'We don’t operate in silos': connecting action on pollution, land, biodiversity, and climate change
Turning 2030 goals into reality will require action across all of society, and with environmental challenges considered in a holistic way and not by category.
This was the theme of a dialogue between leaders and senior representatives of international environmental agreements held during the Global Environment Facility’s Seventh Assembly, in Vancouver.
Funding from the GEF helps developing countries adhere to environmental goals set at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, and Minamata Convention on Mercury. The Washington-based family of funds has also been selected as a financial mechanism for the new High Seas agreement on biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions (BBNJ).
Monika Stankiewicz, Executive Secretary of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, said phasing out the harmful use of mercury in everyday products and industrial processes including small-scale mining was a vital part of efforts to “meet the global imperative to reduce global pollution, risks to human health and climate change.” She noted that an October meeting of parties to the Minamata Convention would consider a proposal on the phasing out of mercury-containing fluorescent lamps.
“Energy efficiency and waste management benefits alone justify this rapid evolution of the convention,” she said, also stressing the relevance of mercury poisoning in efforts to reduce and reverse nature loss. “This is evident when you look at how the extent of biodiversity loss and the loss of food system functions is driven by pollution.”
Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention (controlling the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal), the Stockholm Convention (on persistent organic pollutants) and the Rotterdam Convention (covering the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals), also emphasized the need to be holistic and not siloed in considering what can be done for the environment.
"We need to really think from a life cycle perspective and an integrated perspective,” Payet said. “Once you start looking at things from a different dimension, it gives you a special ability to really connect things together. We don’t operate in silos.”
This sentiment was echoed in the discussion by GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, who said closely coordinated work across the environmental conventions would help “move the needle on the ultimate challenge” of ensuring that different government ministries – such as ministries of environment, agriculture, energy, and finance – work more closely together to address inter-related environmental threats.
This was also echoed by Louise Baker, Managing Director of the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, who pointed to the Great Green Wall initiative in Africa as an example of cohesive work to support sustainable land management with wide benefits.
Daniele Violetti, Senior Director, Programs Coordination, at the UNFCCC, said a global stocktake of all international efforts in support of climate change goals, including with regard to climate adaptation, was an “opportunity for political decisions to put us on the real path to achieve the Paris Agreement.”
Maria Socorro Manguiat, Deputy Executive Secretary, Ozone Secretariat, also highlighted the links between international conventions by noting how the adoption of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol in 2016 has served to combine efforts to close the ozone hole with climate action, such as energy efficiency upgrades to reduce emissions.
Establishing these and other synergies in environmental financing is crucial, said David Cooper, Acting Executive Secretary of the CBD.
He said the new Global Biodiversity Framework Fund launched at the GEF Assembly was an important opportunity to support joined-up action across topics and sectors, particularly given the strong links between pollution and nature loss.
“That is particularly helpful in addressing biodiversity loss in a mainstream approach by linking with some of the other GEF-supported conventions,” he said, calling for continued capitalization of the fund so that it can support countries’ varied actions to meet the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework targets.