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Minister Kimmo Tiilikainen elected Vice President of the Bureau of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA)

Ministry of the Environment 7.12.2017 11.06 | Published in English on 7.12.2017 at 17.30
Press release
UN Environment Assembly main themes were marine plastic waste and air quality

Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing Kimmo Tiilikainen was elected Vice President of the Bureau of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA). The Bureau, composed of ten Ministers of the Environment, is responsible in particular for matters of high policy relevance, including the themes addressed by the Environment Assembly. Estonia’s Minister of the Environment Siim Kiisler was elected President of the Bureau.

“The Bureau has a key role in integrating environmental issues into the international policy agenda. I intend to be active in working to strengthen UNEA,” says Tiilikainen.

The third UN Environment Assembly (UNEA3) ended on Wednesday evening in Nairobi, Kenya. The overarching theme of the Assembly was curbing pollution. More than 4,000 heads of state, ministers, businesses leaders, UN officials and civil society representatives gathered at the Assembly in Nairobi.

Zero tolerance of marine plastic waste – working group to consider regulation

The key achievements of the Environment Assembly relate to reducing marine plastic waste and curbing air pollution. Ministers adopted 13 resolutions, which will guide the work of the UN Environment Programme and Member States’ measures to prevent environmental pollution.

At the Assembly, it was decided to set up a working group to prepare a world-wide solution to the problem of plastic waste. According to the UN Environmental Programme, there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish by 2050, if the current rate of  pollution continues. The working group will investigate various options ranging from a global binding agreement to less stringent measures and put forward a recommendation on further measures at the next Assembly in March 2019. Air pollution is considered to be the most significant single environmental health risk with extensive negative impacts. Member States are urged to reduce air pollution through numerous different measures and to set ambitious targets for air quality in accordance with WHO guidelines. The resolution recognises the role of black carbon as a polluter and an accelerator of climate change. The Assembly also resulted, for the first time, in a joint Ministerial Declaration, in which ministers committed to preventing environmental pollution and promoting environmental health.

Finland’s official delegation made a significant input to the negotiations. Tita Korvenoja, Ministry of the Environment, was Chair in negotiations on the air quality resolution. Ambassador Tarja Fernandéz, Finland’s permanent diplomatic mission in Nairobi, and Toni Sandell, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, contributed influential work in negotiations, consultations and the role of Chair in the diplomatically demanding environment and conflict resolution. In addition, Marjaana Kokkonen, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, acted as the EU negotiator in negotiations on resolutions concerning relations between the UNEA and the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development, and on strengthening the UN Environment Programme. From Finland’s perspective, good results were achieved on all of these issues.

Finland prominent in circular economy theme

The Finnish delegation at the Assembly was led by Minister Tiilikainen. Organisations represented in the delegation included the Finnish UN Association and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation. In Nairobi, Finland had a prominent presence in events relating to, among other things, the circular economy and the role of the private sector. Minister Tiilikainen had bilateral discussions with, among others, the Ministers of the Environment of Kenya, Japan and China. The Minister also met Finnish and Kenyan companies and made a visit to a wind farm being built at Lake Turkana. Finland has contributed to financing the wind farm.

2.5 million commitments to curb pollution

In connection with the Assembly, the UN Environment Programme collected commitments to curb pollution from countries, organisations, companies and other parties. By the end of the Assembly, nearly two and a half million commitments had been given. From Finland, commitments were made by the Finnish Commerce Federation and Sitra. The joint Green Deal of the Finnish Commerce Federation and the Ministry of the Environment concerns reducing plastic bags, and Sitra’s commitment concerns a circular economy road map, which has been jointly developed by Sitra, the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Inquiries:

Taru Savolainen, Special Adviser to Minister Tiilikainen, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 40 535 8622, firstname.lastname@ym.fi

Tuulia Toikka, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of the Environment, tel. +358 40 552 4054, firstname.lastname@ym.fi