Tragedy will shroud the biggest gathering of the United Nations Environment Assembly in the global body’s history.
The five-day conference is set to begin in Nairobi on Monday, despite an as-yet unconfirmed number of attendees – including at least one Canadian – being among the 157 people killed Sunday in the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight headed to the Kenyan capital.
While UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres released a statement that expressed “heartfelt sympathies and solidarity” toward the families of the crash’s victims – said by the UN’s Department of Safety and Security to include 19 UN staff members – no changes to the conference’s program were announced on Sunday.
The event, which has as its focus “innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production," is expected to draw more than 4,700 people from around the globe, including senior government officials and business leaders.
It’s to be highlighted later in the week by an appearance by French President Emmanuel Macron. Alongside Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr. Macron is to co-chair a meeting of the One Planet Summit – a France-led initiative aimed primarily at transitioning toward a low-carbon economy, and in this case focusing on climate-change action in Africa – as part of the UN conference.
Before then, delegates will discuss topics ranging from sustainable business development and resource extraction to biodiversity protection and waste management. And conference organizers are hoping it will produce policy resolutions and commitments that help meet the Paris Agreement to reduce global carbon emissions, in advance of further discussions on that front at another climate-change summit to be held next September at the UN’s General Assembly in New York.
Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is not expected to attend the conference and a spokesperson for her office did not provide details on Sunday about how Canada’s government will otherwise be represented. Non-governmental Canadian organizations also sent delegations – including young environmental activists such as Danielle Moore, one of the crash’s victims. The 24-year-old had been selected by the United Nations Association in Canada to attend.
The Environment Assembly has existed since just 2012, and this will be only its fourth such conference. It oversees the United Nations Environment Programme, which is headquartered in Nairobi, and is billed as the only UN body outside of the General Assembly at which all UN member states convene.