Celebrating the Swedish national Day: Sweden at the heart of 50 years of environmental action (by UNEP Representative & Regional Director for West Asia Mr. Sami Dimassi and Ms Ann Dismorr the Sweden Ambassador to Lebanon )

In 1972, Sweden hosted the first world conference to make the environment a major issue: the “United Nations Conference on the Human Environment”. Participants adopted a series of principles for sound management of the environment including the Stockholm Declaration and Action Plan for the Human Environment and several resolutions. One of the major results of the Stockholm conference was the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). UNEP currently has six regional offices around the world including the Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA) hosted by the Republic of Lebanon and located at the UN House in the capital Beirut.

Fifty years later, on the 2nd and 3rd of June 2022, Sweden represented by the Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is hosting Stockholm + 50 “a healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity,” along with the Government of Kenya represented by President Uhuru Kenyatta. This event will be attended by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and many world leaders who will have an opportunity to draw on the 50 years of multilateral environmental action to accomplish the urgent action required to secure a better future on a healthy planet. The meeting will also strengthen the previous messages and outcomes delivered during UNEP@50 event that commemorated UNEP’s 50th anniversary back in March 2022.

In preparation for the Stockholm + 50 International meeting, a series of five regional multi-stakeholder consultations took place to ensure inclusivity and participation of regional stakeholders. In West Asia, the Regional Multi-Stakeholder Consultation took place on the 11th and 12th May 2022 where more than 130 participants highlighted issues of concern to the region, particularly relating to waste reduction and management, water resources management, sustainable agriculture, sustainable consumption and production, climate change and poverty eradication.

In 2018, Sweden reinforced its commitment by contributing roughly US$31 million (280,000,000 Swedish Kronor) through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency over four years to support critical environmental issues. The agreement, which will remain effective until 2022, supports climate action, resilience to disasters and conflicts, healthy ecosystems, waste and air quality, and sustainable consumption and production.

Sweden will be hosting the celebrations of World Environment Day for 2022. The WED, which falls on the 5th of June yearly, will be held under the theme “Only One Earth”, the same slogan used back in 1972. Hosting the World Environment Day after 50 years of environmental action is a pure reflection of both an historical commitment and leadership for a greener future and healthier planet. 

With the world facing a triple planetary crisis: climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss, we have again a chance to dare imagining a greener future, but action is needed more than any other time, and all segments in society need to get involved: Government, the private sector, academia, youth and civil society.  In Lebanon, many civil society initiatives working for a greener future gives us hope.

In Lebanon, Sweden supports renewable energy applications in Lebanese rural areas in the North together with ESCWA and the preparation of local wastewater treatment and reuse plans in Zahle and Ablah with International Water Management Institute. Sweden is also funding Berytech’s sustainable agriculture program, Water and Energy for Food, to stimulate innovation in this sector. This year, Sweden has also worked with FabricAID to promote more sustainable fashion consumption in Lebanon.

This year, Sweden has chosen “Sustainable Sweden” as a theme for the National Day celebrations on June 6th. The event will take place in the historic citadel in Byblos in partnership with UNEP, Byblos Municipality, Volvo Cars and others. The aim is to showcase sustainable solutions from different sectors, and to demonstrate that you can host an event with zero plastic waste, recycling, and no food waste. Byblos Municipality have been working hard since 2018 to reduce plastic waste and installing solar panels in the old town. Volvo cars has a clear goal to be a climate neutral company by 2040 with a circular economy model. They also abide by the Paris Agreement principles.

This is an example of how we can all contribute. Our lifestyles are associated with two thirds of all greenhouse gas emissions. We can start with ourselves, change our behavior, and inspire others. It is time for bold choices and urgent action to secure a better future on a healthy planet.