HomeGlobal Partnership on Nutrient ManagementGreen Room Side Event at UNEA

Green Room Side Event at UNEA

EVENT TITLE: Excess nutrients in the environment - a global challenge for the 21st century

DATE OF EVENT:    June 23, 2014

TIME: 1100-1145      

VENUE: “Green Room”, UNEP Headquarters



Essential nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, are central to improved food security and sustainable development. However, excess use and inefficient nutrient management practices can and do contribute to climate change, nutrient over-enrichment of aquatic systems, soil acidification and groundwater pollution, harmful algal blooms, hypoxic dead zones, loss of coral and sea grass cover and declining fish stocks. The negative impact of excessive nitrogen was recognized in 2003 as an emerging issue, but 10 years later it still persists. UNEA provides a timely opportunity, in the context of specific nitrogen related drivers, as well as global drivers (such as demand for nutrition by a growing population; 100 year anthropogenic N-fixing technology; globalization) to revisit impacts that  can be seen across the 10 issues analyzed in the UNEP Year Book 2014.

UNEP, as the Secretariat of the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM) brings together governments from around the world, international organizations, scientists, the private sector and NGOs, to address problems of nutrient over-enrichment and the need for accelerated moves towards food security, to combine the goals of increased productivity with conservation of natural resources. The session aims to provide an overview of the main issues concerned with nutrient management, with specific attention to nitrogen and phosphorus.  This includes reflecting on the nature of the challenge (i.e. benefits versus threats), listing the key threats, the current practices and policies, and identification of the future needs (e.g. science assessment, global and regional policies). This event will promote informed dialogue on the role of nutrient management in sustainable agricultural and food production by providing information, and pointing policy makers and practitioners to good practices and the possibilities for action. There will be an introductory presentation providing a global overview, by UNEP. This will be followed by a panel discussion and questions and answers. The event will include panelists representing industry, policy, and science together with agency officials to clarify the issues, and discuss the future direction for countries and other stakeholders.


The session is relevant to the UNEA discussions related to the Sustainable Development Goals and provided critical background to the draft decisions on air quality and nutrients.

Together with quantification of the critical benefits of nitrogen and phosphorus for world food production, there is the challenge to bring these science issues together to develop clear messages of the synergies and trade-offs, as a basis to inform decisions by governments. Sustainable nutrient management is critical for green growth and low carbon economy. Improving nutrient use efficiency leads to lower atmospheric emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), a strong greenhouse gas, which means a positive effect for the climate. 

At the third Intergovernmental Review meeting of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA/IGR-3) held in Manila, the Philippines (January 2012)  the participating governments adopted the “Manila Declaration”. Through this they have committed to develop guidance, strategies or policies on the sustainable use of nutrients so as to improve nutrient use efficiency with attendant economic benefits for all stakeholders, including farmers, and to mitigate negative environmental impacts through the development and implementation of national plans. The side event is a concrete contribution to these issues.


Recommended concrete actions to complement government’s effort in addressing nutrient challenges; strengthened dialogue process among the policy makers, science community and industry to respond to draft decisions being proposed for UNEA and to support future discussions and negotiations at the global level; priority actions for the GPNM identified and confirmed, which will inform the Programme of Work of the GPNM (& by extension the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities).


Professor Mark Sutton, International Nitrogen Initiative Chair & Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Natural Environment Research Council, UK

Patrick Heffer, International Fertilizer Industry Association

David Osborn, IAEA Marine Environment Laboratory

Nelson Andrade, Coordinator, UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme

Dr. Cargele Masso, African Regional Centre Director of the International Nitrogen Initiative, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture


Non-Governmental Organizations (e.g. SCOPE, IUCN; WWF; Farmer’s Associations); scientists; International Nitrogen Initiative; Industry representatives (s.a. International Fertilizer Industry Association); UN agencies; private sector; policy makers, policy implementers and Governmental representatives (e.g. USA; Netherlands; Norway; Germany; Kenya; India; China)

INI CONTACT: Mark Sutton ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

UNEP CONTACTS: Vincent Sweeney ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; Ext 25722) or Tessa Goverse ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; Ext 23469)