Making sustainable production and consumption work for the circular economy of tomorrow

Dear chair, thank you for the floor, I am Olga Ponizova, with ECO-Accord and the Women’s Major Group, elected to speak on behalf of the Regional Civil Society Mechanism.

We believe that governments should pay better attention to transition to sustainable consumption and production as it is related to many other SDG, economic, social and environmental problems. To achieve SCP we need a change of our economic paradigm – green growth and decoupling growth and environmental protection are not enough.

We are concerned that during the pandemic we could see cases in different parts of the UN ECE region of changing the law in favor of investors, we saw sudden approval of controversial project from an environmental point of view, we saw illegal construction of polluting plants, illegal logging, lowering of environmental standards and persecution of activists.

Plastic pollution has increased significantly, primarily due to medical waste and protective equipment. We believe that green economy tools and economic instruments should be included in all national and regional COVID-19 recovery plans.

Urgent actions are needed to tackle plastic contamination problems throughout plastic life cycle. Countries should put a ban on single use plastic and highly hazardous pesticides, improve management of chemical and waste, including endocrine disrupting chemicals and electronic wastes, stop illegal trade of chemicals and waste, ensure full disclosure of information on toxic chemicals in consumer products within and outside the supply chain. All countries must urgently accede to the Ban Amendment to the Basel Convention, ensure implementation of the Basel convention plastic amendments, and support extension of the current SAICM until a new instrument for the sound management of chemicals and waste beyond 2020 is adopted. Problem of genetically modified food should be also addressed.

We push for strong vested interest by some of the most polluting industries. National recovery plans and international agreements (such as EU partnership agreements) need to include robust conditions to compel the states to use public money only to support sustainable projects and activities. States should support the “green infrastructure” and stimulate its development. We urge countries to actively participate in the preparation of the Good Practice Guidance Framework for Sustainable Infrastructure, which is planned to be prepared for the 9th UNECE Ministerial Conference «Environment for Europe” (Cyprus, October, 2021).

No money should go to subsidizing fossil fuels-based activities (coal, oil, gas), which are the main source of carbon emissions and the cause of climate change, nor should it go to environmentally damaging activities such as nuclear power, or intensive agriculture. In addition, countries should engage in economic reforms to help improve the incentives for investments, e.g. by promoting carbon pricing and green public procurement, and the systemic reform of environmentally harmful subsidies. We must invest in a climate-neutral and pollution-free future and guide such investments. Finally, nature restoration must be part of the recovery efforts through restoration of ecosystems and their services on which our economy, our food and our health depend, and which can have long-lasting benefits to society.

We encourage UN ECE countries to share experience how to use green instruments in recovery plans more effectively.

We support focus on policy coherence.

Social issues should be taken into account: we need to make sustainable consumption affordable and equitable for all. We need to think how to ensure that everyone can contribute and benefit equally of a just transition, clean environment, sustainably produced products etc. Divestment and tax reform should support fair job transition.It is сrucial to mainstream gender into all SDGs connected with the Planet cluster.

Education, Health and Environmental sectors should cooperate more and work towards stronger partnerships and avoid repetition.The education sector and lifelong learning has a great role to play in reducing linear patterns of production and consumption, thus contributing to a circular economy. A 2019 report on circular economy strategies and roadmaps in Europe found that education, when addressed explicitly in currently existing strategies, is more often treated as a specific ‘economic’ sector, consuming resources and producing waste and pollution, rather than a ‘horizontal’ sector through its role in dissemination, knowledge-sharing and awareness-raising. Both approaches are clearly needed yet the latter deserves far greater attention than is currently the case. EU initiatives on the topic exist such as Consumer Classroom and similar initiatives in EECCA countries should be reinforced, upscaled and their scope extended beyond school education.

Governments should better use trade tools to promote SCP. We urge countries to support WTO initiative on trade and environment whiсh has been launched recently.

We worry about low recognition of CSOs as key partners for achieving SCP – while there is a strong focus on investments and business solutions. Vision of partnership is very narrowed to “environmental” actors and lack intersectional analysis of mainstreaming SDG 5 for example. Civil society should be in a position to speak to power, especially where governments are hesitant to acknowledge.

CSO engagement should be mainstreamed in the process and not have to be fought for case-by-case. Diversity should also be mainstreamed within that. Funding, especially for youth, is especially important to allow meaningful engagement. We think that there should be a civil society review of what has and has not been accomplished through the 10 Year Framework on Sustainable Consumption.