Go beyond rhetoric and boardroom talk to safeguard the environment

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA - 4) held in Nairobi has ended on a high note, with rich resolutions and commitments on the table.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether these will bear any fruit. We should appreciate the fact that President Uhuru Kenyatta gave a pledge that Kenya will have 10 per cent forest cover by 2022. However, hard questions must be asked. How can we discuss forest cover without transiting to renewable forms of energy? Statistics show that three in five households in Kenya depend on wood fuel for energy, a scenario that has led to degradation of forests. 

It is contradictory that a country seeking to reduce emissions driving climate change can also toy with the idea of setting up a coal plant. We shouldn’t walk forward facing backward. 

With water sources getting degraded due to environmental destruction, hydro electric energy cannot be guaranteed no matter how many more dams we build. Is it not time to utilise the abundant solar of which we have excess supply? What would be the opportunity cost for every country to set up solar farms? Kenyans are highly creative and with unemployment hovering at over 50 per cent, innovating for renewable sources of energy will not only create jobs but also protect our vegetation from depletion. This is not to mention that we will also reduce carbon emissions drastically and significantly. 

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As we discuss alternative energy sources, we must also discuss the plastic menace which continues to choke oceans. Banning the use of plastic bags was a good move. Let us now consider what to do with other forms of single-use plastics. While on it, let’s not forget that wipes, diapers and drinking straws are also plastic - pollutants. 

Sustainable food production has also been recommended because to produce food, a lot of land is cleared. This is a direct threat to biodiversity.

To avoid wastage, Kenya must start producing only what can be consumed - and use renewable ways to preserve what is not consumed. This will significantly reduce pressure on the environment. We cannot afford to predispose our environment, hence our very existence, to further threats.

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United NationsUNEAEnvironmentPresident Uhuru Kenyatta