Since the 1972 Stockholm Conference, which led to the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the organization has received policy, programming and financial support from its Member States. In 2022, as UNEP marks its 50thanniversary, one Member State - Norway – is strengthening the relationship with the signature of a new cooperation agreement of around US$ 53 million (NOK 520 million).
Core and flexible funding are critical for UNEP to implement its programme of work and to respond to emerging environmental challenges. It enables UNEP to continue innovating and delivering high-quality science and policy support on the triple planetary crises of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, pollution and waste.
“We at UNEP are very grateful for the unwavering support that we have received from Norway over the past few decades,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “We see our strong collaboration as a testimony, both to the importance of our mandate and to the trust that Norway places on UNEP’s ability to provide solutions to the triple planetary crisis. This new agreement will provide much-needed funding for UNEP thematic funds to achieve climate stability, live in harmony with nature, and move to a pollution-free planet. This support will strengthen UNEP so that we are able to deliver results for people and planet.”
For five decades, UNEP has monitored the state and health of the environment, set the global environmental agenda, and helped identify the best action to tackle environmental challenges. This work supports policy and lawmakers in all countries to base policies and legislation on science and evidence, so that the actions they take will promote all aspects of sustainable development. UNEP works in partnerships, and has a central role in coordinating efforts and supporting countries to deliver on their environmental goals and commitments under international agreements.
The environment has been central to Norwegian policies for the past five decades as well. Like UNEP, the Norwegian Ministry of climate and environment also celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
On the domestic front, Norway’s priorities include sustainable land and ocean management and the green economic transition to meet climate targets under the Paris accord. At the international level, Norway supports a strong environmental governance system and is engaged in efforts to preserve tropical forests and fight plastic pollution.
The country started working with UNEP in the 1970s on environmental legislation, norm-setting, programmes and campaigns. It has supported several key UNEP initiatives, including strengthening evidence-based policy making through environmental monitoring and assessments, like the Global Environment Outlook, environmental protection in post-conflict situations, creating a greener UN system, and fostering gender equality.
Norway has also been an early supporter of the work on plastics and marine litter, including funding UNEP’s global assessment of marine plastic litter and pollution, From Pollution to Solution. In 2022, at the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2), held in Nairobi under the Norwegian Presidency, a historic resolution was endorsed to end plastic pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024. The resolution addresses the full lifecycle of plastic, including production, design and disposal.
In total, 14 resolutions were adopted at UNEA 5.2 addressing diverse issues, including the sound management of chemicals and waste, nature-based solutions, biodiversity and health.
“Against the backdrop of geopolitical turmoil, the UN Environment Assembly shows multilateral cooperation at its best,” said Espen Barth Eide, the President of UNEA-5 and Norway’s Minister for Climate and the Environment at the meeting. “Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic. With today’s resolution we are officially on track for a cure.”
This is a large agreement of flexible funding, because we really value UNEPs fundamental role as the number one global authority on environment.
Bård Vegar Solhjell, Director General of Norad
Since 2006, Norway and UNEP have had an overarching framework agreement in place on programme cooperation. Since 2015 the agreement strives to support the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals in developing countries. Between 2006 and 2021, the financial value of these agreements totalled US$ 141 million.
The new agreement of around $53 million, signed on 1 July 2022, by Inger Andersen and the Director-General of Norad, Bård Vegar Solhjell, aims to strengthen UNEP and enable the effective implementation of its Medium-Term Strategy (2022-2025).
Since 1973, Norway has contributed its share to the Environment Fund – the core source of flexible funds for UNEP - and has consistently been among the top 15 contributors.
At its 50th anniversary, UNEP launched three new thematic funds to address Climate Stability, Living in Harmony with Nature, and a move Towards a Pollution-Free Planet. The funds aim to shift the balance away from rigidly earmarked funding towards improved income distribution and resource allocation for bigger impact.
The new agreement is in addition to the annual standard contribution from Norway to the Environment Fund. Through the agreement, funds will be directed to UNEP’s three newly established thematic funds and directly to the Environment Fund.
“This is a large agreement of flexible funding because we really value UNEPs fundamental role as the number one global authority on environment,” said Solhjell. “Norad wants to encourage UNEP to take its role to its full potential and strengthen the integration of climate and environment in the whole UN system within all its operations and programmes worldwide. We are looking forward to a continued close collaboration with you. The world needs a strong UNEP.”
The Environment Fund is the core source of flexible funds to UNEP. It is the bedrock for UNEP’s work worldwide and helps countries to deliver on the environmental dimensions of the 2030 Agenda, and to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss and pollution and waste.
To support the Environment Fund, each of the 193 Member States is encouraged to contribute their full share, as represented by the Voluntary Indicative Scale of Contributions, established in 2002 by the Member States themselves. The scale considers each country individually and distributes responsibility collectively. Investing in UNEP means investing in the health of the planet and its people.