The fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 4) today enters day three in Gigiri, Nairobi, against a backdrop of tragedy which saw 19 UN employees perish in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash shortly after take off on Sunday.
Yesterday the 4,700 delegates stoically pressed ahead, with the host Environment Cabinet secretary Keriako Tobiko addressing the assembly, the highest level decision-making body on environmental matters. The forum usually attracts heads of State and governments, Environment ministers, entrepreneurs and activists to deliberate on increasingly grave concerns linked to pollution to nature’s life-supporting endowments; air, land, fresh and ocean waters.
The conference, whose key note address will be delivered by French President Emanuel Macron, also targets encroachment and indiscriminate chemicals use and disposal and avalanche of waste and e-waste in follow-up to the Paris Pact 2015 on Environment and Climate Change.
To illustrate the enormity of the threat, the meeting yesterday heard that overall environmental degradation causes one in four deaths world-wide or 12.6 million people per year, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimating the burden of disease from selected, more so hazardous chemicals, at 1.6 million lives in 2016.
Kenya was lauded for its ban on manufacture, sale and use of plastic bags, with Tobiko pledging more measures to ensure cleaner production in the manufacture and service industry, improved solid waste management policies and planned plastic bottles ban.
From these talks emerge directions and ideas to help reverse current threats. However, we are also alive to the fact that due mainly to resource-linked reasons, many poor countries are unable to confront the threats and must depend on assistance to narrow the gap between declarations and implementation.
Some powerful countries, on the other hand, have been long on talk but have foot-dragged when it comes to intervention while others have embraced cynicism.
Last year President Uhuru Kenyatta restated the need for upgrading the Nairobi-based Unep, the only UN agency situated in Africa. This is critical to enhance effective focus on environmental matters with an upscaled Unepprofile. It will attract more resources and expertise to confront degradation.
Ultimately beyond lofty resolutions, lets see commitments translated into action. That way, the Assembly will have struck a blow for environment protection and a ring around fragile Mother nature.