•We have had very good progress but we have not fully succeeded as we have seen a resurgence and I have instructed National Environment Management Authority to move in quickly.
•Kiptoo said they are working hard to strengthen Nema because it has capacity issues.
Kenya is hosting the United Nations Environment Assembly 5.2 in Nairobi, to address biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution.
UN Environment is the highest decision-making organ on environmental matters.
Over 2,000 delegates are attending the meeting which started on Monday and ends today.
The theme of the Assembly is “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.
Immediately after UNEA-5.2, the Assembly will hold a Special Session on March 3 - 4 , which is devoted to the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the UN Environment Programme in 1972 ([email protected]).
Experts have said failure to address the crises will deal a major blow to the 17 sustainable development goals.
The Star spoke to Environment PS Chris Kiptoo.
How important is UN Environment Assembly to Kenya and what will make it a success?
For us, we are an environmental capital as we have had the chance to host UNEP for 50 years. We have a track record of hosting international events such as WTO, UNCTAD and this is another major event happening in Nairobi. The event consolidates Kenya’s convening power to host events such as this. To make it a success, we have put in the whole government approach.
What are some of the activities taking place?
The meeting is an international forum where all matters on the environment are discussed by members states. We are hosting side events, for instance, the state department for shipping and maritime had a side dubbed reconditioning our future de-carbonisation of Africa shipping sector through energy efficiency. The state department for fisheries, agriculture, and the blue economy has had side events on turning scientific research into sustainable blue economy investment. The Ministry of Environment held one on transitioning from linear to a circular economy, an event coming months after the government pledged to have policies and regulations in place. We have taken the chance to partner with those who are ready.
Has Kenya taken a position on some of the matters discussed?
Kenya has a national position . However, we support Rwanda and Peru who are co-sponsors of a plastic resolution that is seeking an internationally binding instrument on plastic pollution. We expect 17 resolutions to be passed during the assembly. We are hoping to sponsor a resolution on a legally binding agreement on plastics which is an area we have taken lead as a country. We started banning single-use plastics in 2017, and we extended them to other protected areas. We are now keen to ensure that we eliminate it.
What are some of the actions the government is putting in place to address pressing environmental issues?
We are using our domestic law and policies to respond by moving away from a linear approach, to a circular one which is important because it will help clean up the system through re-use and recycling. That way, you generate a clean environment in addition to getting jobs. There is a debate at the National Assembly and hopefully, our bill on waste management will be passed. When Parliament passes the bill, it will go to Senate and after that, we will implement it. That will give us a paradigm shift in the way we manage waste.
Apart from the ban we have had on single-use plastic waste, management of waste is now going to be legally binding in all of us, in our homes, and wherever we are, to segregate waste at the source. Waste that has not been segregated at the source will not be transported. Meanwhile, we have a policy in place that has been passed by Cabinet. We also have what we call extended producer responsibility under Environmental Act-National Environment 1999, which is the framework law on environmental management and conservation. The extended producer responsibility ensures that anybody who is producing or importing products is responsible for post-consumer handling.
We are in the process of increasing our forest cover to 10 per cent among many other things that we are doing. During the Assembly, we have had a side event on the signing of an agreement on tree fund which we are launching with UNDP, UNEP and United Nations Fund. This will ensure sustainability on the issue of tree growing.
Kenya banned single-use plastics in 2017. However, we still have some being sneaked into the country. How is the government addressing this?
Yes, we banned single-use plastic in 2019 and that ban was extended to our beaches, national parks, and our forests. We have had very good progress, but we have not fully succeeded. There is a resurgence and I have instructed National Environment Management Authority to move in quickly. We are working hard to strengthen Nema because it has capacity issues. The challenge of plastic resurgence is complicated by the fact that we have porous borders. I’m aware Uganda has also banned, Tanzania has done the same, and even Burundi. I think the challenge is about coherently implementing the ban. At the regional level, EAC is taking that position to ensure we have a regional approach. I think the key solution is that when we have the internally binding instrument on plastics, then all countries will be required to implement it. Meanwhile, consumers should be more responsible in the way they dispose waste and not wait for authorities.
UNEP was to be strengthened. Where are we?
It is important to join other countries and say we want UNEP to be strengthened. This is because a strengthened UNEP can help the rest of the World deal with challenges such as waste and pollution control, biodiversity loss, and climate change. This is important to us given previous attempts to weaken UNEP.
Going forward, we think UNEP should focus on biodiversity loss, climate change, and pollution. UNEP has many roles, capacity building, scientific work, and the convening power for members. We are happy to be the only country in the global south to host UNEP. As a country, we are very determined to implement the nationally determined contributions, which entails the things which we are supposed to deal with.
We celebrate [email protected], looking at UNEP going forward and also looking at the responsibilities that UNEP will be having in coordinating with the World, to deal with challenges facing the planet. Such are climate change, biodiversity and nature loss, and waste pollution management. These are important things that we expect UNEP will handle going forward, together with other member states.
It is for this reason that we will be strengthening UNEP for the generation of the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development. The government is going to play a key role in complementing the UN as a host of UNON and UNEP to ensure, we affirm the centrality of UNEP as a global environmental body.
Edited by Kiilu Damaris