Annual Report 2017

UN Environment Annual Report 2017 TOWARDS A POLLUTION-FREE PLANET

Foreword by António Guterres

United Nations Secretary-General


The publication of this latest review of the work of UN Environment falls in the 70th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While the right to a safe and healthy environment is not explicit in that landmark document, environmental sustainability is essential for global equity and many of the rights and freedoms listed in the Declaration, not least the rights to life, liberty and security. When the environment is compromised, lives are often endangered and people’s opportunities for better standards of living are profoundly curtailed.


Throughout the past year, UN Environment campaigned on many fronts against the spiralling pollution of air, water and land around the world. Climate change, wildlife crime, micro-plastic pollution and land degradation are just a few examples of environmental ills that affect the health and well-being of communities and economies, global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and even the security of nations.


The consequences of failing to sensibly and effectively manage the environment are profound and far-reaching. That is why the work of UN Environment is so important. And it is why the 193 countries of the UN Environment Assembly committed to work towards a pollution-free planet. I commend this annual report to all who believe that attaining our fundamental rights entails clean air, healthy oceans, resilient ecosystems and a global environment managed sustainably for the benefit of people and planet.



UN Environment Annual Report 2017

Photo: Dhilung Kirat.

Foreword by Erik Solheim

Executive Director, UN Environment Programme

2017 Highlights by Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme

In 2015, two residents of Mumbai, India’s financial hub, started spending their weekends collecting the trash that had washed up along the city’s Versova Beach. Two years later, their Saturday chore has turned into a movement that has inspired thousands to join their efforts. In 2017, the Versova Beach clean-up marked its 100th week. More than 7 million kilograms of plastic have now been collected.

This example from India demonstrates two very important realities of our time: that pollution is overwhelming our lives, and that when people are inspired, they act.

In 2017 the UN Environment Assembly recognized this reality, and the world’s highest-level gathering on the environment put ending pollution at the top of the global political agenda. If all of the Assembly’s commitments are met, more than a billion people will breathe cleaner air, many of the world’s coastlines will be cleaner, and billions more will be mobilized for research into innovative programmes to combat pollution.

But as with all environment challenges, no government can go it alone. Citizens need to be informed and inspired to change their behaviour and put pressure on their governments. In 2017, our #BeatPollution campaign galvanized millions of individual pledges to clean up the planet.

The year 2018 will be a decisive one, as we challenge ourselves to move from commitment to action, from challenge to opportunity.

Concrete steps from citizens and governments have to be complemented by business action. The message is clear: the private sector can make a profit from a healthy planet. In 2017, as you can read in this report, we signed an exciting agreement with BNP Paribas which will support smallholder projects, channeling much-needed capital into sustainable development. It will improve agriculture, re-generate land, and make smallholder farming sustainable and profitable for all. Almost every week we read of new business strategies to curb the use of single-use plastics, expand electric mobility and use cleaner energy.

Through all of these developments, it has become abundantly clear that the Paris Agreement and global environmental consensus on the challenges facing our planet, remains stronger than ever. Thanks to the efforts of the Montreal Protocol, for the first time, scientists have found direct proof that the ozone layer is healing. And now we move to address bigger challenges with the coming into force of the Kigali Amendment to phase out substances that have a serious impact on our climate.

The coming together of people, governments and business has shown time and again that we can innovate our way out of any environmental challenge that comes our way. But we have very little time left. 2018 must be the year in which we act together to ensure the health of our people, and our planet.

2017 Highlights

UN Environment 2017 Highlights Annual Report 2017

Photo: Ricky Martin for CIFOR.


Minamata Convention comes into force

Getting rid of mercury

The Minamata Convention on Mercury – the first new global environmental health treaty in nearly a decade – came into force in August. The convention commits its signatories to tackling the harmful effects of mercury, which has been used in mining, dentistry and lighting, among other industries. Signed by 128 countries, the convention takes its name from Minamata, Japan, the site of the most severe mercury poisoning disaster in history.


Environment Assembly delivers a win for the planet

UN Environment Assembly 3: Day 2 Highlights

Over 4,000 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, UN officials, civil society representatives, activists and celebrities came together for the third UN Environment Assembly, which was held in Nairobi from 4-6 December under the overarching theme of pollution. By the time the Assembly closed, delegates had passed 13 resolutions, three decisions and, for the first time, a ministerial declaration. UN Environment’s #BeatPollution campaign presented to the Assembly nearly 2.5 million individual commitments to clean up the planet.

G7 embraces sustainable finance

UN Environment was at the table when environment ministers from the world’s seven richest countries met to discuss their priorities for the years ahead. At their annual summit in June, the ministers declared sustainable financing “fundamental” to achieving global and climate and development goals. They also acknowledged UN Environment’s contributions on green finance, and pledged – in their five-year roadmap on resource efficiency – to fully participate in the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, which UN Environment hosts.


Record number of UN entities become climate neutral

According to the 2017 edition of the Greening the Blue Report, a record number of United Nations entities – 39 – have now become climate neutral, thanks to a mix of emissions reductions and carbon credit purchases. The report also noted an uptick in recycling across the UN system, with 30 per cent of all waste now being recycled, reused, recovered or composted. The progress comes ten years after the adoption of the UN’s Climate Neutral Strategy, which called on UN Environment’s Executive Director, as chair of the UN’s Environment Management Group, to support the shift towards more sustainable practices across the UN system.


Ozone Convention celebrates 30 years

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the first treaty to have been ratified by every nation on Earth, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017. With the ozone hole already on its way to recovery, parties to the Protocol are targeting hydrofluorocarbons, a group of chemicals that are powerful catalysts of climate change. In 2017, more than 20 Parties ratified the Kigali Amendment, which tackles hydrofluorocarbons, reaching the threshold required for the Amendment to take effect on 1 January 2019.

See UN Environment's 2016-2017 Programme Performance Overview...

Programme Performance Overview



During 2016 and 2017, the UN Environment Programme implemented a Programme of Work that represents the second half of the organization’s Medium-Term Strategy for the period 2014-2017.

In doing so, we partnered with governments, the private sector, the scientific community, the UN system, and ordinary citizens across the planet. What we are presenting here is an account of the changed situation which exists as a result of all our work. In some instances, our work has made a direct impact on the outcome described. In many more instances, we were merely one of many contributors. The main point is that change has occurred and progress has been registered. We have taken care to record, in a detailed manner, the extent of the change, the degree to which we contributed, or the extent to which that change can be attributed to our work.

These records have been summarized, for the purpose of brevity, in the account below.


The global policy landscape improves

Significant improvements occurred in the global policy landscape for our planet’s environment during 2016 and 2017. Many of them demonstrate our leadership role or active participation.

Climate change remains the most critical environmental challenge of our time. Less than a year after it was adopted, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change came into force on 4 November 2016, following ratification by 55 countries whose economies account for 55 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. The unprecedented speed with which the Paris Agreement was ratified is a powerful signal that countries have recognized the scale of the danger and are committed to urgently tackle climate change. Much of our work on climate change represents a relentless effort to support our Member States to deliver concrete results under the Paris Agreement.

The Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer struck a landmark deal in October 2016 in Kigali to reduce the emissions of powerful greenhouse gases, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). If implemented, the agreement could contribute to preventing as much as 0.5°C in temperature rise by the end of the century. This represents one quarter of what the world needs to reach the increase beyond which, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded, we run the risk of runaway temperature increases. The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, whose Secretariat we host, thus becomes an additional element in the struggle to contain global warming.

Mercury contamination can result in serious health risks given its negative impact on our nervous systems. Fifty years after scientific evidence confirmed the dangers of mercury to people and to our planet, the world finally reached consensus on effective, concerted global action. On 16 August 2017, the Minamata Convention on Mercury entered into force. The first Conference of the Parties meeting took place two months later, in October 2017. The UN Environment Programme has played a crucial role in driving this process forward. We continue to support countries – at their request – in the implementation of the Convention with support from the Global Environment Facility.

The oceans cover three quarters of our planet. They connect populations and markets. They play a vital role in the water cycle and climate system. They are a key source of biodiversity and ecosystem services, providing food and livelihoods for over a billion people. 2016 and 2017 were significant years for ocean governance. On 9 June 2017, the UN Conference to support the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 – sustainable use of the oceans – adopted a Declaration on Our Ocean, Our Future: Call for Action. This call to action reflects the stated intention of nations to preserve our oceans, the next step must be action to live up to the Declaration’s noble goals.

One area for urgent action is plastic – and especially microplastics. More than 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. Microplastics are known to disrupt our hormonal systems and we risk facing growing health problems if microplastics continue to enter our food chain, for example, through the seafood we eat. At current rates, the ocean could contain more plastic than fish by the year 2050. The UN Environment Programme’s Clean Seas campaign helped draw global public attention to the problem and offer solutions.

After five years of negotiations – coupled with the tireless “Speedo diplomacy” of endurance swimmer and UN Environment Programme Patron of the Oceans, Lewis Pugh – Antarctica’s Ross Sea was finally declared a Marine Protected Area in October 2016. The Ross Sea, known as the “Polar Garden of Eden”, is widely considered to be the last great wilderness area on Earth. The 1.6 million square-kilometre polar expanse is now the world’s largest protected area.

Across all continents, greater attention was paid during 2016-2017 to environmental causes or consequences of conflicts and disasters. Never has the demand for our services in this particular field been higher. In Mosul, the UN Environment Programme helped Iraq to address environmental challenges like oil and sulfur pollution resulting from wanton destruction by the withdrawing Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). We also helped communities recovering from the destruction of their cities manage 11 million tonnes of conflict-related debris.

Sadly, in the same period, we saw a worldwide increase in number of deaths of environmental defenders. To guide our actions on promoting greater protection for environmental defenders, we have adopted a policy to raise awareness on this sensitive issue and advocate for the protection of those who place their lives in harm’s way to protect our planet.

With the world’s urban population expected to nearly double by 2050, urbanization is one of the 21st century’s most transformational trends, posing massive sustainability challenges and opportunities in terms of housing, infrastructure, transport, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety, and natural resources. But with challenges come opportunities. Member States adopted the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All to fast-track solutions on this front. The Quito Declaration shows how cities can become low-carbon, resource-efficient and resilient, while also offering opportunities for new jobs and investments and other social and economic benefits.

We also now have in place the building blocks of a future sustainable financial system. During 2016-2017, the UN Environment Programme Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System, commonly known as “The Inquiry”, continued to deliver innovative thinking about sustainable and green financial and monetary policies, standards and regulations. Change is happening through collaboration between the G20, the G7, the UN and the Financial Stability Board, with increasing involvement of the private sector, as well as through international financial institutions and multilateral development banks. The UN Environment Programme has catalysed this process, and counts on continued support from Member States to convert the many Inquiry innovations into reality.

