The sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) is taking place from 26 February to 1 March 2024 at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

As the world’s top decision-making body on the environment, UNEA aims to help restore harmony between humanity and nature, improving the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.

UNEA-6 will focus on how multilateralism can help tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. Backed by strong science, political resolve and engagement with society, the Assembly will be an opportunity for world governments, civil society groups, the scientific community and the private sector to shape the global environmental policy.

As the planet’s only universal membership forum for the environment, UNEA provides a unique platform for courageous decisions and new ideas to chart a bold plan of collective environmental action. In so doing, UNEA-6 will support the achievement of the sustainable development goals.

UNEA-6 was preceded by a meeting of the Open-ended Committee of Permanent Representatives, 19-23 February 2024, which helped lay the groundwork for the Assembly.

Driving the action we need

Why is UNEA important?

A record 6,000 delegates are expected to attend the 2024 Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), including seven heads of state and 139 ministers and deputy ministers, as well as experts, activists and representatives from the private sector.

UNEA was created in 2012 following the results of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Brazil. This marked the beginning of a new era of multilateral cooperation in which environmental issues are given the same importance as global peace and security or health issues.

Over the years, UNEA has adopted key resolutions on topics such as combating illegal wildlife trade, environmental protection in armed conflict zones, transport planning and others.

Negotiations at the 2022 Environment Assembly have begun work on the first legally binding international instrument to end plastic pollution, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.

What’s at stake this year?

The central theme of UNEA6 will be multilateral environmental agreements and how they can help address the “triple crisis” of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

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Despite uncertainty due to rising geopolitical tensions and the impact of the  COVID-19 pandemic , important progress in environmental cooperation has been achieved in the past two years.

For example, in 2022, the UN General Assembly recognized the universal human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, paving the way for constitutional and legislative changes at the country level.

That same year, the landmark Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework was adopted, with measures to protect 1 million critically endangered animal and plant species.

In June 2023, 193 UN member countries signed the so-called High Seas Treaty, aimed at preserving marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdictions.

Last November, the UN climate conference COP28 announced the launch of a Loss and Damage Fund to help vulnerable countries affected by climate change.

UNEA-6 will set aside a day to discuss these and other achievements, as well as to review the measures planned by governments, in particular to ensure adequate funding for the implementation of the multilateral agreements they have signed.

What topics are your priority?

United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Inger Andersen has identified six priority areas for UNEA 6: water scarcity; responsible mining; rational use of mineral resources, especially phosphorus; climate change technologies; financing conservation efforts; and implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Framework.

Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Inger Andersen at the opening of UNEA-6.
© UNEP/K.Worth

According to Andersen, “We need to come together and implement the global actions we have promised each other to ensure a future for all humanity on a healthy and prosperous planet.”

Negotiations before and during the event focus on resolutions proposed by member states and the ministerial declaration that will be adopted at the conclusion of the Assembly. Resolutions aim to identify and prioritize problems and their possible solutions. They also define the main directions of UNEP’s work.

UNEA-6 will discuss 20 resolutions and two decisions on topics such as solar radiation modification, mining, desertification, the sugarcane production cycle, highly hazardous pesticides, improving drought resilience, and regional cooperation on air quality.

How are the negotiations going?

UNEA resolutions are expected to be adopted by consensus. In practice, this means that every member of the Assembly present has the right to veto a decision. Therefore, the week leading up to the conference is important for delegates to review draft documents and overcome possible conflicts. Negotiations often last throughout the week, and closed-door meetings can last late into the night.

As the highest global decision-making body on environmental issues, UNEA strives to restore harmony between humanity and nature and improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.

UNEP will take a number of measures to reduce the environmental impact of the conference itself.

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