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Chemicals and Waste

UNEP is a primary driving force in the UN system for international activities related to the sound management of chemicals. More

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Environment Under Review
Contributing to sustainable development and improved well-being through empowering stakeholders at global, regional and national levels; by providing open web platforms, services and access to timely, substantiated knowledge about the environment and emerging issues; and by strengthening capacities to make use of substantiated knowledge in decision-making.

Regional News

Biggest Day for Positive Environmental Action Kicks off with a Call to ‘Consume with Care’

Nairobi/Milan, 29 May 2015 – World Environment Day (WED), the UN’s principal vehicle to encourage worldwide awareness and action for the environment, will be celebrated around the world on 5 June with a call to governments, communities and individuals to improve their consumption patterns.

This year’s theme, ‘Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care’, encourages people to rethink their lifestyles and, through conscious consumer decisions, decrease humanity’s collective impact on nature’s resources.

According to UNEP’s International Resource Panel (IRP), if unsustainable consumption and production patterns persist, by 2050 we will be using three planets- worth of natural resources to maintain our ways of living. This means that it will take three years for the Earth to regenerate the resources we use in one year. By 2050, humanity could be devouring about 140 billion tonnes of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year – three times its current appetite – unless economic growth rate is decoupled from the rate of natural resource use.

The global host for WED celebrations this year is Italy, a country at the forefront of the worldwide action towards improved global nutrition and resource use. The main celebrations will take place at Expo Milano – this year’s edition of the world-famous universal exhibition. Running from 1 May to 31 October, Expo Milano will feature more than 140 exhibiting countries and numerous international organizations, including a pavilion of the United Nations. The exhibition is expected to attract over 20 million visitors.

The Milan Expo supports and complements WED with its theme of ‘Feeding the Planet - Energy for Life’, which showcases state-of-the-art technology, ideas and solutions that can help guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the planet and its equilibrium.

On 4 June, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner and Football star and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Yaya Toure will host the official WED press conference at the Milano Expo Media Centre, where the issue of sustainable consumption and production will be spotlighted and a new Handbook will be launched that outlines best practices and principles for policy makers.

The Milan Expo will witness an array of exciting WED related events, including a forum of the ministers of agriculture from countries participating in Expo themed “Agriculture To Feed The World”, cooking classes by celebrity chefs using leftover food, the unveiling of the Cineambiente Mini Film Festival and the Earth Evening – an unplugged concert for piano and vocal to celebrate the WED with zero emissions music.

GLOBAL CELEBRATION HIGHLIGHTS

Austria - Going Wild in Vienna

Great Apes will take over the Austrian capital, as UNEP Vienna, together with Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), GRID-Arendal Centre and UN Information Service (UNIS) organize two public events for WED, focusing on “Human-wildlife conflicts in mountain regions.”  A photo exhibition will be launched at the Rotunda at the Vienna International Centre, featuring exceptional pictures of great apes. On Monday, 8th June the UNIS CineONU Event in Vienna’s TopKino will feature the screening of the highly acclaimed documentary “Virunga,” telling the story of rangers in Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Bahamas - Cleaning up the Oceans in the Bahamas

Marine litter in the oceans, resulting from our excessive consumption of plastic, will be the focus of the Youth Action Island Summit, co-organized by the 5 Gyres plastic pollution scientists (part of UNEP Marine Litter Partnership), The Island School, Cape Eleuthra Institute, internationally renowned singer Jack Johnson and his All At Once Foundation. The summit will bring together activists, artists, filmmakers, scientists, educators and youth to explore the question—how will island nations deal with plastic pollution in the 21st century.

Belgium - Celebrating with Families in Brussels

WED in Brussels will be celebrated at the Parc du Cinquantenaire on 7 June, with the Fête de l’Environnement organised by the Brussels Region under the overall theme of climate. As in previous years, 20,000 visitors are expected at this family-friendly animated information village set up in the heart of the European Institutions area.

World Environment Day will also be promoted at Green Week (2-5 June) and the European Development Days (3-4 June) taking place in Brussels, as well as at a dedicated CineONU on 8 June, where a documentary relating to climate change will be screened.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Going to the Cinema in Sarajevo

Visual arts will mark the WED celebrations in Sarajevo. Following UNEP’s successful production of a short film on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s biological and landscape diversity, awareness-raising activities on nature conservation through art will be held at the most important cultural event in the region – the Sarajevo Film Festival.

