2022 will bring us twice as many meetings of environmental treaty governing bodies as we would expect during non-COVID times.
In addition, several negotiation processes on new frameworks and treaties have reached a point for delegates to conclude their talks and adopt new binding commitments.
By Lynn Wagner and Faye Leone, SDG Knowledge Hub
2022 will be a significant year for governing the 2030 Agenda and other global frameworks on protecting the environment. While 2020 was anticipated as a super year for nature, and 2021 was considered all the more crucial for biodiversity after the pandemic froze many global discussions, 2022 now holds the cumulative need for high-level negotiations driven by renewed political will to adequately tackle environmental issues. It also inches the world closer to key deadlines for human and planetary wellbeing.
Due to many pandemic-related postponements–they seem too numerous to count, but the SDG Knowledge Hub’s calendar has been documenting these changes for nearly two years–2022 will bring us twice as many meetings of environmental treaty governing bodies as we would expect during non-COVID times. In addition, several negotiation processes on new frameworks and treaties have reached a point for delegates to conclude their talks and adopt new binding commitments.
The more we look at the calendar, the more it emphasizes the importance of 2022 for global governance decision making. Multiple COPs are planned for 2022. While the biodiversity and climate COPs are likely to receive the most media attention, decisions to be taken by UNCCD, CITES, Ramsar, and the chemicals and wastes and mercury conventions will all have implications for the success of multilateral environmental efforts.
Furthermore, UNEA will consider the governance of marine plastics and a new science-policy interface on chemicals, among other agenda items. A new marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) treaty nears the final stage of negotiations. If adopted, governance arrangements for the conservation and sustainable use of BBNJ will be subject to this new global framework. The UN Ocean Conference will seek to keep a holistic focus on oceans. And preparations for the first meeting on water policy at the summit level in over 40 years–which will take place in March 2023–will be in full force.
In smaller rooms around the UN, consultations will be held on a set of proposals offered by the UN Secretary-General in September 2021 to help the UN face new challenges and achieve ‘Our Common Agenda’ over the next few decades. The report’s recommendation to hold a summit on transforming education is already in motion for September 2022. On the environmentally focused proposals in the report, intergovernmental consultations are scheduled for 3-4 March.
This is not all the year holds in store. We also enter 2022 as perhaps the true start of the Decade of Action on the SDGs and the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. The July 2022 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) will provide a platform for judging how much progress is needed on a shorter timeline and exchanging proposals on the best way to do it. Among the SDGs being considered in depth this year are Goal 14 (life below water) and Goal 15 (life on land). The overall theme for the session puts these ambitions into their challenging context: ‘Building back better from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.’
The HLPF is the apex of the international governance arrangements for the SDGs and 2030 Agenda, and it recently underwent a review itself. This year’s Forum will be the first chance to see the effects of these shifts, including the guidance that:
- voluntary national reviews (VNRs) presented during the HLPF should identify not only achievements and success factors, but also challenges and gaps
- discussions should focus more on the availability of data and national capacities for data collection
- the HLPF should provide stronger analysis of interlinkages across the SDGs and their targets, including policy implications of synergies and trade-offs, and
- more attention should be paid to local efforts to advance the SDGs, and the outcomes of the regional forums.
Regional meetings and workshops in preparation for the HLPF will begin in March.
And finally, 2022 is an important anniversary year, arriving 50 years after the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm that resulted in the creation of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and 30 years after the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. These conferences led to the recognition of sustainable development, defined as the intersection of environmental, social, and economic development, and marked its growing importance for global governance.
From ENB’s 30th anniversary on 2 March, UNEP’s 50th anniversary celebrations in March, to Stockholm+50 in June, we will examine how global environmental governance works, how it has evolved, and where we stand heading into the next 50 years.
At IISD’s Tracking Progress program, our job in helping sustainable development policymakers to track global policymaking processes will be more important than ever. We anticipate many of the dates and locations of the events we have flagged above will be adjusted as the pandemic evolves, so check our events calendar frequently.
- 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (COP14)
- UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP 15) (Part 2)
- High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) 2022
- Special Session of UNEA-5
- UNEA-5 (In-person session)
- 19th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP19)
- Ninth Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)
- UNCCD COP 15
- High-Level UN Conference to Support the Implementation of SDG 14 (Second UN Ocean Conference)
- UN Climate Change Conference 2022 (UNFCCC COP 27)