There has never been a better time to embed environmental sustainability into the way economies run and societies function. Global trends show a growing recognition that environmental sustainability and an economy based on renewable energy are interconnected. The picture is becoming clearer. Opportunities to invest, to create jobs, to improve peoples’ health and well-being are entirely consistent with maintaining the vitality of the planet’s eco-systems. These are the very foundations that support our lives.

These developments, along with the actions of the two UN Environment Assemblies which took place during the reporting period, together with regional ministerial forums, continue to build the momentum and foundations required to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


Building on our reputation as a trusted partner

In 2016, the “Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network” (MOPAN) conducted a thorough review of the organization’s strategy, delivery model, systems and operations. The UN Environment Programme was confirmed as a trusted partner: one that “meets the requirements of an effective multilateral organization”, and “shows continued strength in terms of being a global authority on environmental issues and providing a robust evidence base for advocacy and policy dialogue… with… a sound operational model, appropriate policies, processes and procedures in place that are expected of a well-functioning multilateral organization”.

The review stated that strategically, we have built, over time, a “...results framework that provides clear vision and strategic direction” as well as organizational systems and processes that are “fit for purpose” and can form “effective partnerships which are central to the service delivery model”.

The task of underpinning the organization’s strategic and programmatic work with adequate, and efficient systems remains constant. We continue to use the key parameters and criteria offered by the review to further improve. We intend to align our programmes even more with the 2030 Agenda and with the work of other UN agencies. This will help to build a robust business intelligence framework that allows effective use of performance data, and greater ability to conduct analysis and reviews. Done well, this will strengthen our partnerships and alliances and allow us to successfully tackle the growing complexity of the environment and development landscape globally.


Our programmatic relevance and scale of intervention

At a time when the relevance of having a healthy planet to sustain human development has become incontrovertible, the scale and quality of UN Environment Programme’s work needs to be assessed in that context.

The powerfully strengthened global policy landscape of the second half of the Medium-Term Strategy period of 2014-2017 provides the backdrop. Against this backdrop, we reflect on our ability to meet countries’ demands for services and solutions. The demand is generally to help them build stronger institutions, better legal instruments, enhanced technical capacity, greater knowledge, greener investments, better cross-border collaboration and louder voices calling for all of the above.

As of December 2017, we have fully achieved 65 per cent of our indicator targets for 2016-2017 and partially achieved 25 per cent. We did not achieve 10 per cent of our indicator targets. We achieved 10 of our 20 expected accomplishments outright and partially the other 10. This result is based on efforts across the entire Medium-Term Strategy period, but also including 2016-2017. In 2016-2017, it is based on an expenditure across our different funding sources of US$954 million. This is US$271 million more than the projected budget of US$683 million owing to an income that exceeded the projected budget. However, despite this higher income, there has been a worrisome decline in the Environment Fund. The relative increase in extra-budgetary resources – most of which are earmarked by partners – may herald a situation where UN Environment Programme has reduced overall ability to direct resources towards the priorities mandated by the Member States in the Programme of Work.

Several key results were achieved in 2016 and 2017. To address climate change, we supported more countries to integrate ecosystem-based and other adaptation approaches into national plans. The result is that a total of 23 countries have increased their capacity to adapt to climate change, with support from the UN Environment Programme.

We brought together first-mover financiers and renewable energy project developers to mitigate risks and share some of the early-stage investment costs. Globally, new additions of installed renewable energy capacity, particularly for solar photovoltaic and wind power, reached record levels in 2016. An estimated 161 gigawatts (GW) of capacity was added bringing the total capacity, up by 9 percent, to almost 2,017GW at the end of 2016.

In 2016-2017, the Seed Capital Assistance Facility signed new agreements with key players in the private sector, and now has a total capitalization of US$657 million and US$20 million of seed capital invested in eight renewable energy projects. More countries finalized national REDD+ strategies that recognize multiple benefits and the role of private sector, an important step in enabling countries to receive results-based payments, bringing the total to 25 countries.

We also supported 29 countries to reduce their exposure to the risk of natural disasters, industrial accidents and conflicts.

In order to help create an enabling environment for countries to manage ecosystems in a sustainable way, we helped countries take account of ecosystem services, assess water quality and incorporate considerations of the health and productivity of ecosystems into their policy frameworks. By the end of 2017, 13 countries had operational ecosystem accounts in place. A further 15 countries had taken steps to update their water quality frameworks.

With our support, 13 new countries, five regions and ten counties or cities adopted or started implementing green economy policies and sustainable consumption and production actions plans by 2017.

We launched six regional environment outlooks and the first Global Gender and Environment Outlook at the 2016 UN Environment Assembly. Together, these provide not only an assessment of the state of the environment but also a perspective on the importance of the social aspects of the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda. The regional assessments are the building blocks for the global assessment, which is on its way to be delivered at the 4th UN Environment Assembly in 2019.

We made significant contributions to the UN system’s new guidance on country Development Assistance Frameworks. The new guidance, which is informed by the 2030 Agenda, has four principles for integrated programming: leave no one behind; human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment; sustainability and resilience; and accountability.


Areas for improvement and achieving further impact

While we have made progress towards achieving lasting results across our seven areas of focus – climate change, disasters and conflicts, ecosystem management, environmental governance, chemicals and waste, resource efficiency, and environment under review – some challenges remain.

Reductions in the Environment Fund stress the very foundation of our business model, which relies on the use of this Fund to leverage a strategic portfolio, aligned to the Programme of Work which is approved by our Member States. With fewer Environment Fund resources, the implementation of the Programme of Work may evolve in a direction not intended by the framers of the Medium-Term Strategy.

We have increased our ability to more effectively engage new partners from the private sector and have signed a number of agreements with them. Our key challenge is now to ensure that these agreements translate into tangible impact. We have to ensure that the partners we work with in the private sector can help leverage change in a given sector at a level that is transformative and critical to delivering the results we are committed to delivering in our Medium-Term Strategy.

We also improved the way we inform, engage and involve citizens in our work. We are now improving our advocacy and outreach on key strategic areas: pollution; oceans; biodiversity and wildlife; green finance and environment and security. While a first key step is building new coalitions of partners, an important second step is to ensure that the interest created in these areas can be combined with substantive action that achieves tangible change. Ideally, we should be able to track how this scale of change we aim for moves from advocacy and outreach to tangible outcomes and impacts in the future.

The scaling-up of green finance is critical in this regard. World leaders meeting at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China in September 2016 recognized the importance of scaling up green finance practices. They welcomed options put forward by the G20 Green Finance Study Group, whose secretariat is hosted by UN Environment Programme, which shows what practical steps can be taken to improve policies and market capacity, and support the development of green bond markets.

We need to be able to scale up support to countries to enable them to review their regulatory and policy frameworks and bring about a policy transformation that creates the rules and conditions for such investment. Our work on the Financial Inquiry has been critical in this regard, which has been instrumental in delivering key results:

  • China has developed comprehensive policies for Greening the Financial System.
  • Italy has established an inter-ministerial Observatory on Sustainable Finance to take specific policy action.
  • Sustainable finance has also been integrated into the work of the G7, which has led to a new network of financial centres for sustainability.
  • As a result of this, Milan and Toronto are establishing new green/sustainable finance initiatives; Nigeria issued Africa's first green sovereign bond in 2017; and, in the UK, the City of London launched its Green Finance Initiative and the UK now has a government-backed Green Finance Task Force.

The United Nations, with 19 banks and investors worldwide (totalling US$6.6 trillion in assets), launched a global framework aimed at channelling the money they manage towards clean, low-carbon and inclusive projects. The framework – The Principles for Positive Impact Finance – is a first of its kind, setting criteria for investments to be considered sustainable. It spans different business lines, including retail and wholesale lending, corporate and investment lending and asset management. The principles provide guidance for financiers and investors to analyse, monitor and disclose the social, environmental and economic impacts of the financial products and services they deliver. We need more such game-changers to create the kind of transformative change necessary to achieve the sustainable development goals.

In Indonesia, the Tropical Landscape Finance Facility was established with UN Environment Programme, World Agroforestry Centre, BNP Paribas and ADM Capital. The Facility will provide loans and grants to commercial projects, with significant positive social and environmental impact. The first project deal for restoring degraded rubber plantations worth US$70 million was signed during this reporting period. The target is to capitalize the facility at a level of US$1 billion, mostly in private sector financing. We are also replicating this finance facility for India. Such innovation will enable the transformational change and effective partnerships the world is looking for.

Our key issue now is to implement our strategy on green finance so that this work can be propelled forward across these multiple areas of intervention in a coherent manner that takes advantage of the initial successes highlighted above.

The 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production with its programmes on buildings and construction, food systems, tourism, consumer information, public procurement and sustainable lifestyles, hosted by UN Environment Programme, the Climate Technology Centre and Network, that we jointly host with the UN Industrial and Development Organization, the 18 regional seas conventions and programmes that we support, and the UN REDD+ partnership are just some of the vehicles that can be used for this transformative change.

As the custodian agency for 26 of the Sustainable Development Goals indicators, we are well placed to support countries to become well equipped and able to track their progress. A total of 48 UN agencies are engaging with us on a UN system-wide framework on environmental strategies and aligning their strategies to the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This will facilitate our work with the rest of the UN system to leverage even further change.

UN Environment Programme is an accredited agency with the Green Climate Fund, in addition to its consolidated role as a key partner of the European Union’s Programme for the Environment and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources, and its role as an Implementing Agency for both the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol and the Global Environment Facility. There is potential for far greater integration of these global funding instruments with our strategic priorities; for a more organized, strategic “blending” of what we do with these funding sources and what we do with our other opportunities for engagement on green finance: especially if we are to capitalize a far greater scale of impact.

On the biodiversity front, we have been extremely engaged as the host of key biodiversity related conventions but also through the activities implemented under the ecosystems management programme in the organization. Unfortunately, as the negative effects of human pressure on wildlife and biodiversity rapidly increase in magnitude, global responses remain fragmented and uncoordinated: relying mainly on “specialist” inputs and initiatives promoted by individual countries, conservation organizations, institutions, international conventions, and multilateral environmental agreements. Poaching and trafficking of wildlife are increasing. Wildlife populations worldwide are significantly threatened as they lose their habitat to rapid human population growth and expanding agriculture.

Even if the fight against the current high levels of poaching were successful, habitat and range loss will continue to threaten the future of wild species across the world and exacerbate the level of human wildlife conflicts. The currently fragmented nature of responses to biodiversity and wildlife losses reveals the difficulty decision-makers face in articulating a mechanism – or series of coordinated mechanisms – to successfully reverse the ongoing decline. This, however, is a significant opportunity to scale up our work on biodiversity and wildlife and address this global challenge in a more coordinated, politically impacting fashion.

