Last updated: 19 Apr 2022
The resumed fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) took place from 28 February to 2 March 2022. UNEA-5 was the opportunity to strengthen international action for climate, nature and a pollution-free planet. Various events were held in the run-up to UNEA-5.2 in order to maintain momentum for the environment. Find the programme, resources, and links on this page.
The United Nations Environment Assembly is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment. The fifth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) will be the opportunity to strengthen international efforts to tackle the triple planetary crisis we are facing – climate change, nature loss & pollution. UNEA-5 took place in two-parts. A first online session took place in February 2021 (UNEA-5.1), and a resumed session took place in Nairobi and online, from 28 February to 2 March 2022 (UNEA-5.2).
The theme “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” called for strengthened action to protect and restore nature and the nature-based solutions to achieve the sustainable development goals in its three complementary dimensions (social, economic and environmental). Full of diversity and complexity, nature underpins our economies and our societies. However, humanity is destroying these life-giving services through over-exploitation, unchecked development and climate change. UNEA-5 emphasized that collectively we have the knowledge, technology and the resources to protect and restore our natural world by making the transition to a nature-positive future that will benefit our health, our economies and our future.
I very much look forward to working with UNEP and Executive Secretary Inger Andersen on key environmental challenges, including initiating negotiations towards a strong global treaty to fight plastic pollution.
H.E. Espen Barth Eide, Minister of Environment and Climate of Norway, President of UN Environment Assembly | 14 November 2021
Outcomes and Adopted Resolutions
UNEA-5.2 concluded with two declarations, 14 resolutions and one decision on a number of critical issues to curb pollution and to protect and restore nature worldwide. UNEA-5.2 also became a historic moment as delegates agreed to establish an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee with the mandate to forge an international legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution by the end of 2024.
Against the backdrop of geopolitical turmoil, the UN Environment Assembly shows multilateral cooperation at its best. Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic. With today’s resolution we are officially on track for a cure.
H.E. Espen Barth Eide, Minister of Environment and Climate of Norway, President of UN Environment Assembly | 2 March 2021
Yes, UNEA 5.2 and UNEP@50 have delivered. On plastic pollution. On nature-based solutions. On biodiversity and health. On chemicals and waste. But history ultimately will not judge us on resolutions agreed or plans made. It will judge us on actions delivered. It will judge us on whether we create a world without plastic pollution, a world in which we can all live in peace, a world in which the right to a healthy environment is respected and upheld.
Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, speaking at the closing plenary of UNEP@50 on 4 March
In what the UNEP Executive Director refered to as “the most important international multilateral environmental deal since Paris“, governments adopted a resolution setting up the path to a global treaty to end plastic pollution (UNEP/EA5/L23/REV.1). The resolution requests the convening of an intergovernmental negotiating committee (INC) to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, during the second half of 2022, with the ambition of completing its work by the end of 2024. The resolution specifies that the instrument could include both binding and voluntary approaches, based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full lifecycle of plastic. An ad-hoc open-ended working group will convene during the first half of 2022 to prepare for the work of the intergovernmental negotiating committee.
Nature and Biodiversity
This cluster reached successful outcomes with the adoption of four resolutions:
- Sustainable Lake Management (UNEP/EA5/L8/REV.1)
- Nature-based Solutions for supporting sustainable development (UNEP/EA5/L9/REV.1)
- Animal Welfare – Environment – Sustainable Development nexus (UNEP/EA5/L10/REV.1)
- Biodiversity and Health (UNEP/EA5/L11/REV.1)
Chemicals, Waste and Pollution
Another game-changing outcome of UNEA-5.2 with far-reaching consequences was the adoption of a resolution to establish a science-policy panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution. Two other resolutions on issues of chemicals and waste were also adopted.
- Science-Policy Panel to contribute further to the sound management of chemicals and waste and to prevent pollution (UNEP/EA5/L14/REV.1)
- Sustainable Nitrogen Management (UNEP/EA5/L12/REV.1)
- Sound management of chemicals and waste (UNEP/EA5/L13/REV.1)
Green Recovery and Circular Economy
Within the cluster of green recovery and circular economy, UNEA adopted four resolutions :
- Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure (UNEP/EA5/L15/REV.1)
- Environmental dimension of a sustainable, resilient and inclusive post COVID-19 recovery (UNEP/EA5/L16/REV.1)
- Enhancing Circular Economy as a contribution to achieving sustainable consumption and production (UNEP/EA5/L17/REV.1)
- Environmental aspects of minerals and metals management (UNEP/EA5/L18/REV.1)
Organizational and Administrative Matters
This cluster saw the adoption of two resolutions and one decision:
- Due regard to the principle of equitable geographical distribution, in accordance with paragraph 3 of article 101 of the Charter of the United Nations (UNEP/EA5/L19/REV.1)
- Future of Global Environment Outlook (UNEP/EA5/L20/REV.1)
- Provisional agenda, date and venue of the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEP/EA5/L21/REV.1)
Delegates agreed to convene UNEA-6 from 26 February to 1 March 2024 in Nairobi. Leyla Benali, Minister of Energy, Transition, and Sustainable Development, Morocco, was elected as UNEA-6 President.
