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One Planet Summit lifts Kenya’s profile

Alberto Leny @AlbertoLeny

The Fourth United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) reached its climax yesterday when President Uhuru Kenyatta and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron co-chaired the world’s highest level decision-making organ on environmental issues.

Highlighting the premier global environmental event was the third One Planet Summit attended by Heads of State and ministers leading national delegations. The forum at the UN regional headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi, started earlier in the week on a sombre mood, jolted by last Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines tragedy.

Among the 157 persons who perished in the #ET302 plane crash were 22 UN workers from various programmes, some of who were destined for the forum, including UNDP’s Shikha Garg, an adviser to India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

At the start of the session, UN Environment Acting Executive Director Joyce Msuya appealed to nations to step up and start delivering real change.

“Time is running short. We are past pledging and politicking, past commitments with little accountability. What’s at stake is life, and society, as the majority of us know it and enjoy it today,” she said.

Inclusive societies

UN Environment President and Minister of Environment of Estonia Siim Kiisler said: “As never before, the time to act is now. We know we can build more sustainable and inclusive societies with sustainable consumption and production patterns that address our environmental challenges and leave no one behind. But we will need to create the enabling conditions for this to happen. And we will need to do things differently.”

The World Bank Group at the One Planet Summit yesterday announced that it is stepping up its climate support for Africa by committing $22.5 billion (Sh2.2 trillion) from 2021 to 2025.

Under UNEA-4 theme ‘Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production’, experts continued to urge rapid action to address the dangerous lack of progress on climate change.

A UN report released last October found that despite dramatic growth globally, laws aimed at protecting the environment, widespread failure to enforce them posed the greatest environmental threat.

Lack of enforcement is a serious challenge to mitigating climate change, reducing pollution and preventing widespread species and habitat loss. The dire findings by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urged rapid action to transform the global economy at a speed and scale that has “no documented historic precedent”.

According to the IPCC report, human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.

Countries are now preparing the national climate action plans ahead of the UN’s 2020 Climate Conference. Later this year, the UN Secretary-General will host a major summit to drive greater ambition ahead of 2020

Earlier on December 12, 2015, the historic Paris Agreement brought all nations into a common cause to combat climate change and intensify actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future.

Connected species

Speaking on January 21 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the 92-year-old Sir David Attenborough said: “I am quite literally from another age. I was born during the Holocene, the 12,000-year period of climatic stability that allowed humans to settle, farm and create civilisations. That led to trade in ideas and goods, and made us the globally connected species that we are today.”

“That stability allowed businesses to grow, nations to co-operate and people to share ideas. In the space of my lifetime, all that has changed. We have changed the world so much that scientists say we are in a new geological age: the Anthropocene, the age of humans,” he declared.

The planet is praying that the delegates at UNEA-4 and the world will heed Attenborough’s warning and save our environment from destruction. [email protected]

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