Attributable to Executive Director Inger Andersen.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) stands in solidarity with the billions of people around the world that are suffering the impact of the global pandemic of COVID-19.
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to millions of healthcare professionals and members of the UN family including the World Health Organization (WHO) that are working around the clock to protect us as we face humanity’s biggest crisis since World War II.
The immediate priority at this time is to protect people by limiting the spread of COVID-19. Recognizing that the virus requires a sound environmental response, we stand ready to support Member States and frontline UN partners in providing technical expertise on chemicals and hazardous waste management as they seek to address the increase in waste necessitated by the medical response to the crisis.
In spite of restrictions in many of the countries where UNEP has presence, UNEP remains “open for business” while of course observing all recommendations issued by national authorities and the WHO. At UNEP we remain deeply commited to our core mandate of facilitating global environmental governance by adopting virtual channels to hold many of these discussions. This is because at the end of the day, the health of people and the health of our planet are intimately connected.
Human activity has altered virtually every corner of our planet, from land to ocean. And as we continue to relentlessly encroach on nature and degrade ecosystems, we endanger human health. In fact, seventy-five percent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, i.e. viruses originating from the transfer from animals, whether domesticated or wild, to humans.
UNEP is working closely with partners building scientific knowledge on the links between ecosystem stability, the environment, and human health including into zoonotic diseases.
It is precisely because of the interconnected nature of all life on this planet, that an ambitious post-2020 biodiversity framework matters greatly, and we remain committed to efforts to make this happen.
And in the post-crisis setting as governments approve stimulus packages to support job creation, poverty reduction, development and economic growth, we will continue to support Member States and partners to “build back better”, to capture opportunities for leap-frogging to green investments, such as renewable energy, smart housing, green public procurement, public transport, — all guided by the principles and standards of sustainable production and consumption.
These actions, —sound management of hazardous medical and chemical waste; strong and global stewardship of nature and biodiversity; and a clear commitment to “building back better”, creating green jobs and facilitating the transition to a carbon neutral future will be key to a resilient and sustainable future and to our reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. And that, of course, remains the future we all want.