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Europe gears up for Environment Assembly

Political momentum is mushrooming ahead of this year’s Environment Assembly following the first-ever regional consultation attended by high-level European representatives to prepare for the summit.

The Assembly is the world’s highest level decision-making body on the environment and will meet in Nairobi on 4-6 December to agree on resolutions ‘towards a pollution-free planet’.

Countries from the pan-European region discussed objectives for the Assembly during an informal consultation held in Ostrava, Czech Republic on 13 June.

“A very strong political message, complemented by meaningful actions to reduce the harmful environmental impact on lives and health of people” should come out of the December meeting, urged the Czech Deputy Environment Minister Vladislav Smrž.

“Pollution not only affects people and the ecosystem, but is fundamentally threatening our own existence,” said UN Environment Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw, stressing the importance of country representatives being at the Assembly itself to showcase solutions. The region’s contribution to the Assembly is vital in this regard, said its President H.E. Dr. Edgar Gutierrez-Espeleta in a video message.

Fanny Demassieux of UN Environment presented an overview of the ‘Towards a Pollution-Free Planet’ report being used as background to prepare the Assembly. The paper will detail the science behind, as well as the impacts and economic costs of air, marine and coastal, land and soil, freshwater, chemicals, and waste pollution. It will also spell out areas where countries can take meaningful regulatory or practical action at local, national or regional level.

Environmental problems don’t take place in isolation, one country noted. Integrated resolutions- where action takes place across themes and sectors - could therefore be issued at the Assembly on smart and healthy cities, circular economy, action to reduce marine plastic and measures to reduce long-term exposure to chemicals, it was proposed.

Meanwhile, to fight pollution and its economic and social consequences, all stakeholders - including the private sector - must be on board, another country underlined at the consultation, which was held in the margins of the sixth Health and Environment Ministerial Conference H.E Julia Pataki, Chair of the Committee of Permanent Representatives, heralded the importance of the June meeting for scaling-up the Assembly’s impact. She encouraged countries to submit joint proposals for resolutions, rather than stand-alone ones.

The consultation not only addressed what Europe can seek to achieve towards eradicating pollution, but also how it could do so.

In this regard, “civil society is not just a voice, but a leader in the implementation of transformative and life-changing projects across the region,” reminded UN Environment’s regional representative for major groups and stakeholders, Ms. Olga Ponizova.

Her comment was a reminder of the broad partnerships needed to get to the bottom of health and environment issues.

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