A boat sits where the Aral Sea once was in Muynak, Uzbekistan, July 12, 2023. Today, the Aral has shrunk to less than a quarter of its former size. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

In September, the United Nations will convene a Summit of the Future, a “once in a generation opportunity” to reinvigorate global action, according to the UN Secretary-General.  And as millions of respondents to the UN@75 survey in 2021 said, the “overwhelming priority” is the environment. More than 70% of people between the ages of 18-25 are extremely worried about climate change, and it has been listed as a top global threat across respected multi-country surveys. If the Summit of the Future is to be meaningful, it must deliver for the planet, including by generating resources for those regions most affected by climate change.

Yet in the General Assembly resolution laying out the scope of the Summit of the Future, the environment is conspicuously absent. Of the five “pillars” of the Summit, one pillar focuses on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but this is hardly a clear call for an ambitious environmental agenda. The recently finalized “zero draft” for the “Pact for the Future,” the Summit’s outcome document, contains many recommitments to existing environmental obligations (and the possibility of setting a date for the end of fossil fuel subsidies) but no big-ticket outcome. Read more