UNEP’s Annual Report shows progress, but need for acceleration to address the triple planetary crisis


The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on Monday 19 February 2024 released its Annual Report (2023), which details the work of the organization last year to provide key science and solutions on the triple planetary crisis, convene and support environmental negotiations, host critical multilateral environmental agreements, work to align funding with global processes, and support Member States to deliver on their commitments.

In 2023, ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28), analyses by UNEP – the Adaptation Gap Report, Emissions Gap Report and Production Gap Report – brought into sharp focus the scale of the climate crisis and offered policymakers a suite of solutions.

A major highlight for UNEP in 2023 was the ground breaking Methane Alert and Response System, which tracked major releases of the potent greenhouse gas from oil and gas installations. Developed by UNEP and partners, the first-of-its-kind initiative uses satellite data, machine learning and other cutting-edge techniques. In 2023, it notified companies and governments of over 120 methane plumes across four continents, encouraging action to reduce emissions.

UNEP also led the establishment of early warning systems for climate-related disasters in six countries: Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Niue, Palau, Timor-Leste and Tuvalu. Some of those systems are up and running, including a web-based forecasting system that warned Cook Islanders of coastal flooding during a May storm. UNEP is implementing similar projects in 19 other nations, as part of a broader UN push to ensure early warning systems protect everyone on Earth by 2027.

On the nature front, UNEP is leading efforts to protect, restore and sustainably manage the natural world. Many of UNEP’s efforts in 2023 focused on helping countries implement the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF).

UNEP also continues to work on the issue of pollution and waste, hosting the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution. The UNEP-convened Climate and Clean Air Coalition helped 50 countries – including Cambodia, Kenya, Pakistan, Nigeria and Thailand – advance national plans to reduce shortlived pollutants, like methane and hydrofluorocarbons, which contribute to climate change and air pollution. In September, the world agreed on the Global Framework on Chemicals, a historic deal to protect people and the environment from chemical pollution. UNEP will manage a dedicated trust fund in support of the framework.

“Progress is being made. The great task ahead is to accelerate this progress so that it moves faster than the intensification of the triple planetary crisis,” Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, said on the release of the Annual Report.

“As the leading global authority on the environment, UNEP will work tirelessly to help make this happen – through deploying digital technologies to provide forward-looking and relevant science, boosting the implementation of the multilateral environmental agreements that make change possible, and backing Member States to promote climate stability, live in harmony with nature and forge a pollution-free future,” she added.