This website is best viewed with CSS and JavaScript enabled.

Anglicans have a say at United Nations Environment Assembly

Posted on: March 30, 2024 8:13 AM
Related Categories: Anglican, Global, Nicholas Pande, UNEA 6

Nicolas Pande, the Anglican Alliance Disaster Resilience and Response Lead, was part of an Anglican delegation that recently attended the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) in Nairobi Kenya. He reflects on the outcomes and how they impact vulnerable communities across the Anglican Communion.  

What is the United Nations Environment Assembly?

The sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6), the world’s top decision-making body on the environmenttook place in Nairobi between February 26 and March 1. It brought together 193 countries (Member States), intergovernmental organisations, the broader UN system, civil society groups, the scientific community and the private sector to discusshow multilateralism can help tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. 
The impact the Anglican Communion can make 

The Communion plays an important role in collaborating with governments, businesses, other faith groups and civil society to follow up on UN commitments and their implementation. Following UNEA-6, we intend to create more awareness among our member Churches to advocate with their national and sub-national governments, to embrace new and life-giving approaches to landscape restoration, drought management, mining and circularity of our economies. 

Resolutions passed at UNEA-6 

At UNEA-6, out of 19 draft resolutions submitted by member states, 15 resolutions andtwo decisions were adopted. These resolutions were of interest to us due to the Anglican delegation at UNEA-6, due to their strong relationships with the work of Anglican churches in climate change and biodiversity conservation. In this article, I highlight some of the UNEA resolutions and how the Anglican Communion is working to take them forwards.  

The Anglican delegation closely followed four of the resolutions: 

  1. Strengthening international efforts to halt land degradation, restore degraded lands and increase ecosystem and communities’ resilience to drought;  
  2. Environmental assistance and recovery in areas affected by armed conflicts;  
  3. Environmental aspects of minerals and metals and  
  4. Promoting sustainable lifestyles 

UNEA-6 Resolutions and Anglican Responses 

UNEA Resolution: Strengthening international efforts to halt land degradation, restore degraded lands and increase ecosystem and communities’ resilience to drought.  

This resolution strengthens our calls for building communities’ resilience to the impacts of climate change, as it called member states to align the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) with their national plans toreduce desertification, land degradation and drought.It provides a strategic framework to help nations progress their efforts.  

The resolution also called for a shift from reactive to proactive drought management, taking into consideration the importance of monitoring and early warning systems.

Evidence demonstrates that such systems significantly reduce damages caused. They inform drought mitigations like water harvesting and conservation, public health behaviours, food grain stocking among others. How countries prepare for and respond to drought is equally key in alleviating suffering.  

This resolution when fully implemented, would see policy coherence in management of degraded lands and deserts, droughts and other impacts of global warming. Strengthening international efforts in these actions will relieve the burden from poor and climate vulnerable countries to build drought resilience of their communities single handedly.   

Anglican Response: Drought resilience and the work of Anglican churches 

The resolution is particularly important as millions of Anglicans find themselves in frequent and prolonged droughts. In the middle East, South America, East Africa, the Sahel and other regions of the world, building resilience to drought is not only a priority but a matter of life and death.  

Member Churches of the Anglican Communion in these regions play a vital role in adopting drought resilience practices. These include growing drought-tolerant crops, water harvesting and storage methods that prolong access to water resources;keeping drought-tolerant livestock like camels and goats;destocking livestock for drought adaptation and the construction of housing structures that provide cooler spaces, among other practices.  

Anglican churches across the regions prone to droughts have also been involved in monitoring and provision of early warnings to their communities, as well as preparing and responding to drought-related disasters, including famine, limited water supply, sanitation-related disease outbreaks like cholera, and loss of livestock.   

UNEA Resolution: Environmental aspects of minerals and metals  

This important resolution on the environmental aspects of minerals and metals came against the backdrop of Climate COP28, which took a decision to triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency improvements by 2030.  

