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Exploring nitrogen use in agriculture at UNEA-6

News Section Icon Published 2/27/2024

Head of International Affairs speaks with other panel members, pictured in front of the UNEA logo blue and white background
Photo credit UNEP – Kiara Worth

Our International Affairs team is attending the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) meeting in Nairobi this week to raise awareness of the potential of higher welfare regenerative animal agriculture systems to help the environment.

UNEA, which is the world’s top decision-making body on the environment, aims to restore harmony between humanity and nature, improving the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.

At this sixth session of UNEA, our team will be partnering with governments and other stakeholders from around the world to advance urgent action towards a higher-welfare, healthier, and more sustainable existence for animals, people, and the planet.

Action on nitrogen waste should be coordinated globally

Nitrogen is a critical nutrient for plant growth and is vital for global food security. However, its mismanagement and overuse in industrial agriculture has a detrimental effect on the environment and human and animal health. There is an urgent need to optimise nitrogen use in agriculture to ensure food security, tackle pollution, protect ecosystems and biodiversity, and combat climate change.

Previous UNEA resolutions have stressed the importance of sustainable nitrogen management which have put it on the international environmental agenda. Our team co-hosted an event at this year’s meeting with the aim of ‘making nitrogen visible’ and continuing to build momentum on this urgent, cross-cutting issue. This includes ensuring it remains in a prominent position on the agenda at future multilateral meetings that tackle the triple planetary crisis and with a focus on the delivery of the relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Partnering with Pakistani Government on making nitrogen visible

The event, which took place on the first day of UNEA-6, was organised in partnership with the Government of Pakistan and was called Making Nitrogen Visible Through the Sustainable Development Goals.

Our Global Head of International Affairs, Eirini Pitsilidi, spoke at the event highlighting the need to raise awareness of the impact of nitrogen waste in animal agriculture, not just for the sake of our planet and health, but for economic reasons too. She also stressed that by changing what we eat and how it’s produced, we can turn animal agriculture into part of the solution.

Other speakers at the event were:

  • Iftikhar-ul-Hassan Shah Gilani, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change and Environmental Coordination, Pakistan
  • H.E Matsuzawa Yutaka, Vice-Minister for Global Environmental Affairs, Government of the Japan
  • Mr Hassan Mohamed, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Climate Change, Environment and Energy, Maldives
  • H.E. M. Ibrar Hussain Khan, High Commissioner of Pakistan to Kenya
  • Leticia Carvalho, Head of Marine and Freshwater Branch, UNEP
  • Prof. Mark Sutton, Director SANH, UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Edinburgh
  • Dr. Tariq Aziz, Regional Director INI (South Asia) and University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan
  • Dr. Mihai Constantinescu, Co-Chair UNEP Working Group on Nitrogen
  • David Cooper, Acting Executive Secretary UN Convention on Biological Diversity
  • Ms Bigyapti Nepal, Researcher, South Asian Nitrogen Hub

Eirini added: “Urgent action is needed. But we need both immediate, tangible changes as well as longer-term, transformational changes that include both the obvious but also the less obvious.

“We must also consider indirect changes such as behavioural shifts related to our diets—especially in places where we know we over-consume animal-sourced foods—as well as addressing the number of animals we have in the global food system.” 

How civil society can help tackle the triple planetary crisis

On 27 February atour Global CEO, Philip Lymbery, spoke at a Green Room side event called Role of Civil Society in Multilateral Actions in Addressing the Triple Planetary Crisis on how organisations can help tackle the pressing challenges posed by the triple planetary crisis-encompassing biodiversity loss, climate change and environmental pollution.

The meeting brought together speakers including Josiah Ojwang, Director of Programs Africa, Network for Animal Welfare; Hope Ferdowsian, CEO, Phoenix Zones Initiative and Tennyson Williams, Director for Africa, World Animal Protection to consider how best to work together to raise awareness, advocate for change and crucially, to share solutions for engaging civil society in addressing environmental challenges. Philip emphasised the urgency of the crisis and the importance of collaboration in effecting lasting change.  


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