During the Global Environment Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, the EU suggested new initiatives on mercury, chemicals management, sustainable production and consumption, engagement of business and international environmental governance.
The biggest Governing Council session that UNEP has ever had concluded its work by adopting more than 40 decisions on issues relating to:
- international environmental governance;
- post-conflict environmental assessment;
- water policy and strategy;
- a strategic approach to chemicals management;
- a mercury programme;
- support to Africa;
- production and consumption patterns;
- and the environment and cultural diversity.
However, the overloaded agenda and the difficult nature of the political issues hampered efforts to focus on practical World Summit on Sutainable Development (WSSD) implementation. Moreover, the meeting underlined tensions between the US, which seeks to contain UNEP’s role in sustainable development, and the EU and others, more eager to expand the organisation’s role.
The EU showed a strong involvement in the following issues:
Mercury Programme: Based on the UNEP global mercury assessment, the Council agreed to urge immediate national and international action to reduce risks to the environment and human health. The EU and Norway argued strongly for a text providing for the possibility of a proposal for a legally binding instrument at the Governing Council’s 23rd session. This was opposed by Australia, New Zealand and the US, who advocated focusing resources on immediate action.
Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management: Governments agreed to request from UNEP that it support initiatives to enhance corporate responsibility and accountability and consumer awareness, taking into account gender issues and the different circumstances of countries. The decision recognizes the requirement for further training, awareness raising and capacity-building programmes on sustainable production and consumption, in particular in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.
Sustainable Production and Consumption: The EU submitted a text on UNEP’s development of a 10-year programme for sustainable consumption and production. The US argued that the inclusion of the words “life cycle initiative” was unacceptable due to concerns over trade restrictions and, with Australia and the G-77/China, strongly objected to a code of conduct, finding it unrealistic and premature. The EU, supported by Switzerland and Norway, agreed to drop a piece of text relating to the code of conduct, in return for stronger language on UNEP’s role regarding the 10-year framework of programmes supporting the shift to sustainable production and consumption.
Engaging Business and Industry: Following consultations between the US and EU on the degree of government regulation required in this area, a revised text based on the WSSD’s formulation on this matter was adopted. It requests that Member States submit elements for guidelines for cooperation between UNEP and business and industry to UNEP by 1 October 2003, and asks the Executive Director to distribute these elements to all Member States by 15 November 2003, allowing UNEP to begin the development of consistent guidelines.
International Environmental Governance: The EU and Norway supported the establshment of an Intergover nmental Panel on Global Environmental Change (IPEC). The text adopted refers to the establishment of such an institution as one of several options.