Western powers condemn Russia at environmental summit

Today starts the UN Environmental Assembly 5.2 (UNEA). A meeting during which we hope for an ambitious Global Plastic Treaty to be adopted by the UN Members. But while global environmental welfare is the purpose of this summit, the event is also affected by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. This will not leave the work of UNEA intact.

On Friday the 25th of February, Reuters covered the happenings at the UN Environmental Assembly in Nairobi. UNEA operates on a consensus basis to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law. Unsurprisingly, at the plenary where global environmental topics were being covered, a situation occurred, where proposals by Russia were not supported by Ukraine. Ukraine said it was “not in a position” to support Russia’s proposal due to “the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation to Ukraine” and “blatant violations of norms of international law and the Charter of the United Nations”.

UNEA is a collaboration platform where the countries who have accepted the obligations under the Charter of the United Nations, to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law. It might need to be reminded that the UN Charter codifies the major principles of international relations, from sovereign equality of States to the prohibition of the use of force in international relations. It’s signatories are peace-loving States that accept the obligations contained in the United Nations Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able to carry out these obligations.

Given this, it is all the more stunning, that Russia’s representative at the assembly responded to the objections by saying “it is our strong principled position not to mix environment and politics.” Luckily, the rest of the world doesn’t see environment and politics being so detachable form one another. “The European Union and its member states condemn in the strongest possible terms the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine,” an EU representative said as as a response to the risen conflict at UNEA. “The United States also stands in unity and solidarity with those facing the violence, catastrophic loss of life and suffering in Ukraine” said Monica Medina, the lead U.S. delegate.

Good-willed discussions and consultations are much welcomed in the world where global economics and governance have not been able to prevent resource scarcity, pollution of the environment and the resulting harm to human health and wild-life.  However, all environmental advocacy groups around the world are looking up at the global leaders to adopt policies that are driven by zero waste and circular economy principles. To be determined and resolute. There is no room for silos. No room to talk about environment and leave out equal rights, good health and well-being, industry, innovation and infrastructure. In fact, if we have any hope at all in achieving the UN SDGshttps://sdgs.un.org/goals, it is because of how we take care of our environment. In the midsts of this war conflict, where so many elements of negotiation are rooted in natural resources and energy, the connection between the environment and politics could not be more obvious.

Let’s Do It Foundation is present at UNEA, following the process live and also hosting a side-event on education and advocacy to apply the Global Plastic Treaty. Politics, politicians and policymaking is just one angle to making it all happen. But it is in no way separable from all the rest. We support ambitious, peaceful and collaboration driven politics to leave no-one behind.

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