About United Nations Environment Programme
The United Nations Environment is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.
As part of Australia’s commitment to environment cooperation, the department participates in the biennial meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). The Assembly is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, and enjoys universal membership of all United Nations Member States.
Theme: Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals
UNEA-5.1 Due to COVID-19, the first session of UNEA-5 was held online on 22 and 23 February 2021 with a revised and streamlined agenda that focused on urgent and procedural decisions. Substantive matters that require in-depth negotiations were deferred to early 2022 (UNEA-5.2).
Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Sussan Ley MP delivered Australia’s National Statement and stressed the importance of collective ongoing action to address key threats such as ocean litter and biodiversity loss, while at the same time continuing to work with the international community towards a sustainable recovery from the global pandemic.
UNEA-5.2 The second part of UNEA-5 took place online and in person in Nairobi on 28 February to 2 March 2022.
Over 170 countries participated in the resumed session adopting 14 resolutions and a Ministerial Declaration.
Of particular note, Australia joined with countries at the Assembly to adopt a historic resolution to establish an intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. Through the International Negotiating Committee Australia will continue to push for ambitious outcomes on plastic pollution and for the agreement to be finalised within the next 2 to 3 years.
A UNEA Special Session followed on 3 and 4 March 2022 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the creation of the UN Environment Programme in 1972.
Watch the video of Minister Ley addressing the UNEA 5.2 Assembly
Minister Ley Ministerial Statement – United Nations Environment Assembly
28 February 2022
Your Excellency, President of the United Nations Environment Assembly and distinguished delegates.
Thank you for your hard work to make this event happen despite recent challenges. Australia is working to progress the global environmental agenda through this crucial assembly.
Marine Plastics. One of the great challenges of our time is how to retain the benefits of plastics while addressing the waste and devastating pollution they create on both land and sea.
Fourteen million tons of plastic enter our oceans every year.
In our region, marine litter and plastic pollution are already impacting communities, ecosystems and economies that rely on a healthy and clean ocean. The Australian Government treats this issue as an utmost priority, and as Minister for the Environment, I am determined to face these challenges head on.
Australia is taking unprecedented action to address the impacts of plastics along its life cycle through our National Waste Policy Action Plan and National Plastics Plan. We’re transforming our waste and recycling industries and we have banned the export of unprocessed waste plastics. We believe that ‘It’s our waste, it’s our responsibility’.
We are also working closely with our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific to protect the future of our oceans. We are investing $16 million in the Pacific Ocean Litter Project, to work with Pacific Island countries to tackle single use plastics that harm marine and coastal ecosystems.
But I encourage us all to do more to manage our plastic waste so that it doesn’t end up lying in landfill or in our oceans.
UNEA 5.2 has offered us all the chance to work together to implement global solutions to address plastic pollution. Together we can continue to build a healthy and resilient environment for our future generations. I am proud that Australia has taken this chance to support the launch of negotiations for a new, legally binding global agreement that addresses marine litter and plastic pollution.
I am very proud of the efforts we have undertaken to ensure that our global oceans are healthy and sustainable, including our deep, enduring commitment to protecting Australia’s global icon, the Great Barrier Reef.
The Australian government recently announced $1 billion in investment to help ensure that the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef is protected for future generations. This funding will improve progress towards water quality targets. It will also fund research on climate adaptation and resilience.
Finally, as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the UN Environment Program, I would like to congratulate UNEP on its crucial work over the past decades. Australia has a proud history of working with UNEP, and we look forward to years of fruitful collaboration on global environmental issues.
So thank you, Mr President and fellow delegates.
Theme: Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production
The fourth session of UNEA was held 11 to 15 March 2019 at the United Nations Environment Programme Headquarters, Nairobi, Kenya.
Under the overall theme, ‘Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production,’ UNEA-4 addressed: Environmental challenges related to poverty and natural resources management, including sustainable food systems, food security and halting biodiversity loss; Life-cycle approaches to resource efficiency, energy, chemicals and waste management; and innovative sustainable business development at a time of rapid technological change.
Theme: Towards a Pollution Free Planet
The third session of UNEA was held in Nairobi, Kenya on 4-6 December 2017. The Assembly drew more than 4,300 delegates from over 170 countries, including over 700 stakeholder representatives and 94 intergovernmental organisations.
UNEA-3 delivered commitments to end the pollution of air, land, waterways and oceans, and safely manage chemicals and waste, including a long-term programme of action. The Assembly endorsed a political declaration and 13 resolutions, including an Australian co-sponsored resolution on marine litter and microplastics.
Theme: Delivering on the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
The second session of UNEA was held in Nairobi, Kenya on 23-27 May 2016. Over 2,500 delegates from 174 countries attended the meeting to discuss global environmental challenges including 123 ministerial-level participants, 230 business participants and 400 from accredited stakeholders.
The meeting culminated in Governments agreeing to 25 landmark global resolutions giving strategic direction to UNEP, including three resolutions co-sponsored by Australia on oceans and seas, marine plastic litter and microplastics, and sustainable coral reef management.