Following a long consultation process, UNEA-5.2 adopted a political declaration on “Strengthening actions for nature to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals“. The Ministerial Declaration recognises humanity’s failure to date to manage chemicals and waste, a threat that is further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic through widespread use of single-use plastics and disinfectant chemicals. It also recognises the risk for future pandemics and other health risks if humanity doesn’t overhaul its patterns of interaction with nature by adopting a holistic approach such as One Health. The Ministerial Declaration fruther stresses the urgent need to halt the global decline of biodiversity and the fragmentation of habitats, unprecedented in human history and driven by changes in land and sea use, exploitation of nature, unsustainable consumption and production patterns, climate change, invasive alien species and pollution of ocean and fresh water, air and soil.
UNEA-5.2 Programme & Supporting Events
Despite its special format, UNEA-5.2 is by no means a small event. Thanks to the energy and motivation of stakeholders and member States, numerous supporting activities are taking place in the run-up to UNEA-5.2. The full programme is available on the UNEA-5.2 website.
- Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum | 7 – 10 February | See the Earth Negotiations Bulletin Report
The forum was self-organized by the Major Group Facilitating Committee (MGFC), the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF).
- Global Youth Environment Assembly | 19 – 20 February & 24 – 27 March | See the Earth Negotiations Bulletin Report
The global Youth Environment Assembly is a collective youth participation in the processes of UNEA, that is facilitated through the Children and Youth Major Group.
- Faith for Earth Dialogue at UNEA 5.2 | 21 February – 4 March
Faith for Earth, in collaboration with a diverse group of faith organizations and leaders organized 25+ online dialogue sessions, open to all stakeholders.
- Second UNEA Cities and Regions Summit | 23 February
The summit was organized in partnership with UN Habitat, UNDP, FAO, UCLG, ICLEI, WWF and IUCN.
- Open-Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives | 21 – 25 February
- Resumed 5th session of UN Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2) | 28 February – 2 March
UNEP@50 Special Session
UNEA-5.2 was followed by a Special Session of the UN Environment Assembly, on 3 – 4 March 2022, for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of UNEP in 1972. UNEP@50 was a time to reflect on the past and envision the future. It provided an opportunity to reinvigorate international cooperation and spur collective action to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. The dialogues at UNEP@50 were informed by the report “The UNEP We Want” that was prepared by the UNEP@50 Taskforce of Major Groups and Stakeholders and that presents their views and proposals on the future of UNEP. UNEP@50 also featured side events that shed light on key topics related to the future of multilateralism, within the context of the three planetary crises.
The Road to the Resolution to End Plastic Pollution
The world is facing a plastic crisis, the status quo is not an option. Plastic pollution is a serious issue of global concern which requires an urgent and international response involving all relevant actors at different levels. UNEA-3 recognized the importance of the issue and established a mandate for the Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group (AHEG) on Marine Litter and Microplastics which was extended at UNEA-4. After several meetings over the last two years, the expert group produced a final report highlighting progress made in addressing plastic pollution and potential responses options for the future. UNEA-5 will be the opportunity to further these discussions.
Excellencies, you have a real chance to reshape our relationship with plastic once and for all in agreeing to start negotiations on a strong and comprehensive global agreement to tackle plastic pollution. I have gone on record to state that such a deal would be the most significant global environmental governance decision since the Paris Agreement in 2015. Such an agreement will also ensure we commit to securing a plastic pollution-free future for the people who need it the most – our children. I ask you to be bold and to be determined so that we can land at a daring and meaningful resolution that kick-starts global action to put the brakes on plastic pollution, from source to sea.
– Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, speaking at the Fifth Open-Ended Committee of Permanent Representatives to UNEP on 21 February 2022. Read the full statement
Two draft resolutions have been submitted on the matter: one proposed by Rwanda and Peru at the Ministerial Conference in September, and one by Japan. The Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL) provides a useful comparison of these two potential resolutions. In late January, the government of India has come forward with an additional draft resolution looking specially at the issue of single-use plastic products. At the OECPR, governments agreed to merge the three resolutions and adopted a historic resolution to end plastic pollution.
In the run-up to UNEA-5.1 & UNEA-5.2, the Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues aimed at facilitating further engagement and discussions among the International Geneva stakeholders and actors across the regions and supporting coordinated approaches that can lead to more efficient global decision making. The first series of dialogues ended in February 2021 and a second series in February 2022. Various side-events on the issue of plastic pollution are held during UNEA-5.2.
Toward a Science-Policy Interface for Chemicals and Pollution
In 2019, UNEA-4 recognized that science is needed to set priorities, for policymaking and to monitor progress: science-based decision-making should be promoted at all levels, and that the science-policy interface (SPI) needs to be strengthened (resolution 4/8). UNEA-4 further requested the Executive Director of UNEP to prepare an assessment of options for strengthening the science-policy interface at the international level. Ahead of UNEA-5.2, Costa Rica, Ghana, Mali, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Uruguay have submitted a Proposal for a draft resolution to establish a Science–Policy Panel to support action on chemicals, waste and pollution.
In light of these developments, Albania, Mali, North-Macedonia, Switzerland and Uruguay convened a series of webinars in preparation for discussions expected to take place at the second segment of the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2). The webinars are hosted with the support of UNEP and, in Geneva, within the framework of the Geneva Environment Network. Outcomes of the webinar are available online.
At UNEA-5.2, governments adopted a key resolution supporting the establishment of a comprehensive and ambitious science policy panel on the sound management of chemicals and waste and preventing pollution.
Geneva Preparatory Events
High-Level Briefing on the Second Segment of the 5th Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly
GENeva UNEA-5.2 Briefing | 14 February 2022 | 13.00 – 14.00 CET | Online
Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues | 1 February 2021 | 14.00 – 15.30 CET | Online
Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues | 18 January 2022 | 14.00 – 15.30 CET | Online
Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues | 13 January 2022 | 14.00 – 15.30 CET | Online
First Online Segment UNEA-5.1
The online segment of UNEA-5 was sucessfully concluded, after the Assembly agreed on key aspects of UNEP’s work, and kicked off the commemoration of UNEP’s 50th anniversary and held leadership dialogues where speakers addressed how to build a resilient and inclusive post-pandemic world. Member States agreed on a statement outlining their deep concerns about the devastating effects of the global pandemic and acknowledging the urgency to continue their efforts to protect our planet in this time of crisis.
The last few days have been encouraging. We saw a new global effort on resource-efficient, circular economies. A push on financing emission reductions from forests. Governments, scientists and businesses coming together to look at big data as a tool for change. Youth raising their voices and telling us ‘nothing about us, without us’ and calling for targeted funds to enable their deeper engagement
Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme | 23 February 2021
- UNEA Resolution – ‘End Plastic Pollution’ – and IUCN role in implementation of the Treaty | IUCN | 9 March 2022
- Heads of State affirm commitment to environmental cooperation at UNEP golden jubilee celebration | UNEP | 4 March 2022
- UNEP combats pollution, restores ozone and protects seas, UN chief tells 50th anniversary session | UN News | 3 March 2022
- UN Environment Assembly concludes with 14 resolutions to curb pollution, protect and restore nature worldwide | UNEP | 2 March 2022
- The world just took a step toward ending plastic pollution. Now let’s seize the moment. | Marco Lambertini | WWF | 2 March 2022
- UNEA 5.2: Historic Advances on Global Plastics Treaty, Chemicals | CIEL | 2 March 2022
- UN Environment Assembly to tackle plastics, green recovery and chemicals| UNEP | 11 February 2022
- Do we need a Paris Agreement for plastics? | World Economic Forum | 11 February 2022
- UNEP head responds to questions on global plastics agreement | UNEP | 3 February 2022
- IPEN’s Quick Views on UNEA 5.2 | IPEN | February 2022
- In-Person Segment of UNEA-5 to Address Chemicals, Marine Plastics, Green Recovery | IISD | 27 January 2022
- Nature at the Heart of Sustainable Development: A contribution to the High-Level Segment of the resumed session of the 5th UN Environment Assembly | UNEP | 24 January 2022
- Over 700 Groups Call for an International Plastics Treaty | CIEL | 14 December 2021