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Myriad challenges as Global Environmental meet kicks off


By George Okore

 President Uhuru Kenyatta has rolled out red carpet to welcome delegates who converge in Kenya next week in global efforts to address environmental sustainability.

 From 23 to 27 June 2014, 2014, the inaugural UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) will be hosted by Nairobi based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to be attended by 160 UN Member and Observer States. The newly constituted UN high-level platform for decision making on environment will guide how international community addresses environmental sustainability challenges.

 The body will place environmental issues at the heart of global agenda, with countries borrowing from one another’s experience in tackling diverse environmental challenges and other emerging issues. As new governing body of UNEP, UNEA meeting make strategic decisions and provide political guidance. It will also help countries achieve global environmental sustainability and combat climate change.

  “The convening of the first UNEA session in Nairobi – home of UNEP and wolrd environment capital represents is a blessing to global environment community. The issues facing this first session of UNEA are weighty ones which require the voices of all member states and partners to be heard,” says UNEP Executive Achim Steiner.

 For President Uhuru, who will deliver key note address during this pioneering partnership, the meeting will stamp strong commitment to environmental conservation and protection of his ruling Jubilee Coalition.


Chinese Premier Li Keqiang inaugural visit to Africa in May also reinforced Sino-Africa strategic partnership. In Kenya, the Premier and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner signed agreements to harness strengths, capacities and resources to assist Global South combat climate change.  Called South-South Cooperation on Climate Change Adaptation, countries will borrow from China’s transition to inclusive Green Economy, including fighting pollution. The environmental deal will be reinforced during UNEA meeting.

 Kenyan Minister for Environment, Water and Natural Resources Judy Wakhungu says the meeting will encourage environmental rule of law to realize sustainable development in open, transparent and accountable manner. She says the UNEA meeting is valuable, especially for African countries which learn development and implementation of environmental rule of law to ensure just and sustainable development.

 “Promoting environmental rule of law helps to tackle crimes and other violations undermining sustainable development, including illegal trade in protected species; smuggling of ozone depleting substances, illicit trade in hazardous waste and illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing,” she says.

 The 5th African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) in Botswana last October adopted Gaborone Declaration on climate change and Africa's development. It called for continuous collaboration with other partners to ensure climate change resilience in Africa.

 “Additional adaptation funding and technical know-how are imperative if Africa is to move towards climate-resilient green future path.  Africa cannot risk failure of implementing serious adaptation measures, especially with her predicted population rise of 2 billion by 2050 and the current ecosystem degradation trajectory,” says current AMCEN President and Tanzanian Environment Minister Dr. Terezya L. Huvisa.

 Kenya’s Permanent Representative to UNEP Martin Kimani says the county is ready to welcome all stakeholders. He says Kenya the meeting comes at time when governments worldwide are grappling with environmental challenges, thus stronger policy formulation at national levels.

 The meeting will also address environmental ethics, commitment and responsibility toward environment, including plants and animals for present and future generations. The meeting will also encourage public participation, accountability, and rights-based approach to environmental degradation.

Countries are therefore expected scale up efforts to enhance knowledge and skills on application climate change into national policies. Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) Secretary General Mithika Mwenda says climate change is reflected in food shortages, high prices, reduced pasture and increased conflict in arid and semi arid areas.  “UNEA meeting is very important especially for Africa where challenges brought about by climate change are critical,” says the Secretary General of African wide climate change NGOs.



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