country Level. The programme includes various thematic days.

Celebrating International Day for Biological Diversity

The International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated on 22 May. Building on the historic agreement achieved at the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal in December 2022 – the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, this year’s observation theme is ‘From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity’. The slogan promotes the idea that, now that we have an action plan agreed upon at a global level, we must implement all the measures the agreement contemplates before 2030. Only in this way will we be able to obtain protected and sustainable biological diversity by 2050.

Geneva plays an important role in the implementation of the newly-adopted Global Biodiversity Framework as various international and local organizations in Geneva are engaged in the protection and conservation of our biological diversity. Various activities are organized every year locally to celebrate the day.  → Learn more about actors, activities, and more in our update on International Day for Biological Diversity

Happening Abroad

Resumed Review Conference on the UN Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) | Takes place at the UN Headquarters in New York from 22 to 26 May 2023. At a time when the world’s oceans along with declining fisheries and marine biodiversity are attracting increasing attention, the United Nations will assess the effectiveness of its efforts to conserve straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. → Follow the coverage from the Earth Negotiation Bulletin.

What (Else) to Read Next?

  • G7 Hiroshima Leaders Communiqué | G7 | 20 May 2023
    The document refers to the importance of increasing the pace and scale of action on climate change, biodiversity loss, and clean energy transitions, and commits to globally advance and promote a green transformation, working together to realize the transformation of our economies to reach netzero GHG emissions by 2050 latest. G7 is determined to work together and with others to preserve the planet by accelerating the decarbonization of our energy sector and the deployment of renewables, end plastic pollution and protect the ocean.
  • Satellites reveal widespread decline in global lake water storage | Fangfang Yao et al. | Science | 18 May 2023
    Climate change and human activities increasingly threaten lakes that store 87% of Earth’s liquid surface fresh water. Roughly one-quarter of the world’s population resides in a basin of a drying lake, underscoring the necessity of incorporating climate change and sedimentation impacts into sustainable water resources management.
  • Reykjavík Declaration | Reykjavík Summit of the Council of Europe: United around our values | 17 May 2023
    Forty-six Member States of the Council of Europe commit to strengthen protection of the right to a healthy environment in Europe. 
  • Global temperatures set to reach new records in next five years | WMO | 17 May 2023
    There is a 66% likelihood that the annual average near-surface global temperature between 2023 and 2027 will be more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels for at least one year. There is a 98% likelihood that at least one of the next five years, and the five-year period as a whole, will be the warmest on record.
  • Cop28 host UAE’s approach is ‘dangerous’, says UN’s ex-climate chief | The Guardian | 16 May 2023
    The United Arab Emirates’ approach to the Cop28 climate summit it will preside over in November is “very dangerous” and a “direct threat to the survival of vulnerable nations”, according to the UN’s former climate chief Christiana Figueres.
  • Hotter, drier and sunnier: What’s happening to the European climate? | EuroNews.Green | 16 May 2023
    There are many complex reasons why there’s more sunshine in Europe, but, in summary, the main causes are a change in weather patterns and cleaner air.
  • Southeast Asia hit with record-breaking heat and heavy air pollution | CNBC | 15 May 2023
    Several cities in Southeast Asia experienced sweltering temperatures over the weekend, with some areas hitting new all-time highs as global climate change intensifies both heat waves and air pollution in the region.
  • Simon Schama on the broken relationship between humans and nature: ‘The joke’s on us. Things are amiss’ | The Guardian | 13 May 2023
    More than ever, the relationship between our two worlds has been disrupted, says the historian. If we don’t mend our ways, will we face even deadlier threats than Covid, Sars, and Mpox?
See all
See all
See all