People-centred innovations to address environmental challenges and climate threat
The 3rd Forum of the Ministers and Environment Authorities of the Asia Pacific (3rd A/P Forum) took place from January 23-25, 2019 in Singapore. The meeting was jointly organized by Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment).
The 3rd A/P Forum served as a platform for the Member States and Major Groups and stakeholders to contribute regional perspectives to the 4th session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) in Kenya in March 2018.
The 3rd Forum was a successful gathering of participants from 41 countries under UN Environment’s Regional Office for the Asia Pacific. The key discussions took place around the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) 2019 theme, 'Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production (SCP)'.
Major Groups and Other Stakeholders forum was convened in Singapore on January 23, ahead of the senior officials’ meeting on January 26 and the high-level segment with environment ministers on January 27.
In the inaugural session, Dechen Tsering, regional director, UN Environment Asia Pacific, emphasized the importance of civil society engagement with UNEA. Hazri Hussain, permanent representative to UN Environment, Singapore, highlighted Singapore’s aim of becoming a zero-waste nation.
Indigenous rights activist and keynote speaker Joan Carling, Philippines, drew attention to the challenge of ensuring the poor and rural communities genuinely benefit from development. Two-panel discussions took place, on people’s innovative solutions, and on nurturing nature through SCP.
The forum discussed the concern that we are using more natural resources than the Earth can regenerate. Further, the environmentalists and rights group emphasized that the current industrialization is emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than its systems can absorb. Therefore, we need to achieve an absolute decoupling of resource use and our economic activities.
Innovation should utilize the knowledge and experience of the grassroot communities and indigenous people as a base for the transition. The Major Group and civil society stakeholder’s forum stressed for an urgent need of a monitoring framework for the resolutions adopted by UNEA and demanded that UNEA should address methods to monitor the legal implementation of existing multilateral environmental agreements.
It was discussed that innovative societal solutions must be built from the bottom up and not always limited to a technological boundary, it must not be restricted to new products only, but must also address how they are produced, and their entire lifecycle.
The rights group and Asia Pacific Regional Civil Society Mechanism (APRCEM) call on the governments to enshrine mandatory due diligence to avoid the adverse effects of business practices on human rights and the environment. Only products that can be safely and sustainably reused, repaired, recycled or composted can be produced and true cost accounting in every part of the production chain needs to be revealed.
The complexity of people’s lives and realities are reflected in the intersectional nature of the sustainable consumption and production pattern. The unequal behaviours around consumption have a significant effect and impact on the world we live in.
Climate change, sea level rise, species extinction, water scarcity, loss of fertile soil; the list is long, and the challenges and implications for economies and societies are numerous. The challenge is enormous, and systematic change is needed.
The Ministerial Forum adopted the 2019 Ministerial Declaration on Environment and called for action on climate change as well as a paradigm shift from linear to circular economies. It also discussed challenges and opportunities to strengthen the regional environmental agenda for delivering sustainable development goals and regional commitments to international agreements.
Shaila Shahid is Senior Advisor, Climate Change, DRR and Gender, ICCCAD.