UN Environment Assembly opens with calls for stronger multilateral action


Ministers of environment and other leaders from more than 180 nations convened on Monday 26 February 2024 in Nairobi for the start of the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6). With a focus on strengthening environmental multilateralism to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss and pollution, this year’s Assembly will be negotiating resolutions on issues ranging from nature-based solutions and highly hazardous pesticides to land degradation and drought, and environmental aspects of minerals and metals.

The UN Environment Assembly is the world’s highest decision-making body on the environment – its membership includes all 193 UN Member States. It meets biennially to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law; decisions and resolutions then taken by Member States at the Assembly also define the work of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“We are living in a time of turmoil. And I know that in this room, there are people who are, or who know, those deeply affected by this turmoil. Our response must demonstrate that multilateral diplomacy can deliver,” Leila Benali, President of UNEA-6 and Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development for the Kingdom of Morocco. “As we meet here in 2024, we must be self-critical and work towards inclusive, networked and effective multilateralism that can make a tangible difference to people’s lives.”

“We must also include voices beyond government, of youth, indigenous peoples and local communities, by focusing on issues of gender and human rights, and leaving no one behind,” she added. “And today, and at this UN Environment Assembly, we must accelerate multilateral action to strengthen the environmental foundation of sustainable development.”

As climate change intensifies, a million species head towards extinction, and pollution remains one of the world’s leading causes of premature death, UNEA-6 will see countries consider some 19 resolutions, part of a broader push to spur more ambitious multilateral environmental action. The resolutions cover, among other issues, circular economy; solar radiation modification; effective, inclusive, and sustainable multilateral actions towards climate justice; sound management of chemicals and waste, and sand and dust storms.

“It is time to lay political differences aside and focus on this little blue planet, teeming with life. Time to lift our sights to our common goal: a pathway to a sustainable and safe future,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “We do this by agreeing on the resolutions before UNEA-6 to boost multilateral action for today and tomorrow, and secure intergenerational justice and equity.”

More than 7,000 delegates from 182 UN Member States and more than 170 Ministers have registered for UNEA-6, taking place under the theme, effective, inclusive and sustainable multilateral actions to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. Delegates this week will include Heads of State, representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector.

“UNEA-6 comes at a time when the world is also called upon to accelerate the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda if we are to stay course on sustainable development. Unfortunately, for millions in the developing regions of the world, including here in Africa, poverty still remains a daily reality while economic inequality is increasing globally,” said Soipan Tuya, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Forestry for the Republic of Kenya. “It is against this backdrop that the world will be looking to us here in Nairobi this week to renew hope. And hope we must provide.”

A series of leadership and multi-stakeholder dialogues and more than 30 official side events and associated events are expected to lay the grounds for strengthened future global and regional coordinated efforts by the United Nations, Member States and partners to deliver high-impact planetary action. UNEA-6 will also highlight the importance of cooperation with multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) – international agreements that address the most pressing environmental issues of global or regional concern and are critical instruments of international environmental governance and international environmental law – with a full day devoted to strengthening convergence of actions and sharing of experiences while also providing increased visibility to the MEAs.