Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, dear colleagues,

On behalf of the United Nations, I am pleased to welcome you to today’s UN Environment Forum 2021. 

UN Resident Coordinator, Osnat Lubrani, unfortunately could not join us today but she is sending her best regards to all of you.

This UN Environment Forum is an excellent opportunity to follow up on last week’s Ukraine-30 Forum on “Ecology” opened by President Zelensky. One clear conclusion from the event is that protecting the environment is a responsibility of everybody and must be taken into account across all sectors and at all levels. The UN therefore feels privileged to gather today such a diverse representation of stakeholders, including from Government, civil society, but also business, youth, the world of art and fashion, and the media.

Just ten days ago, on World Environment Day, amidst the triple environmental threat of biodiversity loss, climate disruption and escalating pollution, the United Nations launched the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, an unprecedented effort to heal the Earth and to remind us of the vital importance of healthy ecosystems and the urgent need to restore, protect, and sustain them for generations to come. 

Kicking off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the planet was rapidly reaching a "point of no return," cutting down forests, polluting rivers and oceans, and ploughing grasslands "into oblivion." 

Natural ecosystems are essential for our health, well-being and survival.  Natural ecosystems purify the air we breathe and provide us with nutritious food and fresh water. They absorb carbon from the atmosphere thus mitigating and protecting us from climate change. 

While the UN Environment Programme is the leading environmental authority in the United Nations system, all agencies, funds and programmes have a responsibility to collaborate and cooperate when it comes to safeguarding the Earth and protecting its natural ecosystems. We are meant to do this in synergy from within our own unique comparative advantage and mandate.  That is why it is encouraging for me to see so many UN Resident and Non-Resident Agencies and our bilateral partners, government counterparts and other stakeholders participating here today.

I would like to extend my special thanks and appreciation to our donor partners, without whom none of the work we are discussing today would even be possible.  

As the ultimate responsibility of protecting the environment is with the national governments and their domestic policies of the 194 member states of the United Nations, I am pleased that the Government of Ukraine is with us today in several capacities.   

While the United Nations brings international expertise through a multilateral approach, our bilateral partners bring added knowledge, resources and support, the Government formulates and implements policies and regulations that strengthen environmental protection measures. Another important partner is civil society.  Non-Governmental organizations quite often provide the boots on the ground, and the network to ensure broad-based agreement and support from the public.  None of what we are discussing today could happen without them.  

Last but not least, I would like to recognize the representatives of the media who are with us today and to thank them for joining us.  

Dear colleagues, 

There will be six separate panels today, each one focusing on a critical aspect of Ukraine’s natural environment.  The panelists have been asked to present the key challenges, but to focus on good practices – as well as practical solutions and possible sources of funding and financing for those solutions. In case any of you have questions, there will be room at the end of each session for a Q&A  with the panelists – so be sure to write your questions as they come to you and to save them for the end.  

The first session is dedicated to a full spectrum of the ongoing problem of waste in Ukraine, including food waste and plastic waste. The experts on this panel will identify the biggest challenges, evaluate ongoing efforts to resolve them and present some practical solutions.

The second session will explore youth engagement and climate activism while the third panel will look at how sustainable trends in industry and everyday life of each individual can lead to global positive changes in the environment. 

Panel number four will discuss how to restore nature and reduce our carbon footprint, which is very much in line with the just-launched UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. The last panel, number five, will focus on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaption.  As you all know, there is no such thing as a “natural” disaster. There are only extreme events that become disasters when we are unprepared for them.  

Dear participants, 

Reaching SDG 13 and the ambitious goal of combating climate change will require a whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach. UNDP and the entire UN family is strongly committed to further advance this agenda and support Ukraine’s efforts to build forward better in a successful recovery from the COVID pandemic, in a sustainable and equal manner that brings everyone forward, leaving no one behind. 

With these welcoming remarks, we very much look forward to continuing the collaboration with you on this exсiting and important journey.  

Thank you.  

UN Environment Forum, Kyiv, 15 June 2021

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