United Nations Environment Programme
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17 Dec 2021 Technical Highlight Environment under review

UNEP and the Nordic countries call for increased ambition for the environment

The 2021 annual consultations between the five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) discussed the urgent global action needed on many environmental issues contributing to the three planetary crises of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. Also discussed during the one-day consultations in November were the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration; a new global agreement on plastics; and key environmental events coming up in 2022.

“For almost 50 years, we at UNEP have been proud to count on our partnership with the Nordic countries. I am grateful for the productive exchange we’ve had on many topics – as we seek to push for progress on the triple planetary crisis,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

“The discussions demonstrated our shared vision of UNEP as the leading global organization for the environment,” said Juhani Damski, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Environment in Finland, who chaired the meeting on behalf of the Nordic countries.

The meeting occurred on the heels of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November 2021. Participants found that progress had been made at the landmark conference, but emphasized that significantly more needs to be done before 2030.

“Despite the sparse physical presence at COP, UNEP was truly present, providing the foundation for evidence-based policy-making. The scientific reports provided were important wake-up calls contributing to the outcome,” said Martin Eyjólfsson, Permanent Secretary of State at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Iceland.

UNEP’s strategy for the triple planetary crisis

UNEP updated the Nordic countries on its new Medium-Term Strategy (2022-2025) entitled “For People and Planet”, which will come into effect on 1st January 2022. It lays out UNEP’s vision for addressing climate change, nature and biodiversity loss and pollution and waste by promoting sustainable consumption and production. The strategy is underpinned by science for evidence-based policy-making and supports environmental law and governance.  

A key part of UNEP’s strategy is nature-based solutions – locally appropriate actions that address societal challenges, such as climate change and provide human well-being and biodiversity benefits by protecting, sustainably managing and restoring ecosystems.

The State Of Finance For Nature report (2021) by UNEP, World Economic Forum and the Economics of Land Degradation call for investments in nature-based solutions to triple by 2030 and to increase four-fold by 2050 from the current level. During COP26, UNEP also launched a new report demonstrating the value and benefits of nature-based solutions.

“One of the important things we discussed was deforestation and ecosystem restoration. Fortunately, there seems to be more support for action than ever before. Denmark will work with UNEP to increase the global efforts under the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration,” said Henrik Studsgaard, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment in Denmark.

Towards a global agreement on plastics   

Already in 2019, the Nordic countries voiced their support for an ambitious, legally binding global agreement addressing the entire life cycle of plastics. In November 2021, they agreed on a joint declaration to develop a new global agreement on plastic pollution, and to support the establishment of an intergovernmental negotiating committee at the fifth resumed UN Environment Assembly (UNEA 5.2).

Norway, which currently holds the Presidency of UNEA, hopes that UNEA 5.2 will launch the negotiation process.

“The year 2022 will mark several milestones with the resumed session of UNEA5 being the first step. The Nordic countries envisage that UNEA5.2 will take a decision to move forward with an intergovernmental negotiating committee for a global agreement on plastic pollution. This would be an incremental step in strengthening the environmental agenda and could make this UNEA the most impactful to date,” said Aleksander Øren Heen, State Secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment.

“We are very keen to land the intergovernmental negotiating committee, and land it with the degree of ambition it demands,” said Andersen.

To ensure that the scientific base is as up to date as possible, UNEP recently launched a global assessment on marine litter and plastic pollution, From Pollution to Solution.

Upcoming environmental events

2022 will also mark UNEP’s 50th anniversary at a Special Session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) held back-to-back with UNEA 5.2. The year will also celebrate the commemoration of the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference), the first conference to make the environment a major global issue, which also led to the creation of UNEP. The event, called Stockholm+50, will be hosted in Sweden in June 2022.

“Stockholm+50 will offer an opportunity for nations and stakeholders to work in an integrated manner on complex nexus issues such as biodiversity and climate, and accelerate implementation on the ground. Our hope is that Stockholm+50 will support rebalancing of humans’ relationship with nature, and sustainable development in action, not only in words. We know that our common goals are already set, but implementation so far is fragmented and small, both in scale and ambition,” said Annika Jacobson.

Strong financial support

The Nordic countries provide generous funding to the Environment Fund, UNEP’s core source of flexible funds that supports the bedrock of its work worldwide. The Nordic countries together provided over 18 per cent of the funding to the Environment Fund from 2015 to 2020, totaling US$ 77.5 million. In 2021, each of the five countries provided their ‘fair share’ to the Environment Fund.  In addition, they contributed over US$ 205 million in earmarked funding for thematic areas during 2015-2020.


The Environment Fund and the ’fair share

The Environment Fund is the core source of flexible funds to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It provides the bedrock for our work worldwide as we support countries to deliver on the environmental dimensions of the 2030 Agenda. To support the Environment Fund, each of our 193 Member States is encouraged to contribute their ’fair share, as represented by the ‘Voluntary Indicative Scale of Contributions’, established in 2002 by the Member States themselves. The scale considers each country individually and distributes responsibility collectively.