Excellencies, Colleagues, Friends,
I am honoured to join you all in commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme.
I take this opportunity to extend my congratulations to UNEP on its milestone 50th Anniversary, and to express my confidence that UNEP will continue to build on its successes in the years ahead.
Over the last 50 years, UNEP has coordinated a worldwide effort to confront the planet’s biggest environmental challenges. The organization has played a key role in creating dozens of institutions and agreements that have advanced understanding of global challenges and propelled international action.
These include game-changers such as:
- The 1987 Montreal Protocol, which led to a 98 percent drop in controlled ozone depleting gases;
- The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which since 1988 the leading global body on climate science;
- The 1992 Earth Summit, and its associated global treaties on climate and biodiversity;
- The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the first ever survey of the health of the world’s biological resources.
- The phasing out of leaded fuel last July, after a relentless 19-year campaign; and
- Helping prevent many endangered species from going extinct and more.
UNEP has helped to lay the foundations for a scientific consensus on environmental decline, and it should be proud of the body of law that has been enacted globally.
UNEP’s convening power and rigorous scientific research has provided a platform for countries to engage, act boldly and advance the global environmental agenda.
Likewise, I also acknowledge and applaud the Government of Kenya for its role in hosting the Secretariat of UNEP for the past 50 years, and for supporting its many initiatives in environmental conversation.
Today, as we commemorate UNEP’s efforts and achievements, we must reflect on whether we, as a global community, are doing enough to support those efforts and to meet our obligations to the planet.
Now, at this critical time, as the world recovers from a pandemic and is confronted with the realities of war, climate change, and environmental degradation, we must step up to the task. We must redouble our commitments and stay on track to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We must take action to preserve our planet, its environments, and our collective well-being.
During this High-Level Meeting, I look forward to Member States’ adoption of the political declaration on strengthening international environmental law and environmental governance. And I very much look forward to the outcome that will derive from the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly.
I come from the Maldives, a small island state, heavily reliant on our ecosystems for our sustenance and economy. I know the human costs that will accompany environmental degradation and climate change. That is why I made ‘protecting the planet’ one of the key priorities of my Presidency of Hope, and why I will continue to support environmental champions, such as UNEP, in their important work.
In three months, we will mark 50 years since the historic Conference held in Stockholm, in 1972, which led to the creation of UNEP. The Stockholm Declaration provided the first agreed global set of principles for future work in the field of the human environment. It was a considerable contribution to the development of international environmental law. Its legacy continues.
Recognizing this, I will convene a preparatory meeting for this International Meeting in three weeks, in New York. Stockholm will serve as a space for reflection on the dependencies between humanity and the environment, and on our responsibility for the well-being of both.
Both commemorations provide opportunities to build lasting coalitions for the environment, and will foster stronger partnerships, for, and with, future generations.
This is something I truly champion: to build the future we want, we need to listen to the voices of future generations.
In recognition of these important commemorations and given that the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly coincides with High-Level Meetings on biodiversity, desertification, the ocean, energy, and climate – I will convene a High-Level Thematic Debate in July, entitled a ‘Moment for Nature’.
There, we will reflect on solutions to common bottlenecks across the environmental agenda, to accelerate progress on all fronts.
I will also convene a High-Level Meeting in May, focused “on the sustainable and resilient recovery of the tourism sector”, where I will emphasize the need for the world to transition to blue and green economic practices.
I believe we can achieve prosperity for all without compromising our natural blessings, and while taking action to protect climate vulnerable communities residing in Small Island Developing States.
Rest assured that throughout the session and going forward, I will always support efforts to preserve the health of our planet.
Though the challenges are many, and the pandemic has made our task of meeting those challenges ever more difficult, I believe that through multilateralism and concerted effort, we will prevail.
With that conviction, let us act now to preserve the earth and its rich environmental heritage for generations to come.
I thank you.