Your Excellency, Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan;
Your Excellency, Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations;
Your Excellency, Mr. Abdulla Shahid, President of the General Assembly;
Your Excellency, Mr. Espen Barth Eide, the President of UNEA 5;
Your Excellency, Ms. Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP
Heads of State and Government;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my distinguished pleasure to warmly welcome you to this resumed session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2), following the online 5.1 Session held on 22 – 23 February 2021.
This Session, taking place shortly after COP26 last November, is expected to provide the much needed impetus to environmental action at the global level.
Your presence here today clearly demonstrates your willingness and strong commitment to combat the triple planetary crises — namely, climate change, nature, and pollution and sustainably conserve our planet for future generations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The science is crystal clear. We, humans, are putting extreme pressure on the planet. Despite representing less than 1% of life on the planet, humanity has crossed the planetary boundaries as the main driver for chemical pollution; biodiversity loss; greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere (causing climate change); excessive nitrogen and phosphorus pollution; and land degradation, thereby threatening the stability of global ecosystems upon which humanity depends.
Humanity must recognize that it is inextricably interlinked with nature and that we have a shared future. Our planet can no longer endure the stress. Numerous Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) have been signed and regulations put in place to minimize these risks but the risks, continue unabated.
As we sit to deliberate the resolutions of UNEA5 and the future of UNEP, we must be aware that the future and the health of the planet is in our hands.
We must learn from our mistakes, build on the gains we made and harness scientific breakthroughs. The outcome of this meeting will either determine the “Future We Want” or the “Future We Failed to Protect.” Nature, Ladies and Gentlemen, never forgets!
The impact and consequences of the triple planetary crisis, know no boundaries. We all face immense challenges, which are more acutely felt in developing countries that have inadequate fiscal and technological resources to confront the crisis.
As we discuss the UNEA 5.2 through the 17 resolutions grouped into five clusters, that is, marine and plastic pollution; nature-based solutions and biodiversity; chemicals and minerals; green recovery and circular economy, let us bear in mind that our deliberations and decisions will determine whether history will judge us fairly or harshly.
The issues raised in the resolutions are, therefore, key emergent issues that need our attention; and the call for a wholesome and multifaceted approaches in determining solutions for posterity.
We have only one planet that we inherited from our forefathers and will hand over to the future generations.
The theme of United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2), “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”, is, indeed, relevant and timely.
But what does “Strengthening Actions for Nature” mean in practical terms? Excellencies, let me propose what I consider this to mean.
It means recognizing the existential nature of the threat we all face and what bold and decisive actions we need to urgently take to halt the interlinked and cumulative impact of the triple planetary crisis.
All these three elements are largely driven by unsustainable production and consumption patterns, which are putting extreme pressure on the planet.
Climate change continues to devastate our planet at an accelerated pace. In the last five years, every part of the world has felt the impact through record temperatures, wildfires, cyclones or devastating droughts and floods. In many cases, this has led to catastrophic socioeconomic losses and irreparable damage to the environment.
In the Horn of Africa, we have experienced an increase in the frequency, magnitude, and severity of disasters such as drought, flooding, and invasion of desert locusts. This has led to food insecurity; loss of life and livelihoods; destruction of infrastructure; and, in some cases, to inter-ethnic clashes over water and pasture.
For us in this region, therefore, strengthening action on nature is urgent and critical; and we look forward to practical solutions emerging from this United Nations Environment Assembly 5.2 Session.
Strengthening Action for Nature also means protecting our biodiversity and addressing land and ecosystem degradation. We need a multipronged approach that addresses management of forests, combating desertification, halting, and reversing land degradation and biodiversity. This requires us to take bolder action on conservation of forests, rehabilitation of degraded areas, afforestation, and reforestation. These interventions also strengthen community resilience to adapt to a changing climate, conserve biodiversity and protect water catchment areas.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kenya’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) recognize the significant mitigation and adaptation benefits of sustainably managed forests.
We are, therefore, taking bold, multi-faceted actions on forests, which include, policy reforms and investments to protect existing forests, restoration of degraded forest ecosystems and an increase in forest cover through an aggressive afforestation and reforestation programme.
In addition to the restoration of forests, Kenya is implementing a Climate Smart Agriculture Policy and Rangelands Management Strategy to support sustainable land management and implementation of innovative and transformative actions in the vast Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs).
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Further, strengthening action for nature means more aggressive and coordinated action to reduce pollution, which remains a major global environmental challenge. Plastic and chemical waste and other pollutants end up in our oceans every year. They impact negatively on food safety, human and animal health, and marine ecosystems.
We need to collectively address pollution at multiple levels, at the production level, at the consumer level and at the disposal systems level. I call on all to embrace the principle of the circular economy to reduce, reuse and recycle.
Plastic waste management is key to saving our seas, lakes, and rivers as well as the terrestrial environment. Kenya imposed a ban on single use plastic bags in 2017, in an effort to reduce the number of plastics in the waterways contributing to marine debris.
But a single country effort, while it is, YES, useful, it is, however, inadequate to reduce pollution. We need collective action to develop viable and sustainable substitutes to plastics.
Environmental challenges pose a threat to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Kenya welcomes recommendations for adoption by this Assembly to give clear direction on strategies to tackle the environmental crisis we are facing today.
In this regard, Kenya supports the proposal for a global agreement to tackle plastic pollution as a critical step towards building back better and greener.
The question before us is no longer the nature of the challenge; rather, it is our willingness and capacity to address it.
We need a stronger mechanism to review whether we are keeping our commitments, and to exchange this information in a transparent manner. These measures need not be intrusive or infringe upon sovereignty.
They must, however, ensure that commitments we make are credible, and that we are living up to our obligations. For without such accountability, any agreement remains but empty words on paper.
In this context, United Nations Environment Assembly is uniquely placed to engage all countries to raise their ambition to respond to the environmental crisis.
As I conclude my remarks, let me make it clear; being a party to several Multilateral Environmental Agreements, Kenya supports and advocates for collaboration and cooperation with United Nations Environment Assembly. We do this because we believe working together with the Assembly will promote policy coherence and ensure environmental sustainability.
In this context, Kenya remains committed and ready to engage constructively in the deliberations of this Session and ensure a successful UNEA 5.2.
I thank you all and welcome you to take time to enjoy magical Kenya’s renowned hospitality and famous attractions.