Foreword by Joyce Msuya

Acting Executive Director, UN Environment Programme

Over the last year, UN Environment supported Member States as they stepped up their efforts to build a better, cleaner and more equitable world. While it was a challenging year, we saw hope in growing action and global commitment to new ways of doing business that tackle the environmental challenges we face. Our role in highlighting best practices, advocating action and bringing together governments, civil society and businesses once again proved critical.

World Environment Day 2018 inspired action on plastic pollution, reaching hundreds of millions of people in over 190 countries. In pledging to phase out single-use plastics by 2022, India has set the bar high for the rest of the world. Commitments from 57 nations covering over 60 per cent of the world’s coastlines made our Clean Seas campaign the largest global compact for combatting marine litter.

We also partnered with the World Health Organization to host the first global meeting on air pollution, which kills millions of people each year, and continued to support national strategies and policies on cleaner transport. For example, we supported the development of national strategies for electric mobility in several countries in Latin America—a key step in reducing air pollution and mitigating climate change.

Our work on financing for sustainable development also broke new ground. The world’s leading chief executive officers gathered in Paris to draft principles for responsible banking under the leadership of the Finance Initiative. Forty-five banks and financial institutions have endorsed the principles. We also saw the first-ever Tropical Landscapes Bond—launched in collaboration with BNP Paribas, the World Agroforestry Centre and partners. This US$95 million bond will restore 80,000 hectares in Indonesia.

South-South cooperation is equally important. We brought together organizations and countries to save the Cuvette Central Peatlands in the Congo Basin, which stores the carbon equivalent of three years of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Brazzaville Declaration—signed by the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Indonesia—keeps this carbon in the ground.

As you will read in this report, we are catalysing change in many other areas: from supporting efforts to make the cooling industry more climate-friendly, to reducing and better managing waste in the hotel industry in Jordan, to helping nations such as Saint Lucia report and track their environmental commitments.

In 2019 we will build on our successes, focusing on promoting the circular economy, mobilizing science and data, promoting greener cities and backing renewable energy. The UN Environment Assembly in March is a tremendous opportunity to boost innovation that can help us change the choices we make and how we consume and produce. I am confident that many new solutions will emerge from this vital meeting. Finally, we are fully engaged in UN reform efforts and will work more closely with other UN agencies to contribute to UN-wide results.

2019 is a year in which the world must take decisive action. It is also clear that the environmental challenges we face cannot be addressed by any one entity or institution alone. UN Environment is once again counting on its staff, funding partners, and other stakeholders to help us make the difference, as you have done in the past. Thank you for your past and future hard work. Together, we can deliver on our mandate for people and planet.

Doing more with less can positively affect not only climate change, but depletion of natural resources, and the pollution of air, water and land—other issues of grave concern that UN Environment pushed hard on in 2018.

Photo Credit: UN Environment