Pollution of our air, water and soil causes a significant number of deaths every year. We need to create a significant movement globally in which society sees the reduction of pollution as critical to health and in our oceans, critical to livelihoods and fisheries. This will help shift public opinion and create political momentum for change. Together with a greater government, citizen and business movement, we can help countries tackle root causes of critical problems. Recognizing the urgent need to address pollution, the UN Environment Assembly met under the theme, “Towards a Pollution Free Planet”.  It adopted a political declaration giving political weight to these efforts. In the run-up to the Assembly, we launched the Beat Pollution Campaign. Uniting stakeholders from all sectors in the fight against pollution, the 2017 UN Environment Assembly was a fitting conclusion to the biennium 2016-2017.


Organizational effectiveness

In looking at how we can improve, we will continue to concentrate on efficiency and effectiveness. While the new Enterprise Resource Planning system known as UMOJA is an important tool to improve efficiency and accountability, several other initiatives are underway. They include increasing delegations of authority while strengthening the organization’s accountability framework and improving the process for allocating unearmarked extra-budgetary resources.

We have a number of indicators of performance that review the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations in general. The Table highlights our performance against these indicators. It shows a number of areas where we have shown good performance.

  • 85 per cent of surveyed UN Environment Programme partners in governments and in the United Nations system rated the usefulness of our products and programmes as satisfactory.
  • 64 per cent of surveyed members of the Committee of Permanent Representatives and relevant partners of UN Environment Programmme were satisfied with the relevance of UN Environment Programme’s strategic planning documents.
  • Out of over 80 evaluations of UN Environment Programme interventions completed by the Evaluation Office, more than two thirds (67 per cent) of projects had an evaluation rating of “satisfactory” or better for their overall performance: a 12 per cent increase on the previous biennium.
  • We acted upon all accepted audit and investigation recommendations on UN Environment Programme performance, exceeding our target of 85 per cent.

In addition to the areas above, the Global Environment Facility recognized that our proposals are becoming stronger from a results-based management perspective, and this has enabled us to access more Global Environment Facility resources to support Member States.

We have been implementing the Environmental, Social and Economic Sustainability Framework since mid-2016. Projects are reviewed on potential safeguard risks and their overall risk categories. Among 65 projects and concepts reviewed in 2017, about 46 per cent were in the moderate safeguard risk category.

UN Environment Programme has since 2015 set up a robust Gender Marker system to serve as our in-house quality control, project review, accountability and performance recognition tool on gender. More projects now include dedicated gender components with earmarked budget lines: a good approach to ensure gender actions are considered in the implementation of an initiative. Our work on strengthening data and indicator frameworks for monitoring and reporting on the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals developed gender relevant indicators for the environment-related Sustainable Development Goals.

However, there are areas for further improvement. We found there are a number of other areas where performance needs to improve in terms of organizational efficiency and effectiveness. We learned, for example, that the organization can best deliver if we can have the right skills-set in place at the right time. This means we need to have a quick recruitment process that can bring in the right people quickly to deliver efficiently. However, it still takes a large number of days to fill a vacant post: 248 days in practice against a target of 170 days. UN Environment Programme has flagged this to the UN Office for Human Resources Management given that some critical steps in the recruitment process are outside its control.

We are also lagging in terms of our target to have a better gender balance in our senior level recruitments. The percentage of women appointed to senior-level posts in the professional and management categories was 42 per cent, lower than the 45 per cent target.

In May 2016, the first comprehensive and integrated global assessment of gender and the environment, the Global Gender and Environment Outlook, was launched on the margins of the Second Session of the UN Environment Assembly. This publication1 provides an analysis of the social dimensions of environmental issues, an understanding of current environmental challenges, and describes policy options and concrete opportunities to contribute to the Future We Want. Over the biennium, we developed increasingly more projects with dedicated gender components and earmarked budgets2. The knowledge base has also been enhanced through policy briefs on Gender and Environment3.

In 2016-2017, several multi-year gender and environment projects were initiated (either on their own or as part of a wider project), such as in Myanmar and Lao People’s Democratic Republic on gender responsive biodiversity planning.4 The UN Environment Programme, UN Women and UN Development Programme Joint Project on Gender-Responsive Approaches to Natural Resource Management for Peace in Sudan5 seeks to strengthen women’s roles in local peacebuilding processes over natural resource-based conflicts in Al Rahab, North Kordofan, Sudan. In Peru, the joint UN Environment Programme-UN Development Programme Poverty Environment Initiative has, with the Ministry of Environment, built the capacity of men and women as waste recyclers resulting in improved livelihoods.6 We worked with the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) which resulted in Building capacity of African Women Energy Entrepreneurs7 being included in its declaration in June 2017 in Libreville, Gabon.

Notable progress has been made to incorporate gender in the design of our initiatives and projects. However, the extent to which this improvement in design of our initiatives has influenced the outcome of those initiatives, in the context of gender integration, is not yet evident. The integration and monitoring of implementation of gender elements in programme and project implementation requires and will receive greater attention in 2018-2019.

Some of these “organizational effectiveness” targets (captured in the Table) could well be reviewed on a regular basis with strong monitoring and evaluation. Our evaluation process continues to evaluate our work to give us the feedback on how we are doing and whether our efforts do actually result in tangible outcomes and impacts. The proportion of projects that received a “satisfactory” or better rating for the extent to which project outcomes are sustained or replicated increased from 34 per cent in 2014-2015 to 39 per cent of projects in 2016-2017, but the likelihood of impact achievement was considered “highly likely” or “likely” in only 41 per cent of the projects evaluated in 2016-2017. This highlights the need for the organization to invest more in, shaping the change processes that lead to higher level results, moving from establishing awareness and coalition creation to change on the ground.

If we are to improve our impact, we need to ensure that we can identify the issues and risks that can affect the delivery of our work and capture learning. We still lack the resources to evaluate our work in its entirety. We did not complete some planned evaluations on subprogrammes or projects over US$1 million because of insufficient resources (both human and financial). However, the number of evaluations completed by the Evaluation Office is higher than that of any other UN Secretariat evaluation function. (In the OIOS 2017 assessment,8 UN Environment Programme is reported to have completed 52 evaluations in the previous biennium compared to an average of 12 among other agencies during the same period.)

We have also not yet invested in a corporate risk system to complement the UN Secretariat-wide system to flag risks early enough for us to understand where and why we may not achieve the most optimal results. While we have a project at risk system, there is still a need to have a corporate risk system, as required by Member States when they approved the programme of work 2016-2017. This has also meant that programme performance information is not used systematically enough in the organization to adaptively manage and to guide our allocation of resources (see Table).

Going forward, we will continue to address these areas. We will seek opportunities to scale up or promote the replication of successful interventions. We will step up our efforts to build transformative partnerships, including with the private sector. Our work will be closely aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly at indicator and target level. We will continue to engage Member States and other partners on widening the resource base and increasing contributions to the Environment Fund.

We have been entrusted with the exciting and noble mandate of leading and encouraging partnerships in caring for our planet and improving our quality of life without compromising that of future generations. We will strive to improve our organizational processes and practices to fulfil this mandate effectively and efficiently.









8 OIOS evaluation dashboard, May 2017, page 10



Photo: UN Environment.


Over 4,000 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, UN officials, civil society representatives, activists and celebrities came together for the third UN Environment Assembly, which was held in Nairobi from 4-6 December under the overarching theme of pollution.

Ahead of the Assembly, UN Environment’s Executive Director submitted his official report on pollution, Towards a Pollution-Free Planet. The report describes the challenges posed by global pollution, outlines current efforts to tackle the problem, and suggests 50 concrete actions that governments and other actors can take to clean up the planet.

By the time the Assembly closed, delegates had passed 13 resolutions, three decisions and, for the first time, a ministerial declaration. These outcomes included commitments to address marine litter and microplastics, prevent and reduce air pollution, eliminate lead poisoning from paint and batteries, protect water-based ecosystems from pollution, deal with soil pollution, and manage pollution in areas hit by conflict and terrorism.

UN Environment Assembly 3: Day 2 Highlights
United Nations Environmental Assembly

If every promise made at the summit is met, nearly 1.5 billion more people will breathe clean air, 30 per cent of the world’s coastlines will be cleaned up, and $18.6 billion will be mobilized for research, development and innovative programmes to combat pollution.

The Assembly hosted several events that brought together major players on environmental issues. The Global Major Groups and Stakeholders Forum convened representatives from more than 400 civil society organizations, while the Science, Policy, Business Forum highlighted key opportunities for green investment. The Sustainable Innovation Expo showcased the latest developments in environmental problem-solving, and the Nexus Dialogue on pollution, cities and health gave participants the chance to discuss cross-cutting solutions to critical urban challenges.



UN Environment’s #BeatPollution campaign, which ran for several months in the run-up to the meeting, presented to the Assembly nearly 2.5 million individual pledges to clean up the planet, in addition to voluntary commitments from governments, civil society and businesses. The campaign resonated powerfully on social media, with #BeatPollution trending on Twitter during the Assembly.

Are you a #BeatPollution Guru? Find out!




Photo: Shutterstock.

Air pollution contributes to more than 6 million deaths every year, making it the single biggest environmental health risk of our time. The BreatheLife campaign, which UN Environment runs alongside the World Health Organization and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, aims to partner with cities around the world to encourage them to take action to clean up the air we breathe by 2030. In 2017, Oslo, London, and Washington, DC were among the two dozen cities and regions that signed on and set ambitious goals for air quality. In total, BreatheLife cities have committed to more than 60 actions to reduce air pollution, improving the environment and health of 20 million people around the world.


Clean Seas
With more than 8 million tons of plastic entering the oceans every year, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050. Launched in 2017, the Clean Seas campaign is the UN’s most ambitious effort yet to tackle marine pollution. More than 30 governments have already joined the campaign and committed to specific measures to tackle marine plastic pollution. Clean Seas has also secured major partnerships with key players such as DELL and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and is working to establish an industry-wide working group to reduce plastic pollution.

#CleanSeas Launch


World Environment Day
“I’m with nature” was the theme of World Environment Day 2017, which saw record-breaking engagement around the globe. More than 1,800 events were registered, from tree-planting in Mumbai to ivory burning in Angola to a running race through Brazil’s Iguaçu National Park. Canada, the host country, offered free admission to all of the country’s national parks to encourage everyone to connect with nature. The World Environment Day festivities also played an important role in Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations.

