Countering biodiversity loss, plastic pollution a priority for Nordic countries

This year, the annual consultations between the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) focused on the landmark Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework adopted at the Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of Parties (COP15) in December 2022.

Also on the agenda at the January consultations were the ongoing negotiations on a new legally binding international instrument to prevent plastic pollution; UNEP’s contribution to helping the private sector drive the green transition; the impact of the current geopolitical situation on global environmental priorities, and UNEP’s ability to stay the course with its strategy and work programme.

The five Nordic countries are key partners to UNEP in its efforts to counter the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. In 2022, the countries provided US$21.3 million to the Environment Fund, UNEP’s core financing mechanism. This represented 26 per cent of the fund’s income. They also provided over US$17 million of softly earmarked funding to UNEP’s new Thematic Funds and sub-programmes.

“We are grateful to the Nordic countries for their leadership in addressing the triple planetary crisis, and for their unwavering support to UNEP,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

New biodiversity framework

The UN Secretary-General has called the new biodiversity framework ‘a peace pact with nature.’ The Nordic countries underlined that UNEP is a crucial partner in driving global efforts to achieve the agreement’s ambitious goals for nature.

“Science tells us that nature-based solutions are key to the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, the Paris Agreement, and the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Ragnhild Sjoner Syrstad, the State Secretary of Norway. “We see UNEP as an important partner for the Nordic countries as we seek to align and strengthen our global, regional and local efforts to make this happen.”


People standing for a picture
The annual UNEP-Nordic countries consultations were held on 25 January 2023, with Nordic ambassadors joining discussions in Nairobi. From the left: Gunnar Holm, Ambassador of Norway; Ole Thonke, Ambassador of Denmark; Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP; Caroline Vicini, Ambassador of Sweden; Pirkka Tapiola, Ambassador of Finland; and Øystein Størkersen, Deputy Permanent Representative of Norway.  Photo Credit: UNEP


The UN system is geared to support the implementation of the new biodiversity framework, including the High-Level Committee on Programmes, chaired by the UNEP Executive Director and its common approach to biodiversity.

“The Nordic countries encourage UNEP to further strengthen its role in mainstreaming environment and biodiversity across the UN system,” said Terhi Lehtonen, the State Secretary of Finland. “We see the Environment Management Group as a key vehicle in this regard.”

The countries also stressed UNEP’s opportunity to enhance the positive impact that the business community can make on biodiversity and nature protection. They encouraged UNEP to maintain and intensify its work and engagement with the financial sector.

Notably, the UNEP Finance Initiative – the UN-convened network of banks, insurers and investors accelerating sustainable development – has engaged leading businesses via its task force for nature. COP15 also attracted considerable interest from finance and business communities.

International agreement to prevent plastic pollution

At the fifth UN Environment Assembly UNEA 5.2, Member States agreed on a resolution entitled ‘End Plastic Pollution: towards an international legally binding instrument.’

“The Nordic countries support an ambitious agreement to end plastic pollution that will promote the circular economy and sustainable consumption and production,” said Christian Vindahl Vind, acting Permanent Secretary from Denmark. “We have, therefore, all joined the High Ambition Alliance, and we actively contribute to the negotiations, including through the Nordic Council of Ministers.”

UNEP commended the high-ambition leadership from the Nordic countries and noted that ensuring buy-in from a wide range of stakeholders is also essential.

Welcoming the progress made in Uruguay at the first session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, the Nordic countries agreed that much hard work remains to realize the desired progress.

“Plastic pollution heavily contributes to the triple planetary crisis. We have now an opportunity to create an ambitious new and modern multilateral agreement,” said Daniel Westlén, State Secretary from Sweden. “To end plastic pollution, we have to take measures throughout the plastic lifecycle. Business will be an important dialogue partner. The Nordics will continue to play an important role in supporting this process.”

“When it comes to drawing up an international agreement on plastic pollution, the INC Secretariat and UNEP play a vital role in successfully concluding an ambitious agreement,” added Hugi Ólafsson, Director General of the Ministry of Environment, Iceland.

Stimulating the private sector to drive the green transition

UNEP and the Nordic countries agreed to strengthen multi-stakeholder engagement and accelerate working with frontrunners in the private sector engaged in UNEP’s priority areas within the triple planetary crisis – including biodiversity and food security, plastic pollution, and climate stability.

In mobilizing and scaling up the accessibility of public and private financial flows for the environment, initiatives such as the Partnership for Action on Green Economy – an alliance of UN agencies, funding partners and countries – and UNEP’s Science Business Policy Forum on the environment were some of the successes highlighted.

Geopolitics and the triple planetary crisis

The Nordic countries expressed support for UNEP’s mandate to monitor environmental impacts in areas affected by conflict and natural disasters, and to provide assistance for post-conflict and post-disaster environmental assessment and recovery. They also highlighted UNEP’s role as an independent authority in promoting science-based approaches and stressed the importance of UNEP’s normative work.

In discussing the effects of the war in Ukraine, participants underscored the significant impacts of the crisis on food systems, energy and the poverty-environment nexus and related UN work in this regard including the UN Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance.

UNEP plays a specific role in providing sustainability and environmental perspectives and is working on the food systems transformation through a multi-pronged approach. The Nordic countries stressed the importance of mainstreaming environmental aspects of food systems in the rest of the UN system and expressed their willingness to support UNEP in these efforts.

On energy, the discussion highlighted the imperative of climate action and the urgency of transitioning away from hydrocarbons to renewable energy sources.

The Environment Fund

The Environment Fund is the core source of flexible funds to UNEP. It is the bedrock for UNEP’s work worldwide and helps countries to deliver on the environmental dimensions of the 2030 Agenda, and to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste. 

To support the Environment Fund, each of the 193 Member States is encouraged to contribute their full share, as represented by the Voluntary Indicative Scale of Contributions, established in 2002 by the Member States themselves. The scale considers each country individually and distributes responsibility collectively. Investing in UNEP means investing in the health of the planet and its people.

The Thematic Funds

UNEP’s three thematic funds – Climate Stability, Living in Harmony with Nature and Towards a Pollution-Free Planet, were established in 2022 in support of the implementation of UNEP’s Medium-Term Strategy (2022-2025). The funds aim to shift the balance from tightly earmarked contributions at the individual project level towards more flexible funding, thereby strengthening the organization’s capacity to help achieve transformational change for people and planet. These funds are complementary to UNEP’s Environment Fund which supports all of UNEP’s work.

Global Biodiversity Information Facility

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