UN poises to vote in new global environmental pact

Maria Fernanda Espinosa, President of the United Nations General Assembly (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)

Baring unforeseen circumstances, the United Nations is expected to vote on a new global environmental treaty during its yearly summit, which begins in September.

A preliminary draft of the new pact, introduced by France and released in 2017, contains clauses that establish the right to a clean environment and commits parties to creating judicial processes and other means to hold polluters accountable.

The treaty is being negotiated in Nairobi, where U.N. Environment is headquartered. President of the U.N. General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa disclosed last week.

Espinosa, who is nominally in charge of the 193-member body, said negotiations underway could soon produce a definitive text for the Global Pact for the Environment, which is supposed to plug holes left by prior treaties.

“I really hope that we will have something in hand,î she said in an interview.

“Negotiations of the treaty were very strained. Disagreements centered around questions of accountability and reporting on progress.

“There are different fears and different understandings of how far the pact should go.”

Before now, the pact has received mixed reviews from some legal experts, who questioned whether a one-size-fits-all treaty can deal with a myriad of holes left in measures addressing distinct environmental problems.

But it received the backing of Guterres and has been promoted by French President Emmanuel Macron and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

According to Espinosa, the new accord would give more teeth to global environmental regulations coordinated by the U.N. beyond the landmark Paris Climate Agreement.

“That 2015 pact, agreed by nearly 200 nations, aims to keep the increase in average world temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) above pre-industrial times, mainly by reducing the use of polluting fossil fuels.

“Climate change brings stifling summers, worse flooding from storms, rising sea levels, crueler droughts and ever-longer allergy seasons, among a slew of other extreme weather effects.

“The Global Pact for the Environment would create a solid baseline for implementing other environmental protections like the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity and the Statement of Forest Principles,” she said.

“The Forest Principles, adopted in 1992, are a set of guidelines on the sustainable management of forests worldwide.

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