Organizational session of the ad hoc open-ended working group that was established by General Assembly resolution 72/277 of 10 May 2018 entitled “Towards a Global Pact for the Environment

– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at organizational session of the ad hoc open-ended working group that was established by General Assembly resolution 72/277 of 10 May 2018 entitled “Towards a Global Pact for the Environment


Good morning, excellencies, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Our job, today, it to look to the future. And to plan how our journey towards a Global Pact for the Environment will go.

And, I want to thank you all for being here.

Particular thanks must go to our two co-chairs: Ambassador Duarte Lopes, of Portugal, and Ambassador Mudallali, of Lebanon. Their roles will require a considerable amount of work – and they are both dedicated to this process.

I also want to acknowledge the delegation of France for introducing the resolution which has brought us all here today.

As we kick off this first meeting of the ad hoc, open-ended working group, I will make three main points.

First, I want to state a fact: we cannot continue as we are going.

Humans have not been on this earth forever. In fact, we have only been here for a fraction of its existence. Yet, our impact has been enormous.

Many of us live better lives now, than we did some years ago.

But the way we are doing it is unsustainable.

Our demands for food, water and energy are too high. And they will only rise, as our global population grows. In fact, according to new UN data, the current world population is expected to increase from 7.6 billion to 11.2 billion by 2100. Which will put even more pressure on our planet.

Now, this is not scaremongering. And these are not faraway threats, which may or may not come to pass. The damage we are doing is very real. And we can feel it already.

Millions of people are living through extreme weather events – from mega hurricanes to droughts. And many others have lost their lives because of them. The climate around us is changing. And, current trends suggest that our world will keep getting warmer. Which means things can only get worse.

Meanwhile, we have turned our ocean into a dumping ground. As we speak, more pollution and waste are flowing into it. This has put us on track for an entire ecosystem collapse.

So, we cannot continue down this path. It will lead us to a cliff. And, we cannot afford to go over it.

There is no Planet B. There is no quick repair. And, if we fall off the cliff, there is no way back.

So, it is time to stop ourselves in our tracks.

And today is another step in doing just that.

So, as my second point, I want to look at other steps we have taken – which have brought us to where we are today.

In a way, this is all old news.

We have realised, for many years, that our planet is in trouble. But we had no governance structure to respond.

Then, in 1972, we took action to change that. Through the United Nations Conference on Human Environment, we created a new entity: The United Nations Environment Programme.

By the time we came to the Rio Earth Summit, in 1992, it was clear that our challenges were even more urgent – from climate change to deforestation and biodiversity loss.

Since then, hundreds of multilateral agreements have been adopted. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement were our biggest landmarks yet.

So, we have a very strong basis for action.

But we need every push forward that we can get.

And the Global Pact for the Environment can do just that.

It has the potential to create more coherence and integration among our various agreements and mechanisms.

The Pact could be an accelerator. It could allow us to pick up the pace, in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. And it could give us the push forward that we need– as we adopt new economic models.

But we cannot start from scratch. Instead, this Pact must build on existing frameworks, international legal instruments and agreed principles.

This is how we can hand our planet over in as good a – or even better – condition – than we, ourselves, inherited.

My third and final point is about the future.

In May, Member States adopted a new resolution. They decided to move towards a Global Pact for the Environment. And, in doing so, they established a Working Group to look at gaps and opportunities in our existing system.

I appointed our two, distinguished co-chairs very soon after. And since then, we have been consulting with both Member States and the UN Secretariat, in particular UNEP.

The first session of the Working Group will focus on organisational matters. It will look at the question of the number and length of substantive sessions – which will be convened in the UNEP headquarters, in Nairobi.

As we know, the Secretary-General will submit his report in the next few weeks. It will review the current international legal system, which we have established to protect this planet. It will provide concrete recommendations. And it will give the Working Group a lot of food for thought – and discussion.

But we will not be able to do it alone. So, I hope we can make these discussions as inclusive as possible. We will need everyone on board – from representatives of civil society, and science and academic communities, to United Nations and government stakeholders.

We need action. There is no doubt about it. That is the only way to give our planet a certain future. And I am convinced this process – and, ultimately, a Global Pact – can spur that action on. 


President of the UN General Assembly

So, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need action.

There is no doubt about it.

That is the only way to give our planet a certain future.

And I am convinced this process – and, ultimately, a Global Pact – can spur that action on.

It will, however, take a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of dialogue.

And we are only at the beginning.

But I believe we are up to the challenge.

So good luck – and thank you all again.