On 11 -15 March 2019, the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) will take place at UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, under the overarching theme of Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production #SolveDifferent.
The Assembly, which represents the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment, will address the following three focus areas: (a) environmental challenges related to poverty and natural resources management, including sustainable food systems, food security and halting biodiversity loss; (b) life-cycle approaches to resource efficiency, energy, chemicals and waste management; and (c) innovative sustainable business development at a time of rapid technological change. It will culminate in resolutions and a global call to action to address the critical environmental challenges facing the world today.
Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production
Only through innovation can our generation move our world closer to the vision set out in “The future we want”, the outcome document of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development which affirms that “poverty eradication, changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are the overarching objectives of and essential requirements for sustainable development.”
The key features of an innovative culture are creativity, openness, and participation. A culture of innovation cuts across sectors and actors and ensures their right to participation.
Several conditions are required to stimulate and strengthen a culture of innovation. These include leadership and governance instruments that reward innovation and circularity while stimulating openness and collaboration; education and continuous capacity building that facilitate the transition to a knowledge society; and the dedication of finance and technology to sustainability.
Countries and businesses alike can boost a culture of innovation and the economy at large by unleashing the creativity and entrepreneurship of women. Women's empowerment, particularly in the sustainable development sectors, makes social, business, and economic sense.
In promoting a culture of innovation, no one should be left behind. The 2019 UN Environment Assembly will contribute towards a holistic, inclusive, and participatory approach to development that is underpinned by human rights and recognizes the interlinkages and integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development.
To learn more, read the background report of the Executive Director which addresses these three focus areas from the lens of innovation. The solutions described in the Report include creative approaches – in fields as diverse as policy, financing, partnerships, education and the use of data – that improve sustainability and promote better understanding of environmental issues. In this sense, “innovation” is meant in the broadest sense of the word - not limited to technology, but rather a mind-set or an enabling culture accessible to all countries and organizations alike, which includes also streamlining and simplifying processes and removing barriers to act as an enabler of innovation -- “doing different things and doing things differently”.