WED 2015 celebrations on 5 June will also kick off the Sarajevo Summer for the Environment, featuring a press conference, followed by a visit to the protected areas in the Sarajevo Canton.

Brazil –A Week for the Environment

Celebrations will begin on May 31st and end on June 6th. Various activities will promote awareness for sustainable consumption, including film screenings to the general public and at public schools, the Cycle Tour in Brasilia, workshops on clothing and reuse of food, an organic fair and a social media campaign. A ceremony in celebration of WED will be held at the UN House.

China – Going Green in Shanghai and Beijing

UNEP’s Deputy Executive Director will lead the WED celebrations in China, which will run 3-5 June in Shanghai and Beijing. He will participate in the Flagship China National Television (CCTV) Dialogue programme, launch the WED poster series at the Beijing International Airport and meet with students at the International Students Conference on Environment and Sustainability, where he will be joined by the famous actor - Zhu Yawen.

Cote d'Ivoire – Taking WED on the Road

WED will get mobile in Cote d'Ivoire, with a marketing truck passing through 3 cities and raising awareness on consumption patterns in the visited areas, among local and consumer groups. A Family Awareness Event/ Journées Portes Ouvertes will also be organized, involving different environmental stakeholders, universities, research institutes etc. A panel discussion on the environment will be broadcast by the local television.

Japan – Learning about Sustainability in Osaka

UNEP International Environmental Technology Centre, together with Osaka City Government, are organizing a seminar on 5 June focused on the theme – Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care. The seminar is targeting the private sector in Osaka, especially small and medium-sized companies.

Kenya – Greening the Blue in Nairobi

The Step by Step Group, UNEP and UN Office in Nairobi (UNON) will host a ‘green week’ from 2 to 5 June, aiming to sensitize UN staff on greener and sustainable practices, focusing on reducing plastic waste and reducing environmental impacts of food choices. Activities include: a booth to share a dream and make a pledge; participation by UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Suzanna Owiyo to speak about her Soko Bila Waste Initiative; a group of children from Nairobi slums sharing their experience on life at the dumpsite in Nairobi.

Switzerland – Talking Environment Protection in Geneva

The Geneva Environment Network Secretariat team, with the contribution of various international governmental and non-governmental organizations and local authorities has prepared a captivating WED 2015 programme including an Environmental Quiz, a talk presenting the Garbage Patch State, a Ciné-ONU screening of the movie "Virunga" at the Maison de la Paix, and a Geneva Environment Roundtable on Sustainable Procurement.

South Africa – Saving Food in Pretoria

On WED, UNEP will launch the first-ever project on food waste in Africa - the pilot project on the adoption of the guidance methodology for food waste reduction in Pretoria, South Africa. Events include media interviews and the launch of the Think.Eat.Save. Guidance Document and outreach events at the Pretoria public market.

For more information, please contact:

Isabelle Valentiny, Head of Communications, Regional Office for Europe, UNEP  
+41 79 251 82 36, isabelle.valentiny@unep.org

Michal Szymanski, News and Media, UNEP
+254 715 876 185, michal.szymanski@unep.org   or   unepnewsdesk@unep.org



UNEP and UNECE Sign Landmark Agreement to Strengthen Partnership on Green Economy and Sustainable Development

Geneva, 11 May 2015 - The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Christian Friis Bach signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to reinforce the collaboration between UNEP and UNECE on environmental protection, supporting the shift to a green economy and promoting sustainable development.

The agreement will allow the two organizations to provide coherent assistance to Member States on a range of topics, from improvement of air quality, to boosting cooperation on environmental governance, to a shift to green economy. UNEP's and UNECE's common delivery on these issues will support the region's countries in overcoming the challenges they face in terms of sustainable development and energy, environmental protection and climate change.

Achim Steiner said, "Countries in the Pan-European region continue to make remarkable strides towards achieving equitable and sustainable green growth; leading the way on global climate change mitigation efforts, for example, by a wide margin. But the region also faces considerable challenges; from the unsustainable use of natural resources and unsatisfactory water quality to the increase in chemical waste levels and worsening air quality."

"This timely partnership with the UN Economic Commission for Europe - just months ahead of the adoption of a new set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) - will bring greater strength and coherence to our work which aims to support governments in their efforts to better manage shared natural resources and integrate environmental sustainability and resource efficiency into all aspects of development planning and policy implementation," he added.

