Kenya’s bold decision to ban the manufacture, sale and use of plastic bags is being celebrated as the country hosts the third United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) conference.
The ban, which took effect in June, is seen as a major step towards reduction of plastic-related pollution in Kenya.
Dr Edgar Gutiérrez, the president of the 2017 UNEA, praised Kenya’s efforts in fighting environmental pollution.
He said every country must commit to implement concrete domestic policies and laws to make the planet pollution-free.
Dr Gutiérrez, who is the Minister for Environment and Energy in Costa Rica, said everyone on earth is affected by pollution, hence the need for governments to take decisive measures to address the menace.
“Our collective goal must be to embrace ways to reduce pollution drastically,” said Dr Gutiérrez, adding: “Only through stronger collective action, beginning in Nairobi this week, can we start cleaning up the planet globally and save countless lives.”
At an international press briefing, the global environmental boss said Kenya as the host has set the pace for many other countries by banning plastics and pushing the agenda of eradicating pollution forward.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to join the more than 4,000 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, UN officials and civil society representatives from across the world gathered in Nairobi Tuesday to discuss how to tackle pollution.
The assembly, which runs until Wednesday at the UN Environment Programme (Unep) headquarters at Gigiri, Nairobi, is the highest-level decision-making body on the environment. It brings together governments, entrepreneurs, activists and others to share ideas and