The fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) held at the UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya from 11 to 15 March 2019 brought together more than 4,000 delegates from governments and global major groups and stakeholders. Member states, guided by the theme ''Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production'', agreed that its time to ''solve different''. Member States went a significant way in exploring different environmental challenges and adopted a Ministerial Declaration, 23 resolutions and three decisions on: innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production; resource efficiency, chemicals and waste; biodiversity and ecosystems; environmental governance; the UN Environment programme of work and budget, and other administrative and budgetary Issues.
The Sustainable Nitrogen Management resolution, led by the Government of India, was one of the resolution adopted at UNEA-4. Member states recognized that reactive nitrogen has adverse pollution impacts on terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments. Poor nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) management contributes to world's food security.
UN Environment, under the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM), was recognized as a suitable initiative in collaboration with other relevant UN bodies, regional groups and stakeholders. In the next two years, the GPNM will take the lead in facilitating better coordination of policies on the nitrogen cycle; explore sustainable options for nitrogen management; coordinate existing relevant platforms for assessment of improved nitrogen management; conduct capacity-building activities for policy-makers and practitioners; and support member states on informed decision-making on nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) management.
Nitrogen Cycle Pollution Profiled in the 2018/19 edition of the UN Environment Frontiers Report
The 2018/19 edition of the UN Environment Frontiers Report focusing on the emerging issues of environmental concern, was launched on Monday 4 March 2019 at the fourth session of the Open-ended Committee of Permanent Representatives (OECPR) to UN Environment. The report presents various issues among them - ''The Nitrogen Fix: From Nitrogen Cycle Pollution to Nitrogen Circular Economy''. The panelists were Prof. Mark Sutton from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Edinburgh, United Kingdom; and Prof. N. Raghuram from GGS Indraprastha University, New Delhi, India.
Too much nitrogen in the atmosphere has adverse impacts on ecosystems and human well-being. While there have been some efforts at national level, a truly holistic approach to implementing effective nitrogen management strategies will require international cooperation. If the ''Sustainable Nitrogen Management'' resolution is successful, the transition to a circular economy for nitrogen could be a trailblazer for wise scientific and policy decisions aimed at achieving the goal of a pollution-free planet.
Global Nutrient Cycle project Close-out meeting
UN Environment which serves as the Secretariat of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land Based Activities (GPA); under the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM) is committed to tackling the nutrient problem (both nitrogen and phosphorus) at a global scale under the GEF-funded project on Global foundations for reducing nutrient enrichment and oxygen depletion from land based pollution, in support of Global Nutrient Cycle (GNC). The GNC project, started in March 2012, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) at a cost of US$ 1,718,182. This project is executed by the GPA under the GPNM and implemented by the Corporate Services Division in UN Environment.
UN Environment engaged different partners in project execution. The partners are the: Chilika Development Authority (CDA), Energy Research Centre (ECN), Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, Global Environment & Technology Foundation (GETF), World Resources Institute (WRI), Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP), and GRID-Arendal. The lead experts under each component were as follows:
The GNC project has achievement three main outputs:
A Toolbox will demonstrate the importance of leveraging diverse partners to engage in working towards nutrients management from field to national scale. To increase the effectiveness and impacts of the toolbox, there is a need to develop a sustainability plan for formal, long-term ownership and support; put greater emphasis on outreach and obtaining stakeholder buy-in early on; consider the scale of application and users; and translate materials and provide trainings in other languages
2. Nutrient flow modelling – application of the Global NEWS Model
Scaling down the global news model for manila bay will require ensuring stakeholders have a basic level of technical competency; ensuring sufficient, high quality local data are available; engaging government and the private sector early in process to encourage cooperation and receptivity; and having a committed group of partners to champion the issue to help advance solutions.
3. Development and application of the Ecosystem Health Report Card
Two Ecosystems Health Report Cards were developed, in Chilika Lake, India and Laguna de Bay, Philippines. Recommendations are to: find a local champion; create a plan for ongoing assessments; carry out frequent monitoring and evaluation to help attribute water quality improvements to report cards; develop a robust stakeholder engagement process and ensure local ownership of the report card; and leverage experiences from the report card community.
The Good news is that the GNC project has graduated to the Toward an International Nitrogen Management System (INMS) Project which is keen to address nitrogen issues globally. It is expected that the main outputs from the GNC project will be incorporated in the Toward an International Nitrogen Management System (INMS) Project executed by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and implemented by UN Environment.
Opportunities and technologies for recovering and reusing Nutrients from wastewater
Wastewater is an asset, with nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus being essential elements that plants need for growth. Many researchers are now inventing Best Management Practices to extract the ammonia from wastewater without converting it, through use of urine-diverting toilets and using it as fertilizer after sanitizing it to remove pathogens.
On 27 April 2019, the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (GPA) organized the “Joint Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM) and Global Wastewater Initiative (GW2I) Meeting”. The meeting brought together members of both partnerships for the first time with the primary objective of fostering synergies and opportunities for future collaboration. The participants also shared their expertise, and discussed relevant topics related to both partnerships, such as the reuse of wastewater in agriculture, technology, funding, policy, communication, and education, and highlighted good practices and ongoing activities in these fields.
The outcomes of the joint meeting discussed how to strengthen the synergies between the two partnerships through; restructuring the composition of the steering committees so they are fit for purpose to deliver the expected progress; building on the momentum of already existing projects and initiatives (including existing good practices and experiences, for example, the Global Soil Partnership, or the Global Challenge Research Fund); ensuring effective science communication by the partnerships on the development of products and; creating a joint database by the two partnerships which will, in turn, be used by the International Nitrogen Management System for policy actions.