The 27th session of UNEP’s Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum took place in Nairobi from 18 February to 22 February. This was a historic meeting as it marked the first under new universal membership arrangements for UNEP agreed in "The Future We Want" document at the Rio +20 Conference held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012. Environment Ministers attending the Session backed decisions designed to ensure a strengthened and upgraded institution that will be able to meet the environmental challenges of the 21st century. This was the first major restructuring of UNEP since it was founded four decades ago. The negotiations in Nairobi were challenging, particularly in relation to the new institutional arrangements and it fell to the Irish Presidency to coordinate the EU’s input to these negotiations.
The Irish Presidency team’s co-ordination role involved managing multiple parallel tracks of meetings and participating in a number of bi-lateral meetings with other non-EU delegations during the Session. Following agreement on all the major decisions tabled, the Irish Presidency on behalf of the EU and its Member States welcomed the outcome of the Session.
The Ministerial segment took place over the first three days of the Session during which I and fellow Ministers discussed a range of issues including the key priority of Institutional Reform of UNEP, Sustainable Development Goals, and the Green Economy. In addition, the Governing Council took a number of other decisions across a range of themes including on sustainable consumption and production, green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, chemicals and waste and UNEP’s Programme of Work and Budget. Further details on the negotiations and outcomes of the meeting are available at http://www.unep.org. On the eve of the Governing Council I addressed a High Level international meeting on the Rule of Law and the Environment which brought together Ministers of the Environment and Government representatives with representatives of the judicial, legal and auditing professions.
I attended and spoke at round table discussions on emerging policy issues in the area of the environment and also attended lunchtime discussions, hosted by the Executive Director of UNEP, Mr. Achim Steiner, on the Green Economy. I also outlined, in my Presidency role, key EU priorities and concerns on the institutional arrangements for UNEP being discussed at the Session. In addition, I attended and spoke on behalf of the EU at a Ministerial Breakfast hosted by the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, for key players in the negotiations. I also attended a reception hosted by the Head of the EU delegation in Nairobi at which Sustainable Development Goals were discussed.
While at the Governing Council I also took the opportunity to have a number of bilateral meetings. I met with the Executive Director of UNEP to discuss a number of issues including the key issues before the Session, Ireland’s Presidency of the EU in the context of the Informal Environment Council which takes place in Dublin on 22/23 April next and issues relating to the GEMS Water Programme, which is the primary source for global water quality data and information. I had further discussions on this latter issue with UNEP at official level.
I also met with Mr. Richard Beynon, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment, Water and Rural Affairs, during which we discussed priorities for Ireland’s Presidency of the EU. I also met with Mr. Janez Potocnik, EU Commissioner for the Environment, to review EU priorities and the state of play in negotiations during the Governing Council and co-chaired, with Commissioner Potocnik, a meeting with representatives of major groups and civil society. During the negotiations, I also chaired two meetings of EU Ministers and Heads of Delegations to agree EU priorities as discussions moved into a critical phase. Commissioner Potocnik and I also took the opportunity to meet, on a bilateral basis, with Environment Ministers from a number of Latin American countries - Columbia, Mexico, Bolivia and Brazil - to discuss key issues during the Session, principally in relation to sustainable development goals, the green economy and resource efficiency.
In the margins of the Governing Council, and in accordance with normal practice, I attended a reception hosted by Ireland’s Honorary Consul at which I met members of the Irish Community in Kenya and Irish officials from UNEP involved in preparations for the 27th session.