By Hon. Soipan Tuya
As Kenya, we are, once again, proud to welcome to Nairobi all delegates from the 193 United Nations Member States including Heads of State and Government; colleague Ministers of Environment and other high-ranking Dignitaries and UN Officials for the 6th Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-6) from 26th February to 1st March this year under the Presidency of the Kingdom of Morocco with the theme “Effective, inclusive, and sustainable multilateral actions to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution”.
As you may be aware, UNEA is the world’s highest-level decision-making body for matters related to Environment. UNEA sets the global environmental agenda, provides overarching policy guidance and defines policy responses to address emerging environmental challenges. Most importantly, UNEA undertakes environmental policy review and provides strategic direction for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
UNEA-6 has been organised around six thematic areas that were considered by members in developing the draft resolutions to compel more effective, inclusive and sustainable multi-lateral action. As a result, twenty-two resolutions have been developed and are being negotiated by the member states along five clusters.
It is a privilege for Kenya to host UNEA every two years in Nairobi by virtue four Country being the global headquarters of UNEP, which is one of the two United Nations agencies headquartered in the Global South. The other one being UN Habitat which is also headquartered here in Nairobi.
Kenya continues to live up to its high international ranking as the environment capital of the world by being a trailblazer in climate action. In September last year, Kenya hosted the inaugural Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, a 3-day high level conference, held 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, The UAE. 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 Country’s broad climate action agenda including reviewing our laws, regulations, strategies and programmes to reflect Africa’s climate action priorities as documented in the Nairobi Declaration. For example, and as you may know, last year we successfully amended the Climate Change Act to provide for a more progressive carbon markets framework. Following last week’s 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 and its main objective is to provide a framework for improved forest governance, resource allocation, partnership and collaboration. Further, last year, we 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 circular economy during UNEA-6 to appreciate the strides the country has made in implementing waste polices to address pollution control and best practices in circular economy and extended producer responsibilities.
His Excellency President Dr. William Ruto’s administration is clear on the need for solutions to our environmental challenges illustrated in the Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA), the Kenya Kwanza Manifesto (The PLAN) and demonstrated through some of the programmes we are rolling out as a Country. 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 13th November last year is one such ambitious initiative that we are fully committed to as a Ministry and as a Government.
As part of Kenya’s deep commitment to achieving 30% tree cover by 2032 through growing of 15 Billion trees, 30% of which will be fruit and fodder species to contribute to our Country’s food and nutritional security and household incomes, the over 6,000 delegates expected in Nairobi for UNEA-6 will all be requested to take time off and grow trees at sites to be communicated.
It is also important to note that as host President and Chairperson of the Committee of the African Union Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC), His Excellency President Dr William Ruto will deliver UNEA-6 National and Welcoming Statement on 29th February 2024 at the high-level segment that will be attended by several other visiting Heads of State and Government, and dignitaries. On the same day in the evening, and in line with the established UNEA tradition, I will host a reception for all delegates during which we will showcase Kenya’s world celebrated hospitality.
During the entire duration of UNEA-6, February 26th to March 1st, there will be a showcase of Kenya’s rich cultural heritage, climate action potential and touristic offering to visiting delegates at the venue. We thank UNEP for allowing us to set up Kenya House at the venue.
UNEA-6, will, without doubt, be an intense week of many related activities including bilateral meetings and hundreds of side events. I encourage media to keenly follow the conversations and report outcomes of these meetings.
As the host country, we look forward to the outcome of UNEA 6 being the Ministerial Declaration, the adoption of the resolutions and decisions and that UNEA-6 will enhance the solutions to the Triple Planetary Crisis of Climate Change, Biodiversity Loss and Pollution.
The writer is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Climate Change and Forestry of Kenya