/ 27 February 2024

Multilateral agreements can help tackle climate change, says UN

Key Speakers At New Economy Gateway Africa Event
Leila Benali, president of Unea-6 and minister of energy transition and sustainable development for Morocco. (Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The United Nations Environmental Assembly (Unea) is positive that it can tackle climate change, which it hopes to do using multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). 

The sixth session of the world’s highest decision-making body on the environment is under way in Nairobi, Kenya.  

“We are living in a time of turmoil. And I know that in this room, there are people who are, or who know, those deeply affected by this turmoil. Our response must demonstrate that multilateral diplomacy can deliver,” said Leila Benali, president of Unea-6 and minister of energy transition and sustainable development for Morocco, at the opening of the assembly on Monday.

Unea-6 has brought together more than 7 000 delegates from 182 UN member states to discuss issues and tackle the triple planetary crises of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss and pollution and waste.

The African Union describes multilateral environmental agreements as legally negotiated treaties between three or more states to protect the environment from threats, hazards and danger to humans, animals, plants, land (including soil, water and air) for a safe environment and sustainable development.

Unea-6 hopes the agreements will help unite member states to address the planet’s environmental crises as one indivisible challenge and assist in shaping international environmental governance and environmental law to further the assembly’s objectives.

The agreements cover a wide scope of issues, ranging from the protection of the atmosphere and the sustainable management of chemicals and waste to halting nature and biodiversity loss.  

“Despite efforts by the international community, environmental degradation is continuing. Hence, we need to unite forces at all levels to address the impacts and drivers of environmental degradation more effectively [by] strengthening implementation of and compliance with the MEAs is a key area of action,” Patricia Kameri-Mbote, director of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP’s) law division, said in a statement.

Despite the potential for disagreements, the UNEP said positive results had previously been achieved.

One such result is the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. With universal ratification, the protocol has been successful in its original aim of cutting the production and use of chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-depleting substances. Nearly 99% of ozone-depleting substances have been phased out to date, resulting in the recovery of the ozone layer, which offers protection from cancer-causing sun rays. 

Similarly the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES) has made significant progress in preventing more species from becoming threatened by trade and enabled the recovery of endangered species. CITES regulates international trade in more than 40 000 species of plants and animals.

A series of leadership and multi-stakeholder dialogues and more than 30 official side events are expected to strengthen future global and regional coordinated efforts by the UN and its partners to deliver effective action.

Day two of the assembly is underway with a focus on nature-based solutions.