Uhuru to open major UN meeting on environment

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is expected to open the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly. [Photo, Standard]

President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to officially open the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) tomorrow.

The conference brings together Heads of State and environment ministers from across the world.

It is expected to tackle critical issues such as curbing wastage and tackling plastic pollution in oceans.

Among world leaders expected to attend the summit is French President Emmanuel Macron who is expected in the country today

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On March 14, Macron is expected to open the One planet Summit (OPS) which will also held alongside UNEA. The ‘One planet Summit’ is the French initiative to engage member states and global ministers to implement climate policies and is co-chaired by Presidents Macron and Uhuru.

UN Environment Acting Executive Director Joyce Msuya called on participants to act  firmly to save the world from environmental degradation.

No time

“Time is running short. We are past pledging and politicking. We are past commitments with little accountability. What’s at stake is life, and society as we know it,” Dr Msuya said.

She said the world has proof that well-crafted policies can kick-start innovation and help to diffuse new technologies at a pace and a scale that would have seemed impossible just a generation ago.

“Let us all work together to craft solutions that transform our level of ambition. Let us strive for resolutions that demand that all of us make the kinds of changes that humanity needs to thrive,” Msuya said.

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Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko said Kenya would not go back on the ban on plastics.

“At the national level, in 2017 Kenya banned the utility, manufacture and importation of single use-plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging,” Tobiko said.

The CS said the ban had made Kenya’s towns and waterways cleaner.

Progressive action

"We remain committed to progressive action in the management of other categories of plastic waste. Kenya has also embarked on a massive tree planting campaign to achieve 10 per cent forest cover in country by 2022,” the CS said.

Part of expected discussions will be how to fund environmental conservation with economic experts saying Africa requires up to $15 billion annually.

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There are also concerns that the world may be losing the battle for a better environment.

"There are growing concerns that 240 million people face the threat of climate change in Africa, while in Kenya plastic bags are slowly returning to the market with their negative effects on the environment and the economy," said UN Environment Programme Director and Regional Representative for Africa Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo.

Dr Biao said 8 million tonnes of waste was dumped into the ocean every year.

United Nations Environment Assembly (Unea-4) special envoy Ado Lohmus said many member states in Africa had banned the use of plastic bags.

He said the implementation of resolutions passed at the meeting would help in poverty alleviation.

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MacronPresident Uhuru KenyattaUNEA-4United Nations Environment AssemblyFrench President Emmanuel Macron