Christian Friis Bach declared: “UNECE and UNEP already work very well together in Europe and Central Asia on supporting the transition to the green economy by helping member States enshrine sustainability across all sectors of the economy and all activities, from education to production and consumption”.

“We will now strengthen our cooperation to better support countries to implement the various regional and global multilateral environmental agreements hosted by UNECE and UNEP. This cooperation will also reinforce our capacity to help member States implement and monitor the expected Sustainable Development Goals, in particular by applying the methodology of the Environmental Performance Reviews,” he added.

Topics on which the two agencies pledged to enhance their existing collaboration include: preparations for and follow-up of the Environment for Europe Ministerial process, and in particular the next Ministerial Conference in Batumi in 2016; promotion of the shift towards a green economy in the pan-European region; improvement of air quality; implementation of the roadmap on Education for Sustainable Development in the region; environmental monitoring and assessment at country and regional levels, in particular via links between their information platforms.

The agreement foresees that the cooperation framework between the two organizations could be further extended to other sectors, in particular in the fields of energy, forests, housing and transport.

For more information, please contact:

Isabelle Valentiny, Head of Communications, UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe

Tel. +41 79 251 82 36 or isabelle.valentiny@unep.org

Jean Rodriguez Chief, Information Unit, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Tel. +41  22 917 27 27 or jean.rodriguez@unece.org


UNEP Executive Director Warns of Tsunami of E-waste at Conference on Chemical Treaties

Geneva, 4 May 2015 - Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP today stressed the need to limit the use of dangerous chemicals and to find a solution to the masses of electronic waste building up around the world, as a Conference of Parties to three major Conventions on the subject began in Geneva today.

The head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) told journalists that the "tsunami of e-waste rolling out over the world" not only accounted for a large portion of the world's non-recyclable "waste mountain" but also needed dealing with because many elements found in electronic equipment are potentially hazardous to people and the environment.

"Never mind that it is also an economic stupidity because we are throwing away an enormous amount of raw materials that are essentially re-useable," said Mr. Steiner. "Whether it is gold, silver or some of the rare earths that you have heard about perhaps in recent years, it is still an incredible amount."

Mr. Steiner said that the amount of some such materials that are available above ground in unused electronics now exceeds the amount still in the ground and he looked to the potential of the Basel Convention to help access 'urban mines' by working to better inform people of how to dispose of their e-waste.

As well as the Basel Convention, for which the Geneva meeting is the 12th Conference of Parties, the eleven-day '2015 Triple COPs: Setting the Scene for Sustainable Management of Chemicals and Waste, Worldwide' will also cover the Seventh Conference of Parties to both the Rotterdam and the Stockholm Conventions. Over 1,500 delegates are expected to take part in the talks, which aim to improve three international conventions contributing to global controls on hazardous chemicals and waste.

The Executive Director said the three Conventions were not about stopping the use of chemicals but about providing a clear platform from which to inform policy-makers of science that can inform decisions to help protect citizens from toxicity and about signaling to the market that alternatives are needed.

He pointed out how materials used in production of various items are becoming ever more present in people's daily lives, and he said people were becoming "increasingly a repository for the chemical footprint of the 21st century," often in ways that damage health.

"Annually, one million people die from occupational poisoning," Mr. Steiner said, referring to the effects of the use of chemicals on people's bodies. "This is something that is, in this day and age, not only unnecessary it's really intolerable. And this is why the sound management of chemicals is something that has brought Governments, civil society but also the private sector and the chemical industry together."

The Executive Secretary of Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, Rolph Payet, echoed Mr. Steiner's concerns about the number of people dying from occupational poisoning and described the wide reach of chemicals, with DDT found in polar bear and fat because of its transport in water and in the air. While the number of those dying from occupational poisoning was notable, he also pointed to the "silent crisis," whereby the accumulation of chemicals in people's bodies was possibly slowly killing them.

Clayton Campanhola, the Executive Secretary of Rotterdam Convention and a representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said the agency was particularly focused on the prevention of use and safe disposal of obsolete pesticides. About 500,000 tons of obsolete pesticides scattered around the developing world posed serious risks to people and environment, he said.

For more information:

Website of the Conference

UNEP's Work on Chemicals and Waste


Side event during the BRS Conventions Conference:

"Linkages between Human Rights and Hazardous Substances", convened by UNEP Regional Office for Europe, the BRS Secretariats and the Special Rapporteur

Statement from UN Special Rapporteur




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