Outcomes of UNEA-6

The sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) chaired by Morocco took place from 26 February to 1 March 2024 at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. UNEA-6 was preceded by a meeting of the Open-ended Committee of Permanent Representatives, an intersessional subsidiary body of the Assembly, held from 19 to 23 February 2024.

Countries discussed how to strengthen multilateral efforts to combat climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. The Center’s representatives monitored the negotiations closely.

UNEA is the world's leading decision-making body on environmental issues in cooperation with 193 member-states, civil society, and business sector. The Assembly sets the global environmental agenda by setting the strategic direction for UNEP and providing political leadership to address environmental challenges. A significant outcome of the previous Assembly meeting in 2022 was the launching of the development of a future global plastic pollution treaty.

As a result of UNEA-6, a Ministerial Declaration and 15 resolutions were adopted addressing the most pressing environmental challenges. Most of the resolutions adopted relate to issues that have been considered at previous sessions of the Assembly or are covered by specific multilateral environmental agreements.

For example, the outcomes focus on the sustainable management of metals and minerals required for the transition to low-carbon development; water management in relation to energy, food security and ecosystems. The resolutions also concern strengthening action to combat desertification, sandstorms and air pollution; managing chemicals and hazardous pesticides; protecting the environment in times of conflict; and enhancing regional cooperation.

In the Ministerial Declaration, environment ministers agreed to implement multilateral measures to address environmental crises based on the previously adopted global targets on climate change, biodiversity and pollution, including the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and the Global Framework on Chemicals.

The countries failed to reach consensus on a number of issues.

In particular, the debate on climate justice centered around the ambiguity of the concept itself and the actions needed by countries. The original draft resolution was aimed at enhancing assistance to climate-sensitive countries and mobilizing resources to combat climate change and its impacts. Different approaches to the scope of the concept of "climate justice" as well as possible overlaps with the UNFCCC mandate prevented the resolution from being endorsed and placed on the agenda of multilateral cooperation under UNEP.

Promoting the use of nature-based solutions (NbS) to support sustainable development has also found little support. The draft resolution envisioned the establishment of an expert group to develop standards and guidelines for the implementation of environmental solutions. The discussion that did not lead to consensus was related to the ambiguity in interpreting and evaluating the efficacy of such technologies in light of concerns about possible misuse of the NbS concept. UNEA-5 has previously noted the potential of natural solutions to combat climate change. At the same time, the Assembly made a reservation about the need to study the effect of NbS, including in the long term, indicating that NbS do not replace the need for rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, but can strengthen actions to adapt and build resilience to climate change and its impacts.

On the final day of UNEA-6, a new Global Resource Outlook was presented, informing about global trends in the use of natural resources. The report makes specific recommendations for the transition to a sustainable resource management model, including institutionalizing resource use in the international agenda and environmental agreements, setting quantitative targets for resource use, increasing taxes on the extraction of non-renewable raw materials, and others.

The seventh session of the Assembly will be held from 8 to 12 December 2025 in Nairobi and will be chaired by Oman.