Shaping global environmental policy to tackle climate change, in light of UNEA

  • 1 Mar 2024
  • 3 Mins Read
  • 〜 by Jewel Tete

The recent conclusion of the sixth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) in Nairobi, Kenya, has underscored the urgency of shaping global environmental policy to combat the escalating climate crisis. As the world’s foremost decision-making body on environmental matters, UNEA-6 served as a vital forum for nations, organisations, and stakeholders to confront the challenges hindering progress toward a sustainable future. The triple planetary crisis – climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution – remains the defining challenge of our time. This crisis is not merely an environmental problem but a deeply intertwined social, economic, and humanitarian one.  The most vulnerable communities disproportionately bear the brunt of climate change through extreme weather events, food insecurity, and displacement.

UNEA-6 convened under the theme of “Effective, inclusive and sustainable multilateral actions to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution”. Delegates and participants grappled with the complex issue of multilateralism, recognising its critical role in achieving environmental goals. However, there’s an acknowledgement that the effectiveness of current environmental governance structures often falls short, hindered by fragmentation, insufficient funding, and a lack of robust enforcement mechanisms. One of the most significant outcomes of UNEA-6 was a renewed commitment to accelerate climate action with a focus on a just transition. This includes a strong emphasis on transitioning away from fossil fuels, investing in renewable energy, and ensuring that climate policies benefit the most vulnerable communities. Recognising the urgency, the Assembly stressed that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be cut nearly in half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

Discussions at UNEA-6 also highlighted the interconnectedness of climate change and biodiversity.  Nature-based solutions were a significant point of focus, with delegates promoting ecosystem protection, restoration, and sustainable use as vital components in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss. Furthermore, the Assembly called for a renewed effort to tackle pollution and waste, emphasising the urgent need to transition towards a circular economy and address the severe health impacts of pollution on communities worldwide.

While UNEA-6 underscored several crucial areas for action, translating commitments into tangible results remains challenging. 

One key hurdle is the need for significantly increased financial support from wealthy nations to developing countries to address climate change. Loss and damage funding has constantly presented a contentious point highlighting the tension between historical polluters and countries now most affected by the changing climate.  Additionally, robust systems to track and measure progress toward climate goals remain imperative, as does building a sense of accountability and transparency. Another challenge is the persistence of fragmentation in global environmental governance. Numerous Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) exist, focusing on specific environmental issues. However, the lack of coherence can lead to policy inconsistencies. Strengthening coordination between MEAs would boost efficiency and maximise their collective impact.

Yet, opportunities abound to accelerate action on climate change in the wake of UNEA-6.  Technological innovation in the pursuit of renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and carbon capture is essential. Furthermore, empowering and meaningfully engaging civil society and marginalised communities through inclusive decision-making processes will bring much-needed perspective and drive solutions that can work for everyone.

 UNEA-6 showcased the power of multilateralism in charting a path towards a sustainable future. While it underscores the need for continuous improvement and bold steps, it remains a valuable platform for international cooperation. Ultimately, tackling the climate crisis demands global collaboration on a scale that recognises our interconnectedness and the urgency of the challenge at hand. The road ahead will be fraught with complexities, but UNEA-6 has set a trajectory for increased ambition, commitment, and coordinated action. Let this Assembly catalyse the transformative changes necessary to protect our planet for present and future generations.