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The United Nations Environment Assembly is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment. It addresses the critical environmental challenges facing the world today. Understanding these challenges and preserving and rehabilitating our environment is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Environment Assembly meets biennially to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law. Through its resolutions and calls to action, the Assembly provides leadership and catalyses intergovernmental action on the environment. Decision-making requires broad participation, which is why the Assembly provides an opportunity for all peoples to help design solutions for our planet’s health.

Theme of the fourth Session of the UN Environment Assembly

Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production

Only through innovation can our generation move our world closer to the vision set out in “The future we want”, the outcome document of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development which affirms that “poverty eradication, changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are the overarching objectives of and essential requirements for sustainable development.”

The key features of an innovative culture are creativity, openness and participation. A culture of innovation cuts across sectors and actors and ensures their right to participation.

Several conditions are required to stimulate and strengthen a culture of innovation. These include leadership and governance instruments that reward innovation and circularity while stimulating openness and collaboration; education and continuous capacity building that facilitate the transition to a knowledge society; and the dedication of finance and technology to sustainability.

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Multi Stakeholder Dialogue During UNEA 4

The Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue at the 2019 session of the UN Environment Assembly will provide an opportunity to present and discuss innovative solutions, including social and societal,to achieve more sustainable consumption patternsthat contribute to more sustainable living. It will build upon the Leadership Dialogues that will have been held before,engaginggovernments and public sector,and will incorporate the viewsof Major Groups and Stakeholdersand the private sector. The Dialogue will take place on 14 March 2019 between 4.30 and 6 pm.

Theme of Multi Stakeholder Dialogue

Innovative technical solutions need to be complemented by deep changes in behavior, social, cultural and business practices, and public policy. Such transformative changes need to engage all stakeholders and can often build upon existing traditional or cultural practices that are aligned with sustainability objectives.

Increasing numbers of consumers are aware of the importance of their consumption choices and care about environmental issues. For some, sustainable consumption means to purchase less, to select environmentally friendly products that are the result of fair trade or to share purchased goods. However, many do not translate their concerns into action as, for example, the purchase-decision making process is far more complicated and relies on social, political, economic and psychological factors, as well as on the price of the product. For people who want to pursue more sustainable living, in many cases, better options are not available, affordable, or effective.

A meaningful shift in lifestyles towards sustainability requires transformative changes including comprehensive public policy reforms to enable those choices and lifestyles. Such reforms need to go beyond add-on environmental policies to involve the policy areas that significantly influence citizens’ lifestyles and the goods and services available to them.

In many societies - in particular, in developing and emerging contexts – there are limited if any, sustainable options that are attractive and affordable.  In growing numbers, people around the world continue struggle to meet their basic needs. At the same time, the high-end consumption of the wealthy societies often has far greater impact on the environment.

In those countries and markets, re-shaping consumer demand will be a key factor in making the transition to more inclusive and sustainable economies.

Unsustainable consumption patterns increase the pressure on natural resources, and intensify the human footprint of pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, waste generation, water degradation, resource depletion and loss of biodiversity. Unsustainable consumption can also contribute to social problems, such as unfair working conditions, social disparities, reduced quality of life and wellbeing and can harm the health of consumers themselves. Many of the economic impacts of unsustainable consumption follow directly from those impacts cited above.  In addition, the choice of unsustainable products limits incentives for sustainability innovation by business, impacting their long-term viability and contributing to missed opportunities for exports and access to those markets in which demand for sustainable products is growing.  Addressing these broad economic impacts requires policies, voluntary measures and accurate information to shift to sustainable production practices and enable consumers to identify and select sustainable products.

The Green Tent

Monday March 11 – Friday March 15, morning to evening

The Green Tent is a space self-organized by Major Groups and Stakeholders that will feature throughout the UNEA-4 week various types of events (coordination meetings, training sessions, presentation of NGO initiatives, panel discussions etc.) that relate to the theme of the Assembly. Most of the events are organized by civil society organizations and many present alternatives and innovative perspectives on how to address environmental challenges and to achieve more sustainable consumption and production.

The Schedule of Events for the Green Tent can be found here. For more information contact: Mohamed Abdelraouf ([email protected]) from the Science and Technology Major Group.

Events in Green Tent Documents

Doing More and Better with Less – Best Practices for Sustainable Production and Consumption in a Resource-Constrained Environment Concept Note

UNEA-4 Monitor Series