Stockholm (NordSIP) – The idea of Stockholm+50, a UN Environment Conference to commemorate and follow up the very first UN Global Environment Conference held in Stockholm in 1972, sounded promising. Fifty years ago, the gathering had powerful repercussions, starting many global environmental processes such as the Stockholm Declaration and the UN Environment Programme. This time around, the stated aim was somewhat less ambitious. There were, however, a couple of noticeable points which we had to dig out despite a general lack of enthusiasm from the press, including Secretary-General Inger Andersen’s absence at lunch.
The conference’s purpose this time was to follow up on what has happened since and celebrate the work of the UN for over half a century. On 2 and 3 June, thousands of participants from around the world convened in the outskirts of Stockholm for plenary discussions led by host countries Kenya and Sweden. Meanwhile, several official and unofficial side events provided opportunities for more focused initiatives to ride the momentum created by the main event.
Participants ranged from presidents, ministers, and corporate leaders to NGOs and youth groups. Tuning in to the event, we listened to plenty of speakers declare their high environmental ambitions. We heard leaders urge us to act now, lamenting the world’s (in)ability to deliver on the Stockholm Convention targets over the past 50 years. However, with a few exceptions, too little time was devoted to concrete proposals on what can be done now.
On a more conceptual level, the delegates recognised and discussed in some detail the idea of a triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss. The main outcome of the Plenary and Leadership Dialogues was a series of recommendations dubbed ‘the Stockholm agenda’. Here are the ten points that summarise the agenda, in case you missed it:
- Place human well-being at the centre of a healthy planet and prosperity for all.
- Recognise and implement the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment by fulfilling the vision articulated in Principle 1 of the Stockholm Declaration of 1972.
- Adopt system-wide change in the way our current economic system works to contribute to a healthy planet.
- Strengthen national implementation of existing commitments for a healthy planet by enhancing national environmental legislation, budgets, planning processes and institutional frameworks.
- Align public and private financial flows with environmental, climate and sustainable development commitments.
- Accelerate system-wide transformations of high-impact sectors, such as food, energy, water, buildings and construction, manufacturing, and mobility.
- Rebuild relationships of trust for strengthened cooperation and solidarity.
- Reinforce and reinvigorate the multilateral system.
- Recognise intergenerational responsibility as a cornerstone of sound policy making.
- Take forward the Stockholm+50 outcomes by reinforcing and re-energising ongoing international processes, such as the UN high-level meeting Summit of the Future in 2023.
More importantly, perhaps, the meeting also marked a moment of ascendancy for the leadership of young people. Ugandan climate leader Vanessa Nakate in particular, managed to bring the ethical demands of future generations and lively debate to the table. A memorable moment was the dialogue between Nakate and US Climate Envoy John Kerry over greenwashing and the need for genuine climate action by leading industrialised countries. “Do not hand us a broken world,” emplored Nakate.
In her closing statements, Stockholm+50 Secretary-General Inger Andersen told participants how she had left the conference venue at lunchtime to listen to the powerful and impatient voices of youth at a Fridays for Future climate demonstration in Stockholm. “Youth must be listened to,” asserted Andersen.