5 September 2017
Monthly Forecast: September 2017
UN Photo/Cia Pak
story highlights

The 71st session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) concludes on 11 September, and the 72nd session opens on 12 September, marking the second anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and spotlighting a number of events on the international stage.

Science, monitoring and assessments for climate change and land degradation will feature during two major negotiations: the 46th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

A number of other key events will focus on establishing political momentum, guidelines or agendas for specific issue areas, including on marine protected areas, energy and trade.

While August brought a lull in the normally busy calendar of sustainable development events, the full agenda for September indicates that the sustainable development community has remained extremely active over the Northern summer. Over the next four weeks, the international policy community will see outcomes from major negotiations on land and on climate, events marking progress on the Montreal Protocol and the Minamata Convention on Mercury, as well as the opening of the next session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

The conclusion of the 71st session of the UNGA, on 11 September, and opening of the 72nd session, on 12 September, will place the focus for many on the events in and around UN Headquarters in New York, US, and the second anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The current President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson, will conclude his tenure with an informal meeting on the status of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) implementation and on outcomes and conclusions of the President’s strategy. The general debate for the 72nd session will focus on the theme, ‘Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet,’ and will be accompanied by a series of events during ‘Global Goals Week.’

Climate Week NYC 2017 will also take place in parallel to the opening of the UNGA and Global Goals Week, with each event bringing together international leaders from business, government and civil society to showcase sustainable development challenges and opportunities. In the water arena, on 13 September, the fourth meeting of High Level Panel on Water (HLPW), an initiative of the UN Secretary-General and President of the World Bank Group, consisting of 11 sitting Heads of State and Government and one Special Adviser, will convene with a focus on the Sustainable Development Goal on clean water and sanitation (SDG 6).

Science, monitoring and assessments for climate change, land degradation and oceans will feature during three meetings in September. The 46th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 46), which will convene from 6-10 September 2017, will address the scoping of the sixth assessment cycle. The Panel is anticipated to approve, among other things, the chapter outlines of the three Working Group (WG) contributions to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6). It will also approve the proposed outline of the Synthesis Report (SYR). AR6 contributions of WGI assessing the physical science basis of climate change, WGII addressing climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, and WGIII considering options for limiting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and mitigating climate change will be finalized in 2021. The AR6 Synthesis Report is scheduled to be concluded in the first half of 2022, in time for the first UNFCCC global stocktake (GST) under the Paris Agreement in 2023.

The Global Land Outlook will be launched during the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 13), which is convening from 6-16 September. This new flagship publication of the UNCCD “demonstrates that informed and responsible decision making, improved land management policies and practices, and simple changes in our everyday lives, can, if widely adopted, help to reverse the current worrying trends in the state of our land resources.” Parties to COP 13 will also consider the work of the Convention’s Science-Policy Interface, including its efforts to establish a scientific conceptual framework for land degradation neutrality, and progress related to integrating SDG target 15.3 (strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world) into the implementation of the UNCCD, among other agenda items.

Also during the first week of September, the ninth Meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects (the Regular Process) will convene, as part of its “second cycle.” The Regular Process is tasked with improving the understanding of the world’s oceans and developing a global mechanism for providing science-based information on oceans. At the conclusion of its first cycle, in 2015, the process released the first ‘World Ocean Assessment.’

A number of other key events will focus on establishing political momentum, guidelines or agendas for specific issue areas. The first Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury (COP1) will convene at the end of the month. The opportunities for facilitating global cooperation through environmental treaties that this first COP represents will be all the more poignant as it closely follows the celebration of the anniversary of the signing of the most successful environmental treaty: the Montreal Protocol.

Stakeholders focused on the ocean, which have had a busy couple of months, will also look forward to the fourth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC4), which will convene in Chile under the theme, ‘Marine Protected Areas: Bringing the people and ocean together.’ The high-level segment, which will take place on 9 September, is meant to link to the ‘Valparaiso Declaration’ with Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 (on ensuring, by 2020, at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water, and 10% of coastal and marine areas, are conserved through protected areas and other conservation measures…) and the Sustainable Development Goal on life below water (SDG 14). The meeting is expected to discuss emerging issues such as the role and contribution of marine protected areas (MPAs) to ecosystem and social resilience, ocean recovery, and rebuilding of fisheries; conservation in polar and temperate seas; MPAs and climate change; marine spatial planning; and the protection of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Additional events we will be watching this month include; the Mexico International Renewable Energy Conference (MEXIREC) and the Trade for Sustainable Development Forum 2017. Country coalitions will also gather and set their agendas for the coming month, including the Ninth BRICS Summit, the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, and the first Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment.

September 2017 will be an eventful month, and we look forward to helping you track these processes and identify the areas where you might engage in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Lynn Wagner, Elena Kosolapova and Lauren Anderson.

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