#WorldEnvironmentDay 2017


Wild for Life
The illegal trade in wildlife is driving species such as elephants, rhinos, tigers, helmeted hornbills and pangolins to the brink of extinction. The Wild for Life campaign aims to mobilize individuals, businesses and governments around the world to use their sphere of influence to help end the illegal trade in wildlife products. In 2017, the campaign reached more than 1.2 billion people through some 4.5 million interactions on social media. Several species in the campaign have received greater protection through international regulations.

The campaign was awarded the prestigious 2017 People’s Voice Webby Award for best green website.

Ambassadors & Patrons

Ambassadors & Patrons PROMINENT VOICES

Photo: NASA HQ.


Through their broad influence and sizable networks, UN Environment’s goodwill ambassadors help us inspire action, reach new audiences and raise awareness of critical environmental issues. In 2017, Gisele Bündchen and Don Cheadle spread our message to more than 4 million people on World Environment Day, while Lewis Pugh, our Patron of the Oceans, successfully lobbied for stronger policies on marine pollution. We also gained some new and prominent voices for change.

Swimming the Message Across: Lewis Pugh in South Georgia

British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding became our latest Global Goodwill Ambassador. Goulding took up her new role in Nairobi, shortly before travelling to the Maasai Mara and the Kenyan coast to learn about threats facing wildlife and local communities. She also co-hosted the Environment Assembly Gala Dinner, where she announced the inaugural class of Young Champions of the Earth.

UN Environment Assembly 3: Clean Seas dome with Ellie Goulding

Former French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius became UN Environment’s new Patron of Environmental Governance. Fabius, who also served as president of the successful 2015 Paris climate negotiations, adds unrivalled experience and diplomatic weight to the push for international consensus on critical environmental challenges.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder of India’s largest mobile-first financial services conglomerate Paytm, became UN Environment’s Patron for Clean Air. Sharma, who took on his new role at the Environment Assembly, will elevate UN Environment’s work to combat air pollution around the globe.

British adventurer and presenter Ben Fogle became UN Environment’s new Patron of Wilderness. Fogle will use his new role to highlight the pressures and impacts on Earth's wildest corners.

Former Miss Asia Pacific, actor, producer, entrepreneur and environmentalist Dia Mirza became UN Environment’s Goodwill Ambassador for India. In her new role, Mirza co-hosted the Environment Assembly Gala Dinner. As an Ambassador, she plans to continue her work to promote solutions to environmental issues in India and around the world.

UN Environment Assembly 3: Dia Mirza and the BreatheLife campaign

Actor Adrian Grenier became UN Environment’s new Goodwill Ambassador for North America. Through his Lonely Whale Foundation, Grenier is an important advocate for reducing single-use plastic and promoting supply chain innovation.

Chinese actor and producer Li Chen became UN Environment’s Goodwill Ambassador for China. Chen aims to build partnerships and raise awareness on environment and health issues, including air pollution in China.

Russian adventurer Fyodor Konyukhov became UN Environment’s Goodwill Ambassador for Russia, with a focus on tackling pollution in Russia and beyond.



Photo: UN Environment.


Working hand-in-hand with key partners from business and civil society enables UN Environment to reach new audiences and multiply our efforts to protect the planet and ensure sustainable prosperity for all. In 2017, we established a number of exciting new partnerships.



In 2017, UN Environment signed more than 20 memorandums of understanding with key private sector partners, including leading businesses in industries such as lighting, telecommunications, global finance, social media, materials science and data management.

The year also saw the announcement of groundbreaking new initiatives with business partners. At the World Economic Forum in January, UN Environment and Ant Financial, one of China’s biggest financial technology companies, launched the Green Digital Finance Alliance. The initiative aims to harness digital technologies to catalyse finance for global environmental challenges.

In October, UN Environment and Rabobank announced the creation of a $1-billion-dollar facility to finance sustainable agriculture using a combination of public and private funding. And in December, UN Environment and BNP Paribas signed a milestone agreement to establish a network of Sustainable Finance Facilities, collaborative partnerships to raise development capital to drive sustainable economic growth in emerging economies.

UN Environment Unlocking Sustainable Finance

Civil Society

Seventy-one civil society organizations became accredited to UN Environment in 2017, raising the total number of accredited organizations to 416 as of the end of the year.

As accredited organizations, these groups had the opportunity to actively engage with member States and provide their professional expertise in the run-up to the third Environment Assembly. Submissions from civil society helped to inform the Ministerial Declaration, relevant resolutions and in particular the Executive Director’s Report on Pollution.

UN Environment’s partnerships with foundations, in particular, increased considerably in 2017. Several of these new partners provided funding that enabled civil society representatives, particularly from developing countries, to prepare for and participate in the third Environment Assembly.

Global Conventions


Photo: Grid Arendal.


Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer

  • 22 parties have ratified the Kigali Amendment, meaning that the Amendment will enter into force on 1 January 2019.
  • To mark the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol, the Ozone Secretariat launched the Ozone Heroes campaign in partnership with Marvel, the company behind some of the world’s most beloved superheroes.
  • The 11th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Vienna Convention and the 29th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol were held in Montreal in November. The Conference of the Parties adopted 4 decisions, while the Meeting of the Parties adopted 29 decisions to enhance efforts to protect the ozone layer and mitigate climate change.


Minamata Convention on Mercury

  • The Minamata Convention on Mercury, adopted on 10 October 2013, entered into force on 16 August 2017 following ratification by over 50 countries. The Convention is the first new global treaty on environment and health in nearly a decade.
  • The 1st Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention was held in Geneva from 24-29 September.
Getting rid of mercury


Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

  • 1,600 participants from 170 countries participated in Conferences of the Parties in Geneva from 24 April to 5 May.
  • Over 60 decisions were adopted to enhance and implement the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions’ objectives on chemicals and waste.


Convention on Biological Diversity

  • At the 21st meeting of the Convention’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, which was held in Montreal in December, 7 recommendations were adopted on the 2050 Vision for biodiversity and the links between the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The Convention prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2018.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

  • The Joint Meeting of the Animals Committee and Plants Committee was held in Geneva in July. The Committees adopted recommendations for animals and plants, as well as guidance on collaboration with the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
  • The 69th meeting of the Standing Committee was held in Geneva, Switzerland from 27 November to 1 December. Over 600 participants attended the Standing Committee meeting.

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

  • At the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which took place in Manila, the Philippines in October, the Parties adopted a record-breaking number of commitments, including the Manila Declaration on Sustainable Development and Migratory Species. The meeting was the Convention’s largest gathering in its 38-year history.

Champions of the Earth

Champions of the Earth HONOURING OUTSTANDING

Photo: UN Environment.


Pioneering leaders from the worlds of government, business, research and grassroots activism were presented with the UN’s highest environmental accolade, the Champions of the Earth Award, at the Gala Dinner of the third UN Environment Assembly in December. The annual award is presented to leaders whose actions have had an exceptional and positive impact on the environment.

The 2017 Laureates

Policy and Leadership

Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, for outstanding leadership in creating marine protected areas and boosting renewable energy.

Inspiration and action

Jeff Orlowski, filmmaker, for his work to spread powerful environmental messages to a global audience.

Saihanba Afforestation Community, for transforming degraded land into a lush paradise.

Science and innovation

Paul A. Newman and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, for outstanding contributions to the Montreal Protocol.

Entrepreneurial vision

Mobike, for exploring market-driven solutions to air pollution and climate change.

Champions of the Earth Awards 2017

Lifetime Achievement Award

Wang Wenbiao, Chairman of Elion Resources Group, for a lifetime of leadership in green industry.


Young Champions sets out to find tomorrow’s changemakers

2017 saw the launch of Young Champions of the Earth, an initiative that aims to breathe life into the ambitions of brilliant young environmentalists. In this inaugural year, six young people – one from each global region – were selected to receive $15,000 in seed funding as well as targeted training and mentorship to help them put their ideas into action.

Young Champions of the Earth - Launch Video

Our work on: Climate Change

Our work on Climate Change Minimizing the scale & impact
of climate change


Protecting climate and health from peatland fires in Indonesia

Protecting climate and health from peatland fires in Indonesia Photo: Noureddine Tilsaghani for UN Environment.

In recent years, peatland fires across Indonesia blanketed towns, cities and forests with a thick haze, causing enormous health and environmental complications across the South-East Asian region.

During their peak in 2015, forest and peatland fires in the Kalimantan and Sumatra regions, worsened by El Niño, emitted an estimated 16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide a day. This is equivalent to the daily emissions of the United States.

Air pollution from the fires affected 43 million people and hospitalized an estimated half a million for respiratory illnesses. Of about 2.6 million hectares of land that burned between June and October 2015, 33 per cent were carbon-rich peatland ecosystems, which are home to orangutans and other endangered species.

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So, there are very good reasons for minimizing the burning of peatlands – which is where the project Generating Anticipatory Measures for Better Utilization of Tropical Peatlands (GAMBUT) steps in.

The project aims to reduce the number of fires and cut haze impacts and greenhouse gas emissions from key fire-prone areas. The project is a collaboration between the United Nations Office for Project Services, UN Environment, the Government of Indonesia, USAID and two of the world’s foremost research centres – the Centre for Climate Risk and Opportunity Management in Southeast Asia and Pacific at Bogor Agricultural University and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

GAMBUT runs a Fire Risk System, an early warning tool that uses socioeconomic and biophysical data coupled with climactic data, to predict where fires will occur, thus allowing fire officials to strategically target prevention efforts in those areas that need it most.

The fire risk monitoring system covers eight districts in two provinces, which hold around 4.7 million people who are better informed about the fire risk they are facing, along with local governments that have the capacity in place to respond more effectively.

In addition, 600 community firefighters were retrained in a refresher course run by South African firefighters and given improved equipment to cover five villages.

Johan Kieft, a Senior Regional Technical Advisor at UN Environment, helped development the system.

“The link between El Niño and the Kalimantan fires is well established,” he said. “Now, it’s a matter of how to use early warning systems to mitigate health risks in fire-prone areas. We need to bring the health sector into fire response efforts.”

UN Environment and Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency developed an action plan for the 2017 fire season that involved disseminating fire early warning information, thus enabling better-informed action, reduced fire risks and less suffering for the people of Indonesia.

UN Environment and UNICEF Indonesia have also partnered with Pulse Lab Jakarta to develop innovative solutions to stop the fires, reduce the risks of exposure to haze, and address the lifelong disadvantages for children caused by school disruption in chronically affected communities. Haze Gazer allows real-time analysis of social media, news and public information for tracking human response to fires and air pollution.

The problems often begin when farmers and companies use fire to clear the ground for new planting. This ignites the soil itself, burning deep into the ground and spreading across wider areas. GAMBUT also helps educate local communities on the importance of peatland so they can sustainably farm without resorting to slash-and-burn practices and reduce the carbon footprint of their crops.

GAMBUT has helped rice farmers like Sadiani Halat and her husband (pictured). In 2016, they burned a one-and-a-half-acre plot of peatland with their fellow community members. Now that GAMBUT has trained them on the ecological importance of peatlands, they are developing alternative ways to gain income.

Peatlands are the most efficient carbon sink on the planet. In fact, globally they store up to 88.6 billion metric tonnes of carbon. Indonesian peat, holding 60 billion metric tonnes, makes up most of this. Through the Global Peatlands Initiative, UN Environment and the Government of Indonesia are now helping other countries with the sound management and conservation of peatlands, which are found in over 180 countries.

“By preventing peatland fires, we can keep this carbon in the ground where it belongs and protect the health and livelihoods of millions of Indonesians,” said Tim Christophersen, UN Environment’s lead expert on forests and climate change.


See how we performed on Climate Change in 2016-2017...

In our work on climate change, we focus on achieving results in three areas:

  • Climate resilience, where we support countries in using ecosystem-based and other approaches to adapt and build resilience to climate change;
  • Low-emission growth, where we support countries to adopt energy efficiency measures, access clean energy finance, and reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants by transitioning to renewable sources of energy;
  • REDD+, where we enable countries to capitalize on investment opportunities that reduce greenhouse emissions from deforestation and forest degradation with adequate social and environmental safeguards.

During 2016-2017, we met all of our targets for climate change, with two exceptions; in those cases, we have made progress but not to the full extent we had targeted.





(a) i) Increase in the number of countries implementing ecosystem-based and other supporting adaptation approaches as a result of UN Environment Programme support

(a) ii) Increase in number of countries that have progressed in integrating ecosystem based and supporting adaptation approaches in sectoral and national development strategies with the assistance of UN Environment Programme


(b) i) Increased percentage of renewable energy in the global energy mix (including breakdown by countries assisted by UN Environment Programme)

(b) ii) Increased percentage of countries meeting energy efficiency standards in specific sectors, with support from UN Environment Programme

(b) iii) Number of new renewable energy or energy efficiency programmes and projects being implemented

(b) iv) Increased number of policies implemented and actions taken by countries to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and other climate pollutants as a result of UN Environment Programme-led public-private partnership initiatives

(b) (v) Increased climate finance invested for clean energy as a result of UN Environment Programme engagement


(c) Increased number and percentage of countries that have progressed through both of the following steps in the development and implementation of REDD-plus strategies: step (i): national REDD-plus readiness plan approved; step (ii): national or subnational climate change strategies recognize investments based on REDD-plus as a means for transformation

View full report on Climate Change


Our work on: Disasters and Conflicts

Our work on Disasters and Conflicts Minimizing environmental


Cleaning up the environmental hazards left by ISIL

Cleaning up the environmental hazards left by ISIL Photo: UN Environment / Marc Lee Steed.

When UN Environment head Erik Solheim approached Mosul in July 2017, shortly after Iraqi forces had ousted the so-called Islamic State in the Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from the city after a three-year occupation, he encountered extreme levels of pollution and environmental destruction.

“The smoke that billowed from the burning oil fields was so thick it blocked out the sun,” he said. “By the time I reached Qayyarah, where ISIL fighters had set fire to 19 oil wells, a film of black soot had settled over the Iraqi town like toxic snow.”

In the town close to Mosul, black smog mixed with white fumes from a nearby sulfur plant that the jihadists had set alight to cover their retreat. Piles of refined sulfur burned for a week. Hundreds of people were hospitalized.

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Mosul: Picking up the pieces

The fires have been extinguished, but the ISIL occupation has left behind a toxic cocktail of chemicals, heavy metals and other harmful waste. To set Mosul and its surroundings on the road to recovery, UN Environment carried out a rapid scoping mission to identify the environmental hazards; the organization is also providing scientific advice and training to the Iraqi government on how to clear up the mess.

Aside from the oil and sulfur pollution, satellite-based analysis by UN Environment and partners estimated the conflict-related debris at 11 million tonnes – equivalent to four times the weight of the Eiffel Tower. Factories, workshops, warehouses, homes and schools that ISIL had converted into ammunition manufacturing plants were littered with explosives and potentially toxic chemical products. Damage to Mosul’s electricity network brought a high risk of toxic contamination with polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. And these were just some of the issues documented.

Now UN Environment is working with Mosul Municipality, UN-Habitat and technical partners to develop the most cost-effective way to manage the rubble. For example, initial modelling results show that recycling debris to use in reconstruction could save up to $75 million dollars, limit harmful quarrying impacts and generate 750,000 days of work for Mosul’s long-suffering residents. In collaboration with partners, UN Environment is seeking to pilot the first debris-recycling project ever carried out in Iraq. If it succeeds, the approach could be applied in cities across Iraq that have been damaged by the conflict.

Working with leading international laboratories – Spiez of Switzerland and ALS Global of the UK – UN Environment trained over 40 Iraqi experts from ministries of environment, oil, industry and mines to map and assess the risks from pollution hot spots created by the conflict, and to develop remedial action plans.

Sadly, what we see in Mosul is not new. When bombs fall, the environment suffers. In Colombia, which hosts 10 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity, half a century of war has destroyed some of the world’s most vibrant ecosystems. In heavily industrialized Ukraine, three and a half years of fighting have contaminated the groundwater. Decades of conflict in Afghanistan have destroyed more than half the country’s forests.

The environment isn’t only a victim of war. When poorly managed, it can trigger or exacerbate armed conflict – as happened in Syria, when drought drove millions into cities that were ill-equipped to cope with the burden. Anger grew in some of the country’s poorest urban areas, fuelling protests that erupted into the civil war we see today.

There are signs that the world is waking up to the role of the environment in conflict. Social media, smartphones and satellite imagery are making it easier to identify pollution hotspots, allowing governments and aid agencies to respond. The UN is drafting new laws to protect the environment during conflict. And the international criminal court may soon try cases that involve the destruction of the environment and the illegal exploitation of natural resources during conflict.

“The wars of tomorrow will increasingly be fought over natural resources, as populations boom and supplies of food and water dwindle in regions most vulnerable to the impact of climate change,” said Solheim. “Never has it been more important for the world to place the environment at the very heart of how we prevent, solve and respond to conflict.”

UN Environment has responded to crisis situations in more than 40 countries since 1999, delivering environmental expertise to national governments and UN partners. The Joint UN Environment/Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Environment Unit mobilizes and coordinates international emergency responses to acute environmental risks caused by conflicts, natural disasters and industrial accidents.


See how we performed on Disasters and Conflicts in 2016-2017...

In our work on disasters and conflicts, we focus on achieving results in two areas:

  • Risk reduction, where we improve the capacity of countries to use environmental management to prevent and reduce the risks of natural hazards, industrial disasters and conflict.
  • Response and recovery,where we support countries in the aftermath of a disaster or conflict to identify and address environmental risks that could have serious social and economic impacts.

We performed well against most of our indicator targets for the 2016-2017 biennium, exceeding four of the five.





a) i) Percentage of countries vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters that progress at least one step in four of six categories in the country capacity framework for natural resource and environmental management, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme

a) ii) Increased number of United Nations policies, programmes and training courses on risk reduction that integrate best practices in sustainable natural resource management based on UN Environment Programme reports and inputs


(b) (i) The capacity of countries to use natural resource and environmental management to support sustainable recovery from natural and man-made disasters is improved

(b) (ii) Increased percentage of national recovery plans that prioritize environment and natural resource management needs based on UN Environment Programme assistance

(b) (iii) Percentage of country requests for emergency response met by assistance


View full report on Disasters & Conflicts


Our work on: Ecosystem Management

Our work on Ecosystem Management Supporting human well-being
through healthy ecosystems


New laws and practices solve water challenges on island states

New laws and practices solve water challenges on island states

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, immortalized the line, “Water, water, everywhere, not any drop to drink.”

His poem spoke of a becalmed ship, adrift on salty water that could not tame the thirst of the sailors onboard.

This phrase perhaps resonates with many Small Island Developing States, which face serious water issues despite the glittering seas that surround them.

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These nations struggle with freshwater scarcity and contamination, over-exploitation and poor management of water resources. Providing clean drinking water, sanitation services, and effluent and solid waste management is also a challenge.

However, Comoros, Cabo Verde, Mauritius, Maldives, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Seychelles – six such nations – are turning around their fortunes with the support of a UN Environment-United Nations Development Programme project funded by the Global Environment Facility.

The project demonstrated strategies and practices on Integrated Water Resources Management, benefiting over 300,000 community members on the islands through pilots and leading to policies and legislation in all six countries, meaning more impact is to come. The work in in São Tomé and Príncipe gives a clear flavour of the overall successes of the project.

The nation’s Rio Provaz basin is the main source of water for domestic and industrial use in the town of Neves. Pollution – from agriculture discharges and practices such as washing clothes, bathing, defecating and disposing of waste – and increased competition for water between communities and industry meant the basin could not meet demand.

“The biggest challenge is to distribute good quality water to the population,” said Carlos Vilanova, the nation’s Minister of Infrastructures, Natural Resources and Environment. “In order to do this, we must manage water in the best way possible.

The local stakeholders formed a river basin committee and developed an integrated water management plan to address competition and other issues, thereby promoting the water’s sustainable management. The project works with communities and a local organization, Friends of Rio Provaz, to fight erosion and floods by afforesting the river basin. The planting of 3,000 trees has reforested 10 per cent of the catchment.

So much more work took place: the dredging of river banks, the construction of drainage gullies, the installation of meteorological stations linked to a national real-time flood alert system, the introduction of toilets to convert human waste to compost, improved waste collection and disposal, and regular clean-ups.

“I know that our clean-up work will benefit the entire population of Neves and secure a better future for everybody,” said Maria Lucilia, head of the women’s groups involved in clean-up activities.

With direct support from the project team – in particular UN Environment, which led on the policy aspect of the project – and thanks to the UN Development Programme-led successes in the Rio Provaz basin, the country has put a new National Integrated Water Resources Management Plan into practice.

The plan covers water efficiency, watershed protection, water demand-management, the incorporation of water resources management into land-use planning and development, institutional reforms and a budget to enact the plan.

Even better, following a nationwide UN Environment-backed sensitization and awareness campaign, parliament passed into a law a new Water Act early in 2018, providing legal framework for the implementation of the national plan.

“With the support of [this] project, we are looking at concepts like integrated watershed management as a way to secure water quality and availability for the population,” said Vilanova. “This project is also greatly helping us in raising awareness and changing the population’s attitude and behaviors to keep our freshwater supply clean.”

Similar project-backed processes underway in the other five countries, which have shown equal commitment to solving their water challenges.

Cabo Verde, which is facing severe drought, has developed legislation to address gaps hindering progress on wastewater reuse in agriculture, water conflict prevention and climate adaption finance.

The Comoros government has integrated the management of freshwater, ocean and coastal zones, land, biodiversity and other resources. Their new Integrated Water Resources Management Plan is expected to contribute to the social, economic and environmental development objectives of the country.

In the Maldives, 17 islands of the archipelago received new water supply systems and 18 islands new sewerage systems over the past three years. Within the next five years, these figures will rise to 23 and 49 respectively, covering 75 per cent of the population. The project supported the development of the National Water and Sewerage Policy and Action Plan for Water and Sewerage to direct the Government focus in the sectors reforms.

Through the development of a National Integrated Water Resources Management Plan, Mauritius is addressing water management: from improving effluent discharge permit systems to securing funds for monitoring major aquifers.

In 2017, Seychelles endorsed its first National Water Policy and National Integrated Water Resources Management Plan. The project also facilitated the development of a Water Bill and a monitoring framework to track the anticipated impacts.

All of this work will cement the gains made and contribute to meeting the countries future water management challenges, while helping them achieve Sustainable Development Goals related to water, sanitation and ecosystems management.

For more detailed information on the achievements in all six countries, please visit


See how we performed on Ecosystem Management in 2016-2017...

In our work on ecosystem management, we focus on achieving results in the following areas:

  • The enabling environment,where we assist countries in incorporating the value and the long-term functioning of ecosystems in planning and accounting frameworks to meet multiple objectives;
  • The productivity of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems,where we help countries to use an ecosystem approach to managing terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems; and
  • The productivity of marine ecosystems,where we help countries to use an ecosystem approach in marine ecosystem management.

Our Ecosystems management programme is relevant to the achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals; however, under this programme the organization in particular aims to deliver on SDGs 1 (poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 3 (health and well-being) 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 11 (cities and communities), 12 (consumption and production), 13 (climate action), 14 (life bellow water),15 (life on land) and 17 (partnerships).

In 2017, we exceeded two of our targets: on marine litter and wastewater management. However, we were slightly less effective in achieving other targets, which have progressed solidly but not to the extent we had anticipated.





a) (i) Increased percentage of countries integrating the ecosystem approach into sector-based natural resource management, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme

a) (ii) Increased ratio of river basins where the ecosystem approach is approved by governing bodies or under implementation by parties, to total number of river basins in countries, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme

a) (iii) Increased percentage of countries that are improving their water quality frameworks based on the international water quality guidelines, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme

a) (iv) Increased percentage of area managed using an ecosystem approach out of the total area covered by countries, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme

a) (v) Increased percentage of area, by country or by group of countries that share transboundary ecosystems, of land or watershed ecosystem restoration, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme


b) (i) Increased percentage of countries and corporations adopting action plans to reduce marine litter and wastewater in coastal and marine ecosystems, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme

b) (ii) Increased percentage of countries and corporations adopting action plans to reduce untreated wastewater in coastal and marine systems, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme

b) (iii) Increased percentage of regional seas for which the ecosystem approach is being implemented by parties, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme

b) (iv) Increased percentage of area covered by an ecosystem-based management plan out of the total area covered by countries, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme


c) (i) increase in the number of countries that integrate the ecosystem approach in development planning, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme.

c) (ii) Increase in the number of countries that integrate priority ecosystem services into their national accounting and budgeting processes, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme capacity framework for natural resource and environmental management, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme.


View full report on Ecosystem Management


Our work on: Environmental Governance

Our work on Environmental Governance Strengthening governance
in an interconnected world


Backing the environmental defenders who protect human rights

Backing the environmental defenders who protect human rights Photo: Flickr/zapmole756.

Every week, at least three people are killed defending their right to a clean and healthy environment. Honduran activist Berta Cáceres – a posthumous recipient of UN Environment’s Champions of the Earth award for her fight against a dam that would damage her community – is just one example.

According to the last count by British newspaper The Guardian, which is campaigning to bring attention to this issue, 188 environmental defenders were killed in 2017.

For every defender murdered, many more risk their livelihoods, food security, ancestral lands, fresh drinking water and their homes when they stand and struggle for a basic human right.

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“A healthy environment is absolutely necessary for the full enjoyment of human rights,” said John Knox, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment. “It’s very important we protect people’s rights to be able to find out about environmental problems … and protect their freedom of expression and participation in environmental decision making.”

Even the briefest glance at specific cases shows how badly needed such protection is.

Phyllis Omido, a Kenyan mother who worked in a smelting factory in Owino Uhuru, Mombasa, didn’t even know she was an environmental defender when she started asking questions about why people in her community – including her own son – were getting sick.

When Phyllis discovered lead poisoning was to blame, she ignored death threats to make sure everyone knew that the factory was releasing lead waste into the water supply and air.

“I was beaten, arrested, and, on a number of occasions, jailed when I demanded to have the lead smelter shut down and the owners held accountable,” she said. “Instead, they accused me of inciting violence.”

Omido, the winner of the 2015 Goldman Prize for her campaign, refused to back down. The factory was closed in April 2015 following a prolonged public outcry. The Centre for Justice, Governance, and Environmental Action, founded by Omido, has launched litigation against the factory owners.

UN Environment in December 2017 brought Omido to the third UN Environment Assembly to relate her experience, linking her with the Guardian’s Global Environment Editor Jonathan Watts, diplomats and other defenders to help understand and build on her work.

Fellow Kenyan Julius Opiyo also attended and talked of his campaign to defend the rights of gold miners in Western Kenya. Across the globe, up to 25 million people work in artisanal small-scale gold mining.

“I was first exposed to mercury when I started engaging in artisanal mining at the age of 12,” said Opiyo. “At 24, I became sick. When I went to the hospital, it was realized that it was a heart problem. Some of them [his mining peers] who were burning amalgam died of liver conditions. Nobody could tell them that maybe what we are using to recover our gold could be the problem.”

Bringing together defenders and raising their profile is just one strand of UN Environment’s work. The organization backs them by promoting the environmental rule of law, of which human rights is a key component.

It works with Knox, the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and others to strengthen the ability of states and citizens to link human rights and the environment. It helps countries to strengthen laws and their implementation to protect environmental rights and those defending them. It engages with judges to improve access to justice in environmental matters, including through establishing and supporting networks for judicial cooperation and the sharing of information between judges. And in March 2018, UN Environment launches its first global campaign on environmental rights to raise awareness of the need to protect, promote and respect our individual as well as a collective right to a clean and healthy environment.

For UN Environment Head Erik Solheim, the tragic case of Cáceres shows why UN Environment, and anyone with the power and influence to do so, should support environmental defenders.

“Berta Cáceres refused to let powerful interests trample the rights of the poor and marginalized and destroy the ecosystems on which they depend,” he said. “Her focus was local, but her cause and her sacrifice resonate globally. When environmental defenders seek UN support against violent corporate and state-sponsored groups, we must respond.”


See how we performed on Environmental Governance in 2016-2017...

Environmental Governance comprises the rules, practices, policies and institutions that shape how humanity interacts with the environment. We work to improve environmental governance by fostering: 

  • Coherence and synergies: by helping the UN system and multilateral environmental agreements to work together more coherently,
  • Stronger laws and institutions: by supporting national efforts to develop and enforce laws and strengthening institutional arrangements for achieving environmental objectives in tandem with social and economic goals, and
  • Mainstreaming of environment into development planning and decision-making: by assisting countries to integrate environmental sustainability into development planning.

We have made good progress, achieving all our targets across the 11 indicators agreed to measure programme performance for the biennium 2016/2017. Through our programmatic efforts we have also contributed to the implementation of relevant UN Environment Assembly Resolutions and Sustainable Development Goals.





a) i) Increased number of joint initiatives to handle environmental issues in a coordinated manner in the United Nations system and multilateral environmental agreement bodies as a result of UN Environment Programme efforts

a ii) Increased number of collaborative arrangements with the secretariats of selected multilateral environmental agreements which result in increased coherence and synergy between the UN Environment Programme programme of work and the programmes of work of those agreements

a iii) Increased number of policy instruments or action plans adopted by Governments and United Nations bodies pursuant to the post-2015 development framework, [1] including the sustainable development goals, that incorporate environmental objectives

  • Number of policy instruments or action plans adopted by Governments pursuant to the post-2015 development framework that incorporate environmental objectives, as a result of UN Environment Programme efforts
  • Number of policy instruments or action plans adopted by United Nations bodies pursuant to the post-2015 development framework that incorporate environmental objectives

a iv) Increased number of United Nations entities implementing emissions reduction strategies and/or environmental management systems

a v) Increased number of environmental policy issues or approaches emerging from UN Environment Programme policy advice or from United Nations system-wide strategies for the environment that are referred to bodies


b i) Increased number of legal and institutional measures taken by countries to enforce the rule of law and improve the implementation of internationally agreed environmental objectives and goals, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme

b ii) Increased number of countries that undertake a review of, and adopt recommendations for, enhanced compliance with, and enforcement of, international environmental obligations, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme upon the request of the countries

b iii) Increased number of initiatives and partnerships of major groups and stakeholders in support of the development and implementation of national and international environmental law, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme


c i) Increased number of United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) in countries that incorporate the principles of environmental sustainability, with the assistance of UN Environment Programme and its partners

c ii) Increased number of countries that advance by at least one level in the UN Environment Programme results measurement framework for assessing public sector engagement in strengthening and applying financial planning instruments for pro poor growth and environmental sustainability, as a result of UN Environment Programme support

c iii) Increased number of policies and plans from subregional and regional forums that incorporate the principles of environmental sustainability, as a result of UN Environment Programme support


View full report on Environmental Governance


Our work on: Chemicals and Waste

Our work on Chemicals and Waste Ensuring sound management
of chemicals & waste


World agrees to end mercury menace

World agrees to end mercury menace Photo: Flickr / Stratman2.

Shinobu Sakamoto sat in her wheelchair, brows furrowed and eyes squeezed shut with effort as she forced out each word.

“I was exposed to mercury pollution when I was in my mother’s womb,” she said. “I was born with fetal Minamata disease in 1956. Many people are still suffering and struggling … we must protect women and unborn children from toxic pollution.”

Sakamoto’s body may be failing her, but her will is iron strong. She endured a twenty-hour journey from Minamata to Geneva to deliver her passionate message to the first Conference of the Parties of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which takes its name from the worst mercury poisoning incident in history.

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Shinobu Sakamoto, Minamata disease survivor, calls for and end to mercury poisoning globally

In May 1956, following decades of dumping of industrial wastewaters into the Minamata Bay, Japan, villagers who ate fish and shellfish from the waters suffered convulsions, psychosis, loss of consciousness and coma. The poisoning claimed the lives of 900 people, with 2,265 people eventually certified as suffering from mercury poisoning.

The convention, which entered into force in August 2017, is now accelerating action on controlling mercury emissions from industry, banning new mercury mining, and reducing mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

This concerted international action under the convention, which has 128 signatories and 88 ratifications, is an intensification of previous efforts such UN Environment’s Global Mercury Partnership. And it comes not a moment too soon.

Human activities have doubled the amount of mercury in the top 100 metres of the oceans in the last 100 years. We continue to release an estimated 2,960 tonnes every year. We are poisoning our planet, and so ourselves.

Several new reports released in 2017 demonstrate the far-reaching and insidious nature of the health threat – which is particularly grave for unborn children and infants.

A study from IPEN, UN Environment and the Biodiversity Research Institute found mercury levels in women from four Pacific Islands, with a diet rich in fish, up to 11 times greater than the 1 ppm (parts per million) threshold for negative health effects. The study, which analyzed hair samples from women of child-bearing age, found that 96 per cent of the women sampled exceeded the 1 ppm threshold.

“This [study] shows there is a global deposition of mercury to oceans, and that where people eat a lot of fish they are being impacted by those mercury emissions,” said IPEN researcher Lee Bell. The problem is bioaccumulation. As inorganic mercury in our air, soil and water enters the oceans, aquatic microbes convert it to methylmercury – a form readily absorbed by sea life. At every step in the food chain, methylmercury loads increase until they reach levels as much as half a million times higher than in the water.

Mercury is also a major problem in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, where miners employ it to separate gold from ore – giving off toxic fumes as it burns away.

According to UN Environment’s report, Global Mercury Supply, Trade and Demand, artisanal and small-scale gold mining has increased (along with the spot price of gold) since about 2000. To meet gold demand, new mercury supply chains have emerged in Mexico and Indonesia, with their combined mercury mining production estimated at 800-1100 tonnes in 2015.

The convention’s work on addressing these sources, and many others, is particularly crucial given mercury’s persistence once released to the environment.

When mercury is emitted into the environment it can cycle and can impact health and ecosystems for a long time – so the sooner we reduce emissions the more those long-term impacts will be reduced.

The work is now beginning in earnest. The conference adopted guidance to assist in the control and reduction of mercury emissions from artisanal and small-scale gold-mining, with support to member states on the table. Another guidance document specifies ways to reduce atmospheric mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, waste incineration plants, metal smelters and cement plants.

The Global Environment Facility is funding eight countries with a sizable gold mining sector. The $US45.2 million in funding will be managed by implementing agencies, including UN Environment, to support policies and market incentives favouring gold that uses less or no mercury in its extraction

Sakamoto, now in her sixties, is one of only around 500 Minamata poisoning survivors left alive.

“Your message was very clear and very good,” UN Environment deputy head Ibrahim Thiaw told Sakamoto as he held her hand. “This conference of the parties is sending a very strong message to the world that this should not happen again.”


See how we performed on Chemicals and Waste in 2016-2017...

In our work on chemicals and waste, we focus on achieving results in three areas:

  • The enabling environment, where we support countries to have the policies and institutional capacity to manage chemicals and waste soundly;
  • Chemicals, where we help countries and other stakeholders implement sound chemicals management and the related multilateral environmental agreements; and
  • Waste, where we help countries and other stakeholders implement sound waste management and the related multilateral environmental agreements.

Our work on chemicals and waste achieved nearly two-thirds of the targets set for the period 2016-2017. The indicators, however, show that results are uneven – with good progress made by countries adopting policies for the sound management of chemicals and waste, and less progress made in using industry reporting schemes and promoting economic and market-based incentives, business policies and practices. In the area of waste, on the contrary, the number of businesses and industries addressing priority issues through the use of tools and methodology provided by UN Environment Programme well exceeded the target whereas the progress by governments lagged behind. For chemicals, overall good progress was made in all target areas recognizing the increasing importance that countries and other stakeholders are attaching to sound chemicals and waste management as a critical component of the 2030 development agenda.





(a) i) Increase in the number of countries reporting the adoption of policies for the sound management of chemicals and waste

  • Number and percentage of countries assisted by UN Environment Programme reporting the adoption of policies for the sound management of chemicals and waste, related to obligations under the relevant multilateral environmental agreements
  • Number and percentage of countries assisted by UN Environment Programme reporting the adoption of policies for the sound management of chemicals and waste, related to adopted SAICM emerging policy issues
  • Number and percentage of countries assisted by UN Environment Programme reporting the adoption of “other” policies (e.g., related to mainstreaming, etc.) for the sound management of chemicals and waste

(a) ii) Increased number and percentage of countries reporting the use of economic and market-based incentives and business policies and practices that promote the sound management of chemicals and waste, the assistance of UN Environment Programme

(a) iii) Increased number and percentage of countries assisted by UN Environment Programme reporting the use of industry reporting schemes that promote the take up of sound chemicals and waste management


(b) i) Increased number and percentage of Governments addressing priority chemical issues, towards SAICM objectives and their obligations under the chemicals multilateral environmental agreements, through the use of risk assessment and management tools provided by UN Environment Programme

(b) ii) Increased number of businesses and industries addressing priority chemical issues through the use of risk assessment and management tools provided by UN Environment Programme

(b) iii) Increased number of civil society organizations addressing priority chemicals issues under the chemicals multilateral environmental agreements, through the use of risk assessment and management tools provided by UN Environment Programme


(c) i) Increased number and percentage of Governments addressing priority waste issues towards SAICM and their obligations under the related multilateral environmental agreements, through the use of tools and methodologies provided by UN Environment Programme

(c) ii) Increased number of businesses and industries addressing priority waste issues, through the use of tools and methodologies provided by UN Environment Programme

(c) iii) Increased number of civil society organizations addressing priority waste issues under the waste-related multilateral environmental agreements, through the use of risk assessment and management tools provided by UN Environment Programme


View full report on Chemicals and Waste


Our work on: Resource Efficiency

Our work on Resource Efficiency Accelerating the transition
to sustainable societies


Resource efficiency transforms Ugandan tannery and town

Resource efficiency transforms Ugandan tannery and town Photo: Shutterstock

At first glance, it isn’t obvious why Chris Isingoma looks so proud of himself as he sits behind the SWITCH Africa Green stall at the UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi. He is chatting to delegates taking a break from negotiations at the third UN Environment Assembly, occasionally waving around one of the bleached-white objects jumbled on the table before him.

Once you listen, the reason for Chris’s pride becomes clear. These innocuous-looking items – which turn out to be dog chews – are the fruits of a resource-efficient transformation underway with the assistance of UN Environment’s SWITCH Africa Green programme and partners, the Uganda Cleaner Production Center and the Ugandan government.

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Skyfat Tannery, where Chris works, received training and technical support to implement industrial symbiosis, cleaner production and resource efficiency measures. The resultant changes to business practices have saved his company hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, creating hundreds of green jobs in the Ugandan town of Jinja and clearing up an environmental hazard all in one stroke.

Chris, a 43-year-old father of three, is Process Manager at the tannery, which once had a huge waste problem. In tanneries, hides are swollen using sulphates, which make the hide split into two parts, one of which is not useable for leather products. For years, the tannery dumped the hide splits at a private site, costing it money and creating a stink that turned the locals against the plant.

“We produced 60 tonnes of waste per day, and Jinja is a very small town,” says Chris. “The locals were unhappy: the unusable splits were so smelly, as they produce hydrogen sulphate. Disposing of the waste was expensive. I had to find a solution.”

Empowered by his training and support, Chris started by contacting a South African company to make gelatine from his splits. They took 120 tonnes of splits per month, setting the tannery on a path that would transform its business and community. Chinese companies were the next to get involved after seeing the potential of the splits.

“The tannery invested $680,000 to oxidize the splits, dry them, and send them to China for animal feeds, mostly dog chew and puppy sausage,” he says.

Each year, the company saves $380,000 on waste disposal and brings in $580,000 from sales of the oxidized splits. The tannery employs 250 people – paid for by what was once waste. The initial investment has paid itself back in spades.

“I am looking at the youth and the women who are doing that work,” Chris says. “These are the people who were complaining. They are happy now.”

Such approaches are spreading across Uganda and beyond. Chris is also bringing in splits from neighbouring tanneries, and Rwandan companies are looking to get involved. Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority NEMA regularly invites Chris in to show others what his company has done.

“I feel great now,” says Chris. “The company has gained a lot: even if the price of the hides fluctuates, there is a side income.”

Skyfat Tannery is a good example of the sustainable consumption and production patterns that the European Union-funded SWITCH Africa Green is trying to create. Sustainable consumption and production is crucial to the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

If other companies were to ensure by-products were fed into the supply chain of other industries – for example by using waste products to generate energy – we would see a big positive impact on climate change, pollution and the Earth’s dwindling resources.

SWITCH Africa Green – run by UN Environment, the UN Development Programme and the UN Office for Project Services – in 2015 provided grants of up to USD 250,000 to each of the 34 projects in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa and Uganda in the manufacturing, agriculture, integrated waste and tourism areas.

Chris sees SWITCH Africa Green and other such initiatives and funders as crucial to spreading the resource efficiency revolution even further in Africa. He is prepared to do his bit to create more resource-efficient production in Uganda and boost local markets.

“My dream is that we will sell animal feed in Uganda (instead of exporting to China),” he says. “There is still more to be done in tannery waste.”


See how we performed on Resource Efficiency in 2016-2017...

In our work on resource efficiency, we focus on achieving results in three areas:

  • Enabling policy environment, where we help countries make the transition to inclusive green economies and to adopt to sustainable consumption and production action plans;
  • Sustainability in businesses, where we work with governments, businesses and other stakeholders to make global supply chains more sustainable; and
  • Sustainable lifestyles and consumption, where we empower countries, businesses, civil society and individuals to live and consume responsibly and sustainably

In the 2016-2017 biennium we exceeded all of the five targets set for December 2017.





(a) i) Increase in the number of UN Environment Programme-supported regional, national and local institutions that make progress in the development and integration of the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication and sustainable consumption and production approaches and tools in their policies

(a) ii) Increase in the number of references to UN Environment Programme resource efficiency assessments and reports in policy and strategic documents by global and regional forums, national institutions, business organizations and academia


(b) i) Increase in the number of stakeholders reporting progress in their improved management practices and use of more resource efficient tools and instruments in sectoral policies with the assistance of UN Environment Programme and its partners


(c) i) Increase in the number of stakeholders reporting progress in the development and use of tools conducive to more sustainable consumption patterns with the assistance of UN Environment Programme and its partners

(c) ii) Increase in the number of projects initiated by stakeholders to promote more sustainable consumption and lifestyles that are catalysed by UN Environment Programme


View full report on Resource Efficiency


Our work on: Environment Under Review

Our work on Environment Under Review Promoting evidence-based


Bosnia and Herzegovina looks to clear the air

Bosnia and Herzegovina looks to clear the air Photo: Andrew Robbo Roberts.

It’s like a scene from a dystopian movie: grey smoke belching from squat towers, fading the green hills behind the power plant to grey and settling like a shroud over the city below.

Yet this is reality for the residents of Tuzla and surrounding villages in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the Balkan nation’s largest coal-fired power station is choking its residents.

There is hope on the horizon, though, for Tuzla and the rest of the nation, as UN Environment and the Global Environment Facility team up to improve air quality.

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Tuzla’s power station releases 51,000 tonnes of toxic sulphur dioxide and other pollutants each year, just across the road from a primary school in the town of Divkovići. According to World Health Organization data, Tuzla has the second-worst air pollution in Europe.

Coming up for clean air in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Across Bosnia and Herzegovina, 44,000 years of life are lost each year due to particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide or ozone pollution. Air pollution eats over 21.5 per cent of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s GDP through lost work and school days, healthcare and fuel costs.

Close to power plants, locals face the dilemma of living with the pollution or packing their bags.

“Soon this will be a ghost town, just like Chernobyl,” Tuzla resident Goran Stojak said. “At night, when I open my window, I hear my neighbours coughing and crying out in pain.”

In the capital Sarajevo, meanwhile, safe limits of particulate matter are often exceeded for 60-90 days a year. Heavy traffic combined with half of the vehicles falling below euro-3 standards, poor spatial planning, solid-fuel based heating and natural factors are to blame.

Soaring pollution levels in winter mean that school term is sometimes ended early – as has been the case at the city’s Environment Studies and Woodwork high school.

“In winter, I don’t exercise outside,” said Amar, who studies horticulture at the high school. “Sometimes it’s hard to even breathe.”

Powering a response

UN Environment’s pollution report – issued ahead of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly, which brought the world together to tackle pollution in all forms – recommends data sharing as part of the solution.

Air quality monitoring stations being installed or refurbished by UN Environment and the Global Environment Facility, with data accessible in real-time online, can make a real difference by allowing the issuance of pollution warnings and the monitoring of the effectiveness of actions to improve the air.

Working with two hydro-meteorological institutes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the project has rehabilitated air quality monitoring stations in Ivan Sedlo and Banja Luka, and procured two new stations in Prijedor and Goražde. All available air quality monitoring stations in the country are now connected to a unified online platform to monitor real time air quality data.

“Five to seven years ago, people were not even talking about air pollution here,” said Enis Omerčić, air quality specialist at the Ivan Sedlo station outside Sarajevo.

Fresh efforts to solve the problem will take place under the new UN Air Quality Initiative and Response, an initiative of the UN Country Team in Bosnia and Herzegovina. UN Environment is playing a significant role with the UN Development Programme, the UN Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization. UN Environment is also working with others – for example the Swedish

Environmental Protection Agency, which recently initiated a new air quality programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the first UN Air Conference “Clean Air for All”.

AirQ software will provide data linking air pollution with specific health effects, helping to drive policy responses. New monitoring stations are planned for urban areas. UN Environment and the Stockholm Environment Institute are contributing through a feasibility study of low-cost air quality monitoring solutions. The nation is also considering joining Breathe Life, a campaign run by UN Environment, the World Health Organization, and the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, in which members pledge action on air quality.

Roughly 7 million people die each year from air pollution, and work such as that being done in Bosnia is crucial to save lives. The air quality resolution agreed on at the UN Environment Assembly aims to improve data quality and create the conditions for clean energy and transport, which will help address the problem.

This work has already started in Bosnia and Herzegovina, bringing hope that fresh air will soon be available for all the nation’s residents. UN Environment is ready to help countries create affordable air quality networks, and to support them in tackling key sources of air pollution.


See how we performed on Environment Under Review in 2016-2017...

In our work to keep the environment under review, we focus on bridging the gap between the producers and users of environmental information, so that science can be better linked with policies. We provide results in the following areas:

  • Assessments, where we support global, regional and national policy-making using environmental information accessible on open platforms
  • Early warning, where we provide planning authorities with information on emerging environmental issues of global importance early warning systems; and
  • Information management, where we strengthen the capacity of countries to generate, access, analyze, use and communicate environmental information and knowledge.

During 2016-2017, we met or partially met our targets for Environment under Review except for three targets, which have progressed satisfactorily but not to the full extent we had targeted since countries take time to adopt and adapt to new systematic ways of data calibration, to monitoring, and to the findings of the assessments report for a meaningful impact.





(a) i) Increase in the number of United Nations agencies and multilateral environmental agreements using data on environmental trends, identified through UN Environment Programme, to influence their policy

(a)(ii) Increase in the number of relevant global, regional and national forums and institutions using data on environmental trends identified through UN Environment Programme to influence their policy

(a)(iii) Level of accessibility and ease of use of UN Environment Programme environmental information through open platforms measured against internationally recognized standards for open access to information

  • Percentage improvement in the level of accessibility measured by usability tests
  • Percentage of surveyed users that are satisfied with the information available on the open platform

(a)(iv) Increase in the number of United Nations inter agency initiatives and external partnerships catalysed by UN Environment Programme that contribute scientifically credible and policy-relevant environmental data and indicators to UN Environment Programme assessment processes

  • Number of United Nations agencies that have contributed scientifically credible and policy-relevant environmental data and indicators to UN Environment Programme assessment processes
  • Number of United Nations agencies and secretariats of multilateral environmental agreements that have linked their data and information systems to UN Environment Programme Live

(a)(v) Number of partnerships between UN Environment Programme and external partners that have contributed scientifically credible and policy-relevant environmental data and indicators to UN Environment Programme assessment processes


(b) i) Increase in the number of stakeholders surveyed that acknowledge the uptake in assessment and policy development processes of scenarios and early warning on emerging environmental issues identified by UN Environment Programme


(c) i) Increase in the number of countries that take the lead in generating, analysing, managing and using environmental information in comparable formats and with a focus on gender-sensitive tools, and making the information and knowledge available to the public and policy makers, as a result of UN Environment Programme intervention

  • Number of countries developing information systems and documents/reports that include analysed data and information having their origins in UN Environment Programme outputs and processes (e.g., citations in documents such as green economy transition plans, climate change and disaster risk reduction action plans
  • Number of countries making available environmentally relevant gender disaggregated data

(c) ii) Increase in the number of countries making available credible nationally generated data and access to country-specific environmental information in comparable formats available on public platforms

(c) iii) Increased number of major groups and stakeholders surveyed that acknowledge their involvement in the generation, access to and use of environmental information available on public platforms


View full report on Environment Under Review


Budget Performance

UN Environment Budget Performance Annual Report 2017

Photo: Shutterstock.


Our projected overall budget for the 2016-2017 biennium was US$683.1 million. This budget comprises the Environment Fund, Trust Funds and Earmarked Contributions, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Programme Support Costs (PSC), and the Regular Budget of the United Nations, including the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and UN Development Account allocations.

The overall budget allocation for the biennium was US$1,216.5 million. The budget allocation had three elements. First, it included income received and recorded in the biennium, even if the contributions received were not all meant for use in the same biennium. This is because  some donors targeted their contributions for use in projects that will extend beyond 2017. Secondly, the budget allocation included disbursements that were already in the pipeline late in the last biennium that is late 2015, but that had not been made by the end of that year and thus had to be recorded as allocations in 2017. Thirdly, the budget allocation included unspent fund balances from the latter part of the last biennium that were brought forward as allocations in 2016-2017. These factors make it difficult to draw a direct comparison with the projected budget.

We had more resources available than our projected budget for the 2016-2017 biennium.  This resulted in a total expenditure for the biennium of US$953.7 million, approximately 139.6 per cent of the year’s targeted budget.

As in previous years, a significant part of the contributions we received was earmarked for specific projects and thus unavailable for meeting demands for services in other areas where results were envisaged.

Income analysis

We received US$888.9 million in the biennium 2016-2017 against the budget of US$683.1 million. The UN Regular Budget and the Environment Fund formed the core funding for the biennium, amounting to 20 per cent of total income received. The earmarked income received in the biennium 2016-2017 comprised all trust funds and other contributions from the member states, Global Environment Facility, Green Climate Fund, European Commission, foundations, private sector and UN sister organizations.


View full report on our Budget Performance


Senior Management Team

UN Environment Senior Management Team Our Leadership

Photo: UN Environment.


The Senior Management Team is chaired by the UN Environment Executive Director and includes the following members:

Erik Solheim, UN Environment Executive Director

Erik Solheim,
UN Environment Executive Director


Ibrahim Thiaw, UN Environment Deputy Executive Director

Ibrahim Thiaw,
UN Environment Deputy Executive Director

Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Director, Africa Office

Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo
Director, Africa Office

Sami Dimassi, Director, West Asia Office

Sami Dimassi
Director, West Asia Office

Jan Dusík, Principal Advisor on Strategic Engagement in the Arctic and Antarctic, Director a.i., Europe Office

Jan Dusík
Principal Advisor on Strategic Engagement in the Arctic and Antarctic, Director a.i., Europe Office

Elliott Harris, Director, New York Office and Assistant Secretary-General of United Nations

Elliott Harris
Director, New York Office and Assistant-Secretary-General of the United Nations

Leo Heileman, Director, Latin America and the Caribbean Office

Leo Heileman
Director, Latin America and the Caribbean Office

Barbara Hendrie, Director, North America Office

Barbara Hendrie
Director, North America Office

Jorge Laguna-Celis, Secretary, Director, Governance Affairs Officee

Jorge Laguna-Celis
Director, Governance Affairs Office

Anne Le More, Chief of Staff

Anne Le More
Chief of Staff

Gary Lewis, Director a.i., Policy and Programme Division

Gary Lewis
Director a.i., Policy and Programme Division

Jian Liu, Chief Scientist, Director a.i., Science Division

Jian Liu
Chief Scientist, Director a.i., Science Division

Director, Law Division, Director a.i., Corporate Services Division

Elizabeth Mrema
Director, Law Division, Director a.i., Corporate Services Division

Ligia Noronha, Director, Economy Division

Ligia Noronha
Director, Economy Division

Naysán Sahba, Director, Communication Division

Naysán Sahba
Director, Communication Division

Dechen Tsering, Director, Asia and the Pacific Office

Dechen Tsering
Director, Asia and the Pacific Office

Mette Løyche Wilkie, Director, Ecosystems Division

Mette Løyche Wilkie
Director, Ecosystems Division