Last updated: 23 Feb 2021

The first segment of the fifth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) will be held virtually on 22-23 February. UNEA-5 is the opportunity to strengthen international action for climate, nature and a pollution-free planet. Various events are held in the run-up to UNEA-5 in order to maintain momentum for the environment. Find the programme, resources, and links on this page.

About UNEA-5

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 is taking place in two-parts, an online session on 22-23 February 2021 and a resumed session in February 2022.

The theme “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” calls 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).

The fundamental question is whether we have enough common ground to agree on a concise message stating that addressing environmental crises must continue. UNEA should use its political voice to demonstrate our shared commitment to act.

H.E. Sveinung Rotevatn, Minister of Environment and Climate of Norway, President of UN Environment Assembly | 3 February 2021

The first part of UNEA-5 will have to adopt the political agenda for the next years. We need to send a strong signal showing that we are committed to protecting the global environment, even in times of the pandemic.

H.E. Amb. Franz PERREZ, Ambassador for the Environment, Switzerland | 3 February 2021

The online segment of UNEA-5 was sucessfully concluded, after the Assembly agreed on key aspects of UNEP’s work, 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

International Geneva at UNEA-5

Geneva is an international hub for environmental governance, in support to the Nairobi hub where the UNEP headquarters are located. International actors based in Geneva are actively taking part in UNEA-5. These actors are working to maintain momentum around the important environmental challenges that have to be addressed. They are involved in the various events in the run-up to UNEA-5.1 and will organize more events next year in the run-up to UNEA-5.2.

The High-level Briefing hosted by the Geneva Environment Network provided an overview of the UNEA-5 processes to actors based in Geneva and worldwide. The event covered the President’s priorities for the Assembly and conveyed messages from Ambassadors, civil society representatives and UNEP executives. The video and summary of the event are available online.

Programme & Supporting Events

Despite its special format this year, UNEA-5.1 is by no mean a little event. Thanks to the energy and motivation of stakeholders and member States, numerous supporting activities took place in the run-up to UNEA-5. The programme is available on the UNEA-5 website.

On 22-23 February 2021, the formal event will take place with plenaries and leadership dialogues (consult the provisional agenda). Members states and accredited organizations are invited to register to receive the necessary credentials and supporting documentation. The event will host the launch of the Global Alliance for Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency (GACERE).

Open-Ended meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives

The online meeting of UNEA-5 was prepared at the fifth meeting of the Open-Ended Meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives, which took place online on 15-17 February 2021.

Other major events in the run-up to UNEA-5

Other major events in the run-up to UNEA-5 include the Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum (9-11 February), the Global Youth Environment Assembly (12-20 February), and the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment (18-20 February). Find more information and the Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of the events hereunder.


Many additional events in support to UNEA-5 were hosted by various actors in the weeks running up to the assembly. The next sections provide an overview of these events.

Launch of UNEP publications

The new UNEP report Making Peace with Nature was launched by the UN Secretary-General and Inger Andersen on Thursday, 18 February 2021 at 17.00 CET. Watch the press conference, and read more about the report.

The GEO-6 for Youth Report, aimed at informing, engaging and leading to youth action, was launched during the Youth Environment Assembly, on Friday, 19 February 2021.

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.

The biggest hope that civil society has is that UNEA-5 can deliver on plastic solution with very concrete outcomes. We hope that we can maintain the momentum towards UNEA-5.2 to adopt a mandate to start negotiations for a legally binding instrument to tackle plastic pollution.

Patrizia HEIDEGGER, Director of Global Policies and Sustainability, European Environment Bureau

In the run-up to UNEA-5.2, the Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues aim to facilitate further engagement and discussions among the International Geneva stakeholders and actors across the regions and support coordinated approaches that can lead to more efficient global decision making. The first series of dialogues ended in February 2021 and addressed plastics in relation to various issues such as waste, climate, air pollution, human rights, health, trade, standards, and life cycle approaches.

Various supporting events in the run-up to UNEA-5.1 furthered these discussions on how to address plastic pollution.

Ocean Action for Sustainability - Building a global vision to tackle plastic pollution

17 February 2021 | 15.00 – 16.30 CET | UNEP & Government of Kenya

Tackling plastic waste through the Basel Convention

18 February 2021 | 13.30 – 15.00 CET | Basel Convention

Managing Risk: Marine Litter Mitigation and Prevention

19 February 2021 | 11.00 CET  | The Global Partnership on Marine Litter | Part of the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment

Addressing single use plastic products pollution with a life cycle approach

19 February 2021 | 12.00 – 13.30 CET | UNEP, Government of India, European Commission, Life Cycle Initiative

Nature and Biodiversity

Nature will be at the center of UNEA-5, following the theme “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”. Strengthening action to protect and restore nature and promoting nature-based solutions is essential to achieve the sustainable development goals. UNEA-5 is also the opportunity to start the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration with ambitious action.

Building back better and greener with agroecology

17 February 2021 | 12.30 – 14.00 CET | World Agroforestry, CIRAD, Biovision, FAO, UNEP, CIFOR

Green Economy, SCP & Finance

As attention turns to managing the economic fallout from COVID-19 and the roots of this pandemic to avoid future crises, national and global recovery plans will be instrumental for the future of our planet. The recovery will bring diverse opportunities to accelerate the transition to a greener and more sustainable future. In this context, UNEA-5 will provide an opportunity for Member States and Stakeholders to take ambitious steps towards building forward better and greener by ensuring that investments in economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic contribute to sustainable development.

The pandemic has further aggravated the economic, social and environmental challenges that we need address in this decade. Never has global solidarity been more needed. Decision-makers on the environment have a role to play in getting back on track. We need to ensure that actions to stem climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution are further stepped up. The recovery must be green and sustainable.

H.E. Sveinung Rotevatn, Minister of Environment and Climate of Norway, President of UN Environment Assembly

Green Forum Global Launch - Pursing Collaboration at Scale

18 February 2021 | 12:00 – 13.30 CET | GGKP

A Green Gigaton of ambitions: Forest solutions to the climate, biodiversity and health crises

19 February 2021 | 15.00 – 16.00 CET | Emergent, UN-REDD, EDF, Forest Trends, ART

The Value Chain Approach for Action on Sustainable Consumption and Production

19 February 2021 | 13.30 – 15.00 CET | One Planet, UNEP