This decision set the world to a rush for transition metals that would make the goal on tripling renewable energy capacitypossible. Key to this energy transition, from wind turbines and solar panels to electric vehicles and battery storage, are a wide range of minerals and metals that include; lithium, graphite, cobalt, silicon, copperand nickel.  

Global Resources Outlook 2024, which was launched at the assembly, provides insights into the demand on transition materials that are projected to grow significantly in the next decade. The report focuses on materials such as lithium and copper for which demand is expected to exceed supply by 2030 as these metals and minerals are extracted to enable the shift to renewable energy.  

This shows the importance of the resolution on environmental aspects of minerals and metals which covers their full life cycle, including extraction, on-site and off-site processing, refining, management of mining waste and tailings, rehabilitation of sites and closed or abandoned mines, manufacturing, and recycling.  

The report also stresses the need for enhanced action to support the environmentally sustainable management of minerals and metals and invites relevant stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to align the management of minerals and metals with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  

Anglican Response: We want to see justice 

As a Communion, we advocate for a just transition, believing that the much-needed transition from the current production and consumption systems needs to happen in a fair and just way, considering the plight of the people impacted. As the world moves from carbon-based energy systems, we want to see those whose livelihoods depend on oil and gas sector supported to transition to alternative sectors in a way that their livelihoods are not jeopardized. We also want to see justice in management of metals and minerals as the demand for these transition materials increases.  

In this, we would like to see inclusive and just mining practices with acknowledgement and respect for rights of indigenous peoples and local communities where the mining sites are located, as well as fair compensation to those participating in or affected by the mining activities. We are cognisant that climate action, if not properly carried out, could make worse the existing global inequalities.   

UNEA Resolution: Promoting sustainable lifestyles   

Our voices at UNEA 6 underscored the root causes of the triple planetary crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution to be overconsumption, materialism, greed and a throw away culture. We believe in stewardship and responsible use of resources, and many Anglican churches and networks promote behaviour change in areas of life which contribute to waste and unsustainable use of resources. This resolution on promoting sustainable lifestyles and its twin, a resolution on “stepping up efforts to accelerate transitioning domestically, regionally and globally to circular economies”, which was unfortunately withdrawn on the last day, were thus important to us.  

Anglican Response: Providing a faith perspective to the discussions 

Anglicans at UNEA provided a faith perspective on sustainable lifestyles and developing circular economies. We challenged the unsustainability of the current production and consumption systems.We called for a “business-revolution” laying emphasis on regenerative business models and addressing the ‘DNA’ of existing business models that have profit maximisation as their main goal.This resolution gives us a new way of being - from a throw away culture to a sustainable lifestyle that recognises the value of the environment and our interconnectedness.  

We drew inspiration from words of our faith leaders like the Pope who asserts that, “the earth, our home is beginning to look like an immense pile of filth, and we are treating our oceans as sewers”. The throw away economy is only possible because it is based on an exploitation of human rights of workers and abuse of the environment. The costs of production and consumption (such as pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change) are not included in the current economic models.   

Three aspects of the resolution that were particularly relevant for us: 

  • The role of the private sector and industry, local authorities, local communities, and Indigenous Peoples in supporting more sustainable lifestyles. Anglicans are involved in these groupings nationally and locally, and, through them, can be voices motivating change.  

  • The eradicationof poverty is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, leaving no one behind. Anglican Churches uphold this globally as many member churches are involved in poverty eradication programmes, prioritizing those most vulnerable and marginalized in their communities.   

  • Adequate individual education and skills can further promote more sustainable lifestyles, and each country is best positioned to understand its own national circumstances and priorities to encourage more sustainable lifestyles. 

We hope that Anglicans in different contexts will increasingly raise awareness about sustainable consumption and production through educative programmes and skills development. This will be expressed differently based on national and local circumstances, meaning Anglicans in our member churches can be in the forefront of implementing of this resolution.  

Get involved

Find out to get involved in advocacy and the work of the Communion's UN team here