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UNEA-6: Contact groups work overtime to deliver 19 resolutions and two decisions by tonight’s deadline

View of the dais during Contact Group I: Cluster A. PHOTO/IISD/ENB/Mike Muzurakis.

By PATRICK MAYOYO

newshub@eyewitness.africa

The second day of the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) was marked by an intense workload in back-to-back contact group sessions trying to beat the clock and deliver 19 resolutions and two decisions by tonight’s (Wednesday) deadline.

Delegates worked in parallel contact groups to reach agreement on all the draft resolutions in clusters on abating pollution, halting and reversing loss of nature and ecosystems, international environmental governance, addressing root causes of the triple planetary crisis, and budgetary and administrative matters.

According to Earth Negotiations Bulletin, a relentless pace of work yielded some “low-hanging fruit”: one resolution and two decisions related to procedural, administrative, and budgetary matters, and a resolution on the sugar cane agro-industry, were approved by the Committee of the Whole (COW) at its stocktaking plenary in the late evening.

The Co-Chairs of the contact groups also reported on progress on remaining resolutions – slow and steady, with multiple informal consultations already convened and scheduled for Wednesday to finalize the text for the COW closing plenary.

Some resolutions, such as on nature-based solutions, land degradation, water policies and synergies are very close to being finalized.

Others, like on solar radiation management and climate justice, are still subject to a broad conceptual debate. Lastly, certain resolutions are held hostage by a persisting inability to see eye-to-eye geopolitically and might not see adoption by consensus despite continued efforts to find middle ground text – the most obvious one being a resolution on environmental assistance and recovery in areas affected by armed conflict.

Accordingly, COW Chair Norbert Kurilla issued marching orders for resolutions where good progress has been made, with more time allowed for consideration in contact groups. Regarding decisions where full agreement appears challenging, the Co-Chairs are to develop short non-papers to be considered on “more or less a take it or leave it basis.”

In the contact group one on the chemicals and waste resolution, some delegates had reservations about requesting UNEP to seek “cooperation” between the Global Framework on Chemicals (GFC) Fund and the Special Programme as this created an unrealistic expectation from the organization.

Delegates from the US, Canada, EU, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Cuba, and the Secretariat conferring on the sidelines. PHOTO/IISD/ENB/Mike Muzurakis.

Two delegations did not accept either options on text regarding the terms of reference of the Special Programme, and this was referred to informal discussions.

Negotiations regarding the actions urged in the report entitled An Assessment Report on Issues of Concern: Chemicals and Waste Issues Posing Risks to Human Health and the Environment stalled with delegations split on whether Member States and the UN bodies should “take further action” or “consider” the issues discussed in the report. Several other paragraphs remained bracketed, and Co-Chair Yorita urged delegations to consult informally.

In negotiations on the sand and dust storms resolution, fewer brackets remained unresolved. The complex outstanding points centered on: whether to include or delete a reference to “developing” and “developed” countries in operative paragraphs on mobilizing technical and financial support; and adding or deleting “integrated” approaches to practical interventions to combat sand and dust storms.

Reference to the “Loss and Damage Fund” was changed to “the most recently established Fund” as the name has yet to be finalized by Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

In the afternoon, Contact Group 1 continued negotiations on Cluster B, reopening the draft resolution on strengthening international efforts to combat desertification, halt land degradation, restore degraded lands and increase ecosystem and community drought resilience.

In the second operative paragraph, one delegation proposed, and others opposed including “in coherence with other related policies and strategies” regarding refining voluntary land degradation neutrality targets. Suggestions about adding “enhance international cooperation, including,” at the beginning of the sentence, and addition of “through North-South”, and “South-South resources” remain unresolved.

Regarding insertion or deletion of the terms “transformative” and “from all sources” of financing opportunities, delegations did agree, and the text remained bracketed. Two delegations proposed a combination of the two sub-paragraphs, which was accepted by most with only the two brackets remaining.

Delegates from contact group sessions take a break. PHOTO/ IISD/ENB/Mike Muzurakis

Significant effort was expended on a paragraph with references to other UN bodies, stakeholders, country categorizations as well as how Indigenous Peoples and traditional knowledge is formulated.

On ocean and seas governance, many discussions revolved around the language already negotiated in other fora, in particular the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and at the UN Ocean Conference.

Some delegates warned against pulling text from other instruments without context and suggested that each cross-reference be carefully reviewed. A few delegations wanted to add “in accordance with national regulations and legislation” in a paragraph on the UN Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty (BBNJ) ratification, several others reserved.

Some delegations mentioned “accession” as an important way for countries to become parties to BBNJ in addition to signature and ratification, while others said it is too early for accession since the treaty is not yet in force and hence should be removed.

A Major Group cautioned against weakened language in this important draft resolution, congratulated Palau and Chile for ratifying BBNJ, and urged other countries to follow suit to allow swift entry into force. Delegates also considered how to make recommendations to UNEP on activities related to ocean and seas governance that are within its mandate.

Just like the venue in Nairobi was put to the test by heavy rain, UNEA is currently being tested by the growing complexity of the international environmental governance architecture and distrust among many Member States.

The upcoming days will show whether UNEA-6 will live up to the challenge and continue delivering on its core mandate – setting the global environmental agenda.

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