‘Honest data’ and new ideas key to successful outcome, says UN Environment Assembly President

19 July 2018

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), to be held in Kenya next March, offers an opportunity for each country to present “honest” data and propose innovative solutions for environmental challenges, especially for sustainable consumption and production, the Assembly’s President has told UN News.   

“I ask every Minister of Environment of our Member States to actively take part in the preparation process, talk about problems very openly, disclose all relevant information – because sometimes it’s not pleasant, especially for politicians, to admit that they have environmental problems, such as pollution, (and) overuse of resources”, said Estonia’s Minister of Environment, Siim Kiisler, who will preside over the 11-15 March gathering in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

He said that disclosing information is crucial because formation of effective environmental policies and making the economy greener hinges on collecting, presenting, exchanging and analysing data.  

“We can change the economy only if we have honest data,” he said.

When we discuss economic growth, it means more pressure on the environment and use of more natural resources. But it does not have to be that way – Estonia’s Minister of Environment, Siim Kiisler

The UNEA is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, giving all 193 UN Member States a vote and a voice. It meets biennially to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law. It was created in June 2012, when world leaders called for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to be strengthened and upgraded during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also referred to as RIO+20.

The theme of the next Assembly session is “innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production”.

Mr. Kiisler said that following on from the last Assembly session focussed on pollution - and discussion over ways to improve the quality of air, water and soil - it was necessary to think now about the next step.  That next step is to innovate the economy and turn it green, he said, explaining that the new theme builds on the previous one.

He stressed that information and communications technology (ICT) can be used to “optimize all our activities” and “increase our resource efficiency.”

Video screen capture
Mr. Siim Kiisler, Estonia's Minister of Environment, and the President of the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, speaks to UN News.

“When we discuss economic growth, it means more pressure on the environment and use of more natural resources,” he said.  “But it does not have to be that way. We can use ICT to use less resources and use production leftovers and waste for our industries.”

He also stressed that environment is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Goals.

“We cannot talk about achieving those goals without talking about the environment,” he said. 

He said that it is often difficult to reach concrete conclusions at big forums like the UNEA, but he hopes the next Assembly session will deliver real results and come up with concrete solutions.

“My dream is that we will be very concrete. Many countries have good examples already, but not all know about them. We need to share experiences, we need to learn from each other, and we need to agree on some general measures,” he said.