UNEA-6 to build on outcomes of Africa Climate Summit

From today, Nairobi will be hosting the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6). With the global population facing enhanced threats of pollution and waste, biodiversity loss, and climate change, the UNEA forum is more important than any other time because of spiraling inequality and poverty that threatens the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As the world’s highest environmental decision-making body, UNEA can address these issues through collective thinking and global actions that focus on diverse aspects of the environment. Notably, UNEA-6 has singled out six thematic issues to be tackled through multi-lateral action including water security, sustainable use of minerals, and pollution from nutrients, particularly phosphorus. This is encouraging as it will help build on the gains of the new era of multilateralism in which the environment now has similar prominence as other critical issues such as global peace, health and poverty.

Kenya is particularly thrilled about UNEA-6 because its deliberations will build on resolutions of the inaugural Africa Climate Summit held in Nairobi last September alongside the 2023 annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Africa Climate Week, during which the African Leaders Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call-to-Action was agreed upon and unveiled.

The Nairobi Declaration, as the blueprint is popularly referred to, carries Africa’s climate action aspirations and has since become the continent’s main reference document at international fora including the 28th United Nations Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai and the forthcoming UNEA-6.

At the core of the Nairobi Declaration is Africa’s resolve to pursue green growth by leveraging her immense climate action potential in sectors such as renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, critical minerals, and blue economy among others.

As Kenya, we are actively integrating the Nairobi Declaration into our national broad climate action agenda including reviewing our laws, regulations, strategies, and programmes to reflect Africa’s climate action priorities. For example, last year we successfully amended the Climate Change Act to provide for a more progressive carbon markets framework.

Following the recent public participation meeting, we are now at the tail-end of establishing regulations to back the Climate Change Act. We are also reviewing the Forest Act, the Environmental Management and Coordination Act (EMCA), and its regulations, among others.

Kenya’s first-ever National Forest Policy was recently passed by Cabinet with the objective of providing a framework for improved forest governance, resource allocation, partnership, and collaboration. Further, last year, Kenya made history by recruiting, training and successfully deploying a record 2,664 forest rangers.

Kenya is also accelerating the transformation of Kenya’s lineal waste management system into circular economy. As a result, Kenya will hold a side event on the circular economy during UNEA-6 to appreciate the strides the country has made in implementing waste policies to address pollution control and best practices in circular economy and extended producer responsibility.

President William Ruto’s administration is clear on the need for solutions to our environmental challenges as outlined in the Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA), the Kenya Kwanza Manifesto (The PLAN), and demonstrated through some of the climate action interventions we are implementing as a country. For instance, Kenya’s National Landscapes and Ecosystem Restoration Strategy, the anchor blueprint for the flagship 15 Billion National Tree Programme that gave our country the first National Tree Growing Day (Green Holiday) on November 13 last year is one such ambitious initiative.

As part of Kenya’s deep commitment to achieving 30 percent tree cover by 2032 through the growing of 15 billion trees, the over 6,000 delegates expected in Nairobi for UNEA-6 will all be requested to take time off and grow trees at designated sites within the Nairobi metropolis.

As the planet’s only universal membership forum for the environment, UNEA provides a unique platform for courageous decisions and new ideas to chart a bold plan of collective environmental action. In so doing, UNEA-6 will support the achievement of the sustainable development goals.

Soipan Tuya is Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Forestry