January 20, 2021

The effort to reduce the ecological footprint of an environmental summit

The effort to reduce the ecological footprint of an environmental summit

Reducing the ecological footprint in an assembly with nearly 5,000 attendees has been the titanic task of the UN Environment, which held its most important summit in Nairobi this week, where it was agreed to reinforce the global fight against threats to our planet.

A free plastic enclosure, paper cups and glass bottles are some of the elements that led the Fourth UN Environment Assembly (# UNEA4), which brought together leaders and experts from around the world in the Kenyan capital.

"Everything you do in this world will have an ecological footprint, but what we seek is to achieve our objectives with a minimum cost to the environment," he explained in an interview with Efe the head of Climate Sustainability and Neutrality at the UN Nairobi office, Shoa Ehsani.

According to this expert of Iranian origin, the model of this organization involves bringing together many people in the same space to discuss and discuss issues, a fact that already leads to an ecological footprint through flights, travel by taxi or hotel rooms .

These types of meetings also tend to involve more spending on paper, water bottles, plastic cutlery and other waste of a single use that is not always recycled and can end up in landfills.

In spite of this, this expert in sustainability considers that this type of meetings are worthwhile, but that it is necessary to manage them in an appropriate way to "reduce the impact".

"It is important to bring together people with similar ideas and concerns to discuss together and move forward," says Eshani, who stresses that "the challenge of achieving greater awareness among the general public remains."

This expert works within the project "Greening the blue" ("Making the blue greener"), an initiative that emerged at the UN in 2008 to make a climate neutral United Nations and that does not only apply to its headquarters, but also to their meetings and assemblies.

Since that year, the UN measures the ecological footprint of all its operations and during meetings such as UNEA-4, this footprint includes flights, taxi journeys, buses, expenses on diets, printing reports, USB memories and many more.

For this last assembly, all attendees had to answer a series of questions related to their trip to Kenya, which included the form of transport, the number of days they would be in the country, and even if they would carry a reusable bottle with them.

And is that the headquarters of the UN in Nairobi, one of the greenest of all that has this organization and that even has monkeys inside, is a free plastic space for a year, where you can not access with No product manufactured with this material.

Kenya, seat of the Assembly and headquarters of the UN Environment, has become in recent years an example in the reduction of plastics, with the ban in 2017 on the use, manufacture and import of plastic bags at commercial and domestic level.

However, not all attendees at this meeting were aware of this prohibition and, as Efe was able to confirm, they entered the premises with plastic bottles and other elements that were not very friendly to the environment.

"What we do is recycle that waste with a private company, since Kenya has directives, but not with a policy on recycling," explains Ehsani when asked about the fate of all this waste.

The commitment to the battle against plastics that was included in the final text of UNEA-4 includes the elimination of single-use by 2030, a point that was approved with the reluctance of the United States, which believes that the fight against this The scourge must be done "within a context".

The promotion of vegetarian diets or based on the consumption of vegetables also centered the recommendations of the experts during the Assembly, since they are much less damaging to the environment.

In relation to this issue, Eshani explained that three of the food stalls of the UN headquarters in Nairobi have vegetarian options and that since Kenya does not have a particularly industrialized agri-food sector, most of the products are "bio".

The deforestation was the great prejudice in the final document of UNEA-4 due to the lack of agreement between the delegations, since it only had a discreet mention.

The Assembly was, however, almost free of paper, with most of the documents available online and the distribution of USB memories made of wood among journalists, a contrast to other summits.

According to Eshani, the UN would have saved between 150,000 and 200,000 pages at this summit, and proposed that, for future meetings, some delegates or journalists could follow online conferences to avoid the ecological cost of flights.

The UN Environment Assembly is the highest decision-making body on environmental issues around the world, and meets every two years to establish priorities on global policies and develop international environmental law.

UNEA was created in 2012 during the celebration of the Conference on Sustainable Development of the United Nations in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), better known as Rio + 20.


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