June has been an exciting month for the United Nations in Brussels, and for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in particular, with plenty of opportunities to raise awareness of and discuss issues related to the environment! The activities have taken place against the backdrop of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) held in Nairobi on 23-27 June. UNEA is a historic meeting, as it is the first ever meeting with universal country membership to bring environmental issues to the forefront within the framework of the UN General Assembly.
World Environment Day ‘Raise your voice, not the sea level!’
The city of Brussels and the Institut Bruxellois pour la Gestion de l’Environnement kicked off with the annual Fête de l’Environnement on the 1st of June in Parc du Cinquantenaire. The festival, which involves dozens of public and private organisations and attracts thousands of visitors every year, aims to raise public awareness of current environmental issues in a family-oriented atmosphere.
The United Nations participated with a stand featuring a range of activities and workshops organized by the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC) and UNEP, around sustainable consumption (“GreenUp” campaign) urban farming (Urban Grow Kits distributed by Biodrome), food waste (Think. Eat. Save.) and climate change. Visitors received information on the upcoming Climate Summit in September in New York that is expected to pave the way towards a new universal agreement to combat climate change in Paris December 2015. Linking up with this year’s World Environment Day theme of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the Secretariat to the African, Caribbean, and Pacific States also provided targeted information on these states and their particular vulnerabilities to climate change.
Green Week, ‘Circular Economy, Resource Efficiency and Waste’
From 3 to 5 June, the UN participated actively in the 2014 edition of Green Week, the biggest annual conference on European environment policy focusing on this year’s theme of Circular Economy, Resource Efficiency & Waste. The conference was preceded by a New Environmentalism Summit taking place on 3 June, where UNEP’s Executive Director Achim Steiner gave a presentation outlining his views on the need for a “New Environmentalism” as described by journalist and moderator of the event Mr James Murray.
As in previous years, representatives from UNEP, the UNEP-hosted International Resource Panel (IRP) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) took part in or organized several of the sessions and side-events. UNRIC, UNEP and UNIDO held a joint United Nations information stand and posters from six finalists from the Think.Eat.Save Nordic-Baltic ad competition organized by UNRIC and the Nordic Council were on display throughout the conference centre.
At Green Week, UNEP Executive Director Mr Achim Steiner together with Environment Commissioner Potocnik also raised attention for the UNEA and the need to mainstream environment policy into the new Sustainable Development Goals that are expected to be agreed upon next year to replace the Millennium Development Goals for 2015.
EU Sustainable Energy Week
The UN Green month in Brussels will end with a contribution to the European Union’s Sustainable Energy Week ‘One Small Step for You, One Giant Leap for Europe’ held from 23 to 27 June. UNEP will be participating with an exhibition “We Have The Power: Efficient, Renewable, affordable”, a joint project with Magnum Photos to showcase some of the solutions already being implemented in support of the objectives of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s ‘Sustainable Energy for All’ initiative supported by the European Commission. It is open to the public from 23 to 29 June at Brussels Midi Station. The UN will also be involved in the High-Level Policy Conference organized by the European Commission from 24 to 26 June 2014 with a UNEP info-point.