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High-level discussion on the Global Pact for the Environment

09/03/2018 - 10:00 - 12:30
GEN Event

On 19 September 2017, during the UN General Assembly’s high-level week, France launched the Global Pact for the Environment initiative. The Global Pact would build upon, among others, the Stockholm declaration, the Rio declaration, Rio +20, the Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Agenda adopted in 2015, and the Paris Agreement which entered into force in 2016. The goal for the Pact is to codify and unite the guiding principles of environmental law  into a single text with legal force.

This Geneva Environment Network event will aim to look at the contribution of the Global Pact to global environmental governance. It will inform participants on progress achieved, as well as potential risks and opportunities identified so far in the process. The specific role and contribution of the international community in Geneva in this process will also be discussed.

What changes are we witnessing in global leadership for the environment? And with hundreds of multilateral agreements already in place, what can the contribution of the Global Pact be?

What hopes do the youth of today hold for us to make “our planet great again” for a sustainable future for all, across generations in the context of the Global Pact initiative? 

Agenda

10:00
Networking coffee

10:30
Welcome
Jan DUSIK, United Nations Environment Programme, Europe Office, Director a.i.

10:35
Keynote presentations
François GAVE, Deputy Permanent representative, Permament Mission of France to the United Nations in Geneva
Laurence BOISSON DE CHAZOURNES, Professor; Faculty of Law, the University of Geneva

Discussants
H.E. Franz PERREZ, Ambassador for the Environment, Switzerland
Inger ANDERSEN, Director, International Union for Conservation of Nature
Sudhanshu SARRONWALA, Executive Director of Communications & Marketing, World Wildlife Fund International
H.E. Xavier STICKER, Ambassador for the Environment, France

Moderation: Ibrahim THIAW, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme

11:30
Questions & answers

12:25
Closing remarks Ibrahim THIAW

Discussion

After the welcome by Jan Dusik on behalf of the Geneva Environment Network, the introductory remarks were given by Francois Gave, deputy permanent representative of France in Geneva, who has a long track record of environment and development (Rio+20) negotiations. He highlighted the main objectives of the Pact and described the latest on the process. He recalled the ambition of President Macron to conclude the negotiations by 2020, and the inclusiveness of the process both in terms of participants and venues of negotiations. Professor Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, who had been in the team of lawyers drafting the pact, gave a historic overview of the international environmental law and how the new Pact can fill the gaps – enhance clarity, enact principles and harmonize language, while not superseding any of the current instruments.

During the panel moderated by Ibrahim Thiaw, the presenters gave their additional perspectives. Inger Andersen, Director General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), congratulated on a beautiful text, which is likely to become ugly when negotiations begin. She sees the draft as a great point of reference on international environmental law, whatever the outcome of negotiations will be. She recalled that for a good quality instrument it takes time to negotiate. Franz Perrez, Swiss Ambassador for the Environment, congratulated France and the team of lawyers on their work. He stressed the non-regression principle and warned that there may be some discrepancies in wording with existing instruments. He insisted that the text would profit from experience from multiple venues of negotiations, and suggested that a possible realistic timing would be to adopt the Pact at Stockholm+50 anniversary event in Paris in 2022. Sudhanshu Sarronwala, Director of Communications in World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reminded of linkages with 2020 biodiversity target, as well as other milestones of 2020 (Sustainable Development Goals, climate). He also recalled other links – health, human rights, finance and sustainable consumption and production.

Interventions from the floor included both country representatives as well as organisations and stakeholders. Several participants reminded of important link to the human rights agenda and constituency. One participant warned about possible dilution and repetition and asked how the Pact will impact people’s lives. Others recalled links with the trade negotiations or with the approach of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management. Panelists responded highlighting the need to maintain high ambition, allowing due time to negotiate well, maintain political momentum in New York (with the General Assembly and with agencies based there), need to strive for a legally binding agreement and having a clear hook in time to keep momentum.

In closing, Ibrahim highlighted the elements from the panel contributions and discussion. He stressed inclusiveness (international negotiations were successful when they were inclusive) while maintaining intergovernmental nature of negotiations. He stressed the need for political championing and pressure for the outcome. He welcomed new elements from the discussion that can inform the upcoming gap analysis of the draft. While the ambition needs the be for a legally binding instrument, the text is already valuable as a reference document. The timeline will have to be flexible to allow negotiations to evolve, however an ambition and pressure needs to be retained. Travelling of the negotiations will increase the buy in (and funding for holding the meetings), and should not be limited to the UN headquarters seats. The organization of the negotiations (venues and financing) should be left to the hosting organization and not pre-determined.

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