UN Stockholm+50 International Meeting
A Healthy Planet for the Prosperity of All – Our Responsibility, Our Opportunity
2-3 June 2022
The International Environment Forum was accredited to the United Nations Stockholm+50 International Meeting in Stockholm, Sweden, on 2-3 June 2022, and organized or partnered in several associated events as its 26th IEF International Conference (see separate report). Several IEF members were present in Stockholm and had roles in various events and the International Meeting itself. The day before the meeting, 1 June, the IEF was a partner in a Bahá’í International Community event at the Swedish Parliament (see separate report), and helped to organize and participated in an Interfaith Council of Sweden prayer circle for the success of the meeting in a square near the Parliament (see separate report).
The following report combines a summary of the main outcomes of Stockholm+50, and specific reports on some of the events in which IEF members had a specific role.
For an excellent summary report, see the IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin: https://enb.iisd.org/stockholm50-summary, from which part of the following report is drawn.
Fifty years after the landmark 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment — the first ever UN conference on the environment — Stockholm was once again the gathering point to take stock of the state of the human environment and collectively brainstorm on how to move forward. Amidst a global pandemic and a triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss, there was a renewed sense of urgency around “implementation, implementation, implementation” predicated on fairness and inclusion.
The two-day meeting, Stockholm+50: A Healthy Planet for the Prosperity of All – Our Responsibility, Our Opportunity, featured an interactive series of free-flowing dialogues focused on three key themes: achieving a healthy planet and prosperity for all; a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic; and implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development. These Leadership Dialogues, along with the statements in plenary, yielded interesting insights and conversations both on the past 50 years and action needed going forward. The main outcome from the meeting was a series of recommendations focused on the right to a healthy and sustainable environment, changing our economic system, accelerating implementation of existing commitments, rebuilding trust, and strengthening multilateralism.
Many delegates left the meeting feeling that the organizers had skilfully struck a balance between keeping faith with the institutions and treaties created since the 1972 Stockholm Conference, and shaping new conversations for an upcoming series of multilateral environmental agreement meetings and summitry in the near future.
Stockholm+50 took place from 2-3 June 2022 in Stockholm, Sweden. Over 4,000 people, including several Heads of State and Government and more than 60 ministers, participated in the conference, over 50 side events, and the Action Hub. In addition, many associated events were also recognized and listed in the meeting calendar by the secretariat, including those organized by IEF (see separate report).
A Brief History of Stockholm+50
The 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment began a new era of multilateral cooperation and treaty-making in response to growing public alarm over environmental risks associated with industrial society and the post-World War II development model. For the first time, some non-governmental organizations were accredited to the conference, including the Bahá’í International Community represented by Arthur Dahl, now IEF President (see separate report). The Stockholm Conference led to the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The Stockholm Conference produced three major sets of decisions:
• the Stockholm Declaration.
• the Stockholm Action Plan comprising 109 recommendations for governments and international organizations on international measures against environmental degradation.
• a group of five resolutions calling for: a ban on nuclear weapon tests, an international databank on the state of the environment, and the need to address actions linked to development and environment, international organizational changes, and the creation of an environmental fund.
The Stockholm Declaration provided the first agreed global set of principles for future work in the field of the human environment. It was a considerable contribution to the development of international environmental law and its key concepts formed the basis of the 1992 Rio Declaration, which was adopted at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The UN General Assembly accepted the Stockholm Declaration and Action Plan in resolution 2995(XXVII). At the subsequent inaugural meeting of the UNEP Governing Council in 1973, governments established Earthwatch, a programme to coordinate, harmonize, and integrate observation, reporting, and assessment activities across the UN system (IEF President Arthur Dahl was later Coordinator of the UN System-wide Earthwatch). UNEP took the lead in developing numerous international environmental treaties and was instrumental in the establishment of major science-policy bodies: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
In preparation for Stockholm+50, a series of preparatory meetings were held, including national consultations that generated recommendations and links to national policy frameworks. Regional multi-stakeholder consultations were organized in April and May 2022. These facilitated engagement of stakeholders in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and West Asia. Informal working groups were also organized around the themes of the leadership dialogues, where some IEF members contributed. In addition, a group of young people from different youth constituencies and youth-focused entities convened in the Stockholm+50 Youth Task Force.
Stockholm+50: A Healthy Planet for the Prosperity of All – Our Responsibility, Our Opportunity
REPORT OF THE MEETING
Since the meeting was only two days, there were simultaneously a plenary session for government statements, leadership dialogues, five side events, and other activities.
Heads of State and Government, ministers and other senior officials delivered statements in Plenary over the two-day meeting, both in person and through pre-recorded messages. Key topics that emerged included:
• progress since 1972;
• the challenge of the triple planetary crisis;
• the need for political will and for countries to honor their existing commitments;
• the importance of multilateralism and stakeholder engagement;
• economic issues;
• the importance of financial and technological assistance for developing countries;
• the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic;
• legal issues;
• war and conflict, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine; and
• national and regional actions.
Some discussed the recent launch of negotiations on a plastics treaty, while others noted the “One Health” approach connecting humanity with the environment. Many speakers also highlighted inclusivity, equity, and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
Stockholm+50 featured three Leadership Dialogues aimed at encouraging candid, open and in-depth discussions on key issues facing the world in the coming months and years. These had been prepared with three series of Informal Working Group discussions with wide participation in the months before the Meeting, leading to background papers. Each dialogue included three panels and discussion with the audience.
Dialogue One: Reflecting on the urgent need for actions to achieve a healthy planet and prosperity of all was held on Thursday afternoon, 2 June, with background paper (A/CONF.238/4).
In Panel One, for example, Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries, called for sustainable supply and value chains and for international fora on the circular economy. Azza Karam, Secretary General of Religions for Peace, described the unparalleled influence of faith leaders and communities in cultivating human behaviour change. Achim Steiner, Administrator, UNDP, addressed the important linkage between trust and fair multilateral platforms.
Leadership Dialogue One first panel
Key recommendations raised included:
• meaningful engagement with civil society partners in implementation and leadership roles;
• human rights, especially for Earth defenders;
• a shift from a cost-benefit approach to the environmental crisis towards an expanded framework of ethics and higher principles;
• the link between effectiveness and trust in institutions;
• the difficult choices on coal, oil and gas implicit in the just transition;
• scaling up clean energy subsidies;
• a “Paris moment” for biodiversity; and
• a multilateral system that is fair and committed to urgent implementation of existing obligations.
Azza Karam, Secretary General of Religions for Peace
The summary of the discussions included panelists’ call for a paradigm change, concerns that those with the power to make a difference seem indifferent, and faith that we can make the changes needed. Youth participated and called for multilateralism and multi-stakeholder inclusion. There were comments that we must accept, not dispute, the IPCC’s findings. Indigenous Peoples, including their ancestral knowledge and sense of guardianship, must be respected. The main enemy of our forests is not people, but poverty.
Dialogue Two: Achieving a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic was on Friday morning, 3 June, with background paper (A/CONF.238/5). The background paper noted that since the beginning of the pandemic over 100 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty, and called for more international solidarity and a new kind of relationship with nature alongside equitable use of resources.
Themes emerging from the Dialogue included:
• need to strengthen the global value chain, including enhancing capacity of SMEs, SIDS, and LDCs;
• role of sustainable consumption and production and the circular economy in accelerating transformation of global value chains;
• importance of businesses in achieving circularity;
• role and influence of consumers;
• significance of the food sector for sustainability;
• need to end harmful subsidies;
• green energy transition;
• vital role of women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, and local communities; and
• the need for a platform for the digital economy.
Dialogue Three: Accelerating the implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development in the context of the Decade of Action was convened on Friday afternoon, 3 June, with background document (A/CONF.238/6).
In Panel One, Arunabha Ghosh (Council on Energy, Environment and Water) called for a paradigm shift away from talk of technology transfer and towards technology co-development, with shared ownership of intellectual property. Johan Rockström (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) declared that 50 years after the Stockholm Conference the scientific verdict is that we have failed and are at risk of destabilizing the entire planet. He called for the global commons, including ice sheets, forests, and oceans, to be managed collectively with rights for Indigenous communities to receive compensation for their role in sustaining these systems. Catherine Odora Hoppers (UN System Advisor) called for a fundamental shift in mindset away from hierarchy and competitiveness. Roy Steiner (Food and Agriculture Programme, Rockefeller Foundation) referred to and quoted from the Baha’i International Community event he attended in the Swedish Parliament. He called for food system transformation using regenerative approaches, and a move away from existing patterns of production that undermine the nutritional value of food.
Key issues raised in the Dialogue included:
• the urgent need for scaled-up action;
• ensuring actions are aligned with climate goals;
• ensuring synergies among action on climate change, biodiversity loss, and desertification;
• reforming governance structures to better recognize women, youth, and Indigenous Peoples;
• addressing fossil fuel use;
• ensuring an equitable and just transition;
• accelerating technology and transfer; and
• respecting countries’ different capacities and historic responsibilities.
COMMON HOME OF HUMANITY SIDE EVENT
Safeguarding Our Common Home - A Pathway of Hope in the Stockholm+50 Declaration
This Side Event on 2 June was organized by: Common Home of Humanity, Global Pact Coalition, Global Governance Forum, International Institute for Law and the Environment, 2022 Initiative Foundation, One Earth Philanthropy, Baha'i International Community, and ZERO – Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System
Rethinking the Global Commons is the first step to enable reshaping governance and building an economy capable of restoring a stable climate. Societies urgently need to recognize and define a legal framework for global commons, considering the evolution of science in the past 50 years. We need to define the global commons around which a new multilateralism can be built, that does not replace territory domains, but rather is symbiotic with sovereignties. The well-functioning Earth System, endowed with a stable climate, on which everything in our societies depend, must be at the centre of this discussion.
Climate change is not just concern, but a structural problem in our society. A conceptual evolution is necessary to address climate as it occurs in the natural world: an indivisible Common Good. Promoting a wide discussion around the Global Commons is a structural step to build any possible future.
The one-page Civil Society Declaration “Restoring Our Common Home” discussed the redefinition of Global Commons as a structural question to restore nature and clean the atmosphere (https://www.stockholmdeclaration.org/full-declaration/). To enable the successful management of a common good, the first step is to define it. Today we have scientific instruments to do so – the Planetary Boundaries’ framework enables us to define the Safe Operating Space for Humankind as a well-functioning Earth System, that corresponds to a stable climate. If we are able to legally recognize this non-territorial space as a new common heritage of humankind, it will be possible to internalize not only the costs, but also the benefits performed on this intangible common good. The Declaration’s four steps are: Implement the Right to a Healthy Environment, Safeguard the Global Commons, Establish a Regenerative Economy, and Prioritize Governance and Institutional Solutions. The one-page Declaration Restoring Our Common Home is now part of the outcomes of the Stockholm+50 Agenda for Action, Renewal and Trust.
ENVIRONMENT MANAGEMENT GROUP SIDE EVENT
Accelerating integrated action for a healthy planet and prosperity for all - a dialogue with UN Heads of Agencies
The UN Environment Management Group (EMG) is an interagency mechanism for UN system collaboration on the environment. The EMG and its 51 member entities have contributed to Stockholm+50 through its report Delivering on the vision of the 1972 Stockholm Declaration and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to which the International Environment Forum made a contribution. The report includes reflections by more than 30 Heads of Entities on achievements and challenges since the Stockholm Conference in 1972 as well as their forward-looking views on accelerating actions for a Healthy Planet and Prosperity for All.
Round table of heads of agencies
This side event featured a roundtable discussion with Heads of UN Agencies, whose organizations support Member States in addressing the environmental agenda in different ways. Heads of Agencies discussed how they in their respective roles will contribute to accelerating delivery of the environmental dimension of the SDGs, in light of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, and commitments of recent global UN processes. They shared their views on opportunities and priorities for environmental action as the UN system begins the next 50 years towards achieving a healthy planet for the prosperity of all. IEF President Arthur Dahl was then invited to discuss these proposals and make his own recommendations (see separate report).
• The environmental agenda is inter-related, requiring breaking down silos, reinvigorating multilateralism, and enhancing partnerships.
• Multilateral environmental agreements' (MEA) national focal points need to coordinate among themselves and with focal points for other UN agencies at the country level.
• The UN system needs to better engage with the private sector.
Participants in EMG side event, including Arthur Dahl, back row, second from left
RESULTS OF THE INTERNATIONAL MEETING
The closing plenary was held on Friday evening, 3 June, where the Leadership Dialogues were summarized and the report of the meeting was approved.
The Report of the Meeting (A/CONF.238/L.1) emphasizes the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss, and the need to accelerate implementation. It makes ten key recommendations, as follows:
• place human well-being at the center of a healthy planet and prosperity for all;
• recognize and implement the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment;
• adopt system-wide change in the way our current economic system works to contribute to a healthy planet;
• strengthen national implementation of existing commitments for a healthy planet;
• align public and private financial flows with environmental, climate and sustainable development commitments;
• accelerate system-wide transformations of high impact sectors, such as food, energy, water, buildings and construction, manufacturing, and mobility; • rebuild relationships of trust for strengthened cooperation and solidarity, including honoring the commitment to mobilize USD 100 billion every year for climate finance for developing countries, and enabling all relevant stakeholders to participate meaningfully in policy formulation and implementation nationally and globally;
• reinforce and reinvigorate the multilateral system, including strengthening UNEP in line with the UNEP@50 Political Declaration;
• recognize intergenerational responsibility as a cornerstone of sound policy-making, including engaging with the Global Youth Task Force Policy Paper; and
• take forward the Stockholm+50 outcomes through reinforcing and reenergizing ongoing processes and implementing emerging ones such as a new plastics convention, as well as the agreement for the protection of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, and engaging with relevant upcoming conferences.
The Stockholm+50 Agenda for Action, Renewal and Trust - Outputs and Outcomes are compiled at https://www.stockholm50.global/resources/stockholm50-agenda-action-rene….
Stockholm+50 presented a model of how government representatives may be exposed to new ideas by having the opportunity to step into a Leadership Dialogue where creative minds and practitioners were rehearsing solutions “out of the box.” The format of Stockholm+50 was designed to be part of the message: a managed encounter between practiced negotiators and the thought leaders and activist and epistemic communities who are essential for the task of aligning multilateralism with the findings of scientific experts, such as those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Since diplomats were in a non-negotiating mode, they did not have to adhere to their country’s negotiating position. This seemed, on occasion, to enable government representatives to keep open minds about what they were hearing and express their own thoughts, knowing it would not compromise their negotiating positions in other fora.
Last updated 11 June 2022