The second global session of the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment convened at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, in the lead up to the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4).
In support of the UNEA-4 theme, this year’s event focused on the nexus of science, innovation and entrepreneurship for the environment, and covered the following six key streams:
- Science for Shaping Green Policies and Market Responses;
- Foundation for a Global Digital Platform for our Planet;
- Changing discourse: Smarter, Greener Solutions for Cities;
- Green Technology Startup Hub;
- Innovative Solutions on Climate Challenge: Finance, Market and Non-State Actors; and
- Healthy Food for a Sustainable Planet.
At the conclusion of the Forum, participants had the opportunity to contribute to high-level dialogues with Governments and other stakeholders attending UNEA-4.
On Friday, 8 March, closed consultations took place prior to the official opening of the second global session of the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment. The Forum will feed into the fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-4), which is due to convene from 11-15 March 2019 on the theme, “Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production.”
In the morning, participants took part in closed consultations around three focal areas of the Forum: Big Data and Earth Observations; the Green Startup Initiative; and Citizen Science. Among other things, delegates:
- reviewed a draft declaration for the Citizen Science Global Partnership;
- outlined challenges and opportunities for Green Startup Initiatives and how the Forum can help enable green innovation; and
- provided input for a proposed white paper on building a global digital platform for the environment.
The closed consultations concluded with a dialogue between leaders from the science, policy, civil society and business communities that included an exchange with UNEA-4 President Siim Kiisler, Minister of Environment of Estonia.
The official opening of the UN Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment took place on Saturday, 9 March 2019. The opening ceremony included welcome statements by: Joyce Msuya, UNEP Deputy Executive Director; Xie Zhenhua, Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs, China; Siim Kiisler, UNEA-4 President; and Keriako Tobiko, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry, Kenya.
Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands discussed the launch of a new initiative by the Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology (SEE) to voluntarily ban the use of rhino-based products across the Society’s members.
During high-level panel discussions, speakers highlighted diverse issues touching on the themes of: innovation for a low-carbon future and the role of non-state actors; accelerating clean energy for all; innovative finance for a green planet; artificial intelligence for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and green technology startups leading the “fourth industrial revolution”.
Throughout the day, more than 20 sessions convened, organized around four parallel thematic streams. Amongst other topics, the sessions explored:
• transforming development with planetary data and artificial intelligence;
• messages from the Sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) on the environmental and health impacts of energy, waste and food systems;
• making trade a positive force in the world;
• the contribution of new policies and technologies in combating lead;
• putting the world on a safe path to meet the challenge of limiting global warming to 1.5°C”;
• earth observations and the role of citizen science;
• the role of South-South Cooperation in attaining clean and affordable energy in Africa;
• innovation in the energy sector and the future of sustainability;
• the climate challenge and non-state actors; and
• advancing environmental rights in business.
In the evening, Princess Laurentien and the SEE hosted a reception to mark the launch of the SEE initiative.
On Sunday, 18 discussion sessions took place throughout the day, organized under the six thematic streams of the Forum. Some topics addressed included:
- early warning for decision making;
- alternatives to plastics – current challenges and future vision;
- innovative technologies and approaches in monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
- sustainable water and waste management in developing cities;
- avoidance of global warming through clean and efficient cooling innovations;
- Sustainability Research and Innovation 2020;
- new hotspot analysis tools for decision making on sustainable consumption and production;
- Third Pole: A call for action to combat climate impacts in fragile ecosystems;
- solving the broken nitrogen cycle; and
- driving transformative innovation through sustainable chemistry.
During a special session hosted by UNEA-4 President Siim Kiisler and dubbed “The GreenTech Startup Marathon,” nine startup companies pitched their ideas on ground-breaking innovations to address global environmental challenges. After three judges – in a “Dragon’s Den” style setting – put questions to all the competitors, they announced that they had all met their criteria, many were outstanding and the top three, in no rank order, were BoxPower, Planet Heroes, and Algramo. The judges also noted that reusable containers are a good idea for reducing ocean pollution and that eco-crowdfunding can potentially be transformative.
The 2nd UN Science-Policy-Business Forum on the Environment concluded with an overview of messages and recommendations from thematic discussions over its two days. In closing remarks, Satya Tripathi, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the UNEP New York Office, described the Forum as unique, “because it is focused on making people’s lives better.” He called for drawing inspiration from farmers in India who are taking risks to protect the planet. Jian Liu, Chief Scientist, UNEP, reflected that the Forum had transformed from “a platform to an incubator,” noting that the level of ambition to use data for action was high. He reminded participants of the need for collective leadership moving forward.
During the closing session, delegates also observed a minute of silence to honor passengers who lost their lives in the Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday, 10 March, some of whom were enroute to attend the opening of UNEA-4 in Nairobi.
The event closed with a reception, where delegates watched Chinese artist Jiahuang Chang create a painting dedicated to the work of the Forum.