National statement by Isabella Lövin, Minister for Environment and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister, at UNEA-4

Nairobi, Kenya, 14 March 2019.

Check against delivery.

Excellencies, ministers, distinguished delegates,

We have gathered here today to encourage action on the environment. But some of us that should have been among us are tragically missing. Our thoughts are with their families and friends in their difficult time. We share the sorrow of colleagues and others who knew those on the Ethiopian flight 302. Together we will remember them.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The story of mankind’s relationship with our planet has long been a story of conquest. Finding new land, taming the wild, cutting down trees and killing animals. But our attitude towards our planet urgently needs to change. Entire species are going extinct at an alarming pace, the number of plastic particles in the ocean far exceeds the stars in the Milky Way and climate change is altering the very conditions of life on land - and the very biochemistry of the ocean, with no turning back.

It´s late on Earth for us to come together to make sure that the story takes a new turn. We no longer need to conquer our planet – it already has been conquered. The next chapter must be about how to heal and protect our planet. It must be about stewardship and sustainable use, so that we leave our planet in a better condition to our children than it was when we arrived. This is a global challenge.

So let us all continue to strengthen the United Nations Environment Assembly as an important arena to write this chapter. UNEP has helped us to maintain a focus on the environment ever since the Stockholm Conference in 1972.  Now, when we need to realize the Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement, its role is more crucial than ever.

The disastrous effects of climate change tell us with abundant clarity that we need to mitigate and make adaptive efforts. But climate change also urges us to do more. The increasing stress rising temperatures puts on all life means that we must try much harder to reduce other pressures. We simply cannot expect our oceans to cope with both plastic pollution, overfishing and eutrophication – on top of the effects of climate change; warming, acidification and deoxygenation. We urgently need to increase the resilience of marine ecosystems. I hope that UNEA 4 will be a turning point, when we set the stage for clean waters, healthy marine habitats and restored fish populations.

Excellencies,

Plastic is found everywhere – and we are fed up with it. Marine plastics from littering and mismanaged waste are major threats to ecosystems. Take single-use products for example, many of which are only used for a few seconds, while it takes hundreds of years for them to degrade. One of my most important missions for this meeting is to push for action against plastic pollution. As noted in the study commissioned by UNEA 2, current governance strategies and approaches do not adequately tackle this issue. We absolutely do need to step up our efforts, and I look forward to continue working with you all on this.

Plastic pollution is linked to another important problem and threat to human health: the use and spread of toxic chemicals. Since 1950, more than 140 000 new chemicals and pesticides have been synthesised. Many of these pose serious risks. In fact, every 30 seconds, one worker dies from exposure to toxic chemicals.  

Sadly, we will not reach the 2020 goal of minimising the adverse effects of chemicals on human health and the environment. This is why Sweden, together with Uruguay, last year launched the High Ambition Alliance on Chemicals and Waste. Our ambition is to drive an ambitious global framework on chemicals and waste for 2020 and beyond. The High Ambition Alliance is open to everyone who would like to take the lead in this important work.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Right now, mankind is writing the next chapter in the story of its relationship with the planet. This chapter is about how we can tackle climate change, pollution and degradation.

Sweden is trying to do its part and today I pledge € 48 million to fight climate change within the framework of One Planet Summit.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I see some heroes in this chapter that we are writing, such as the youth who have come together to protest on the streets to demand that adults take climate responsibility. I hope history will tell, that we listened to them and that we acted.  Only if we do that, the story we are writing together will have a happy ending. So let’s just do it. Together we actually can change the sad story into one of hope and new and better lives for everyone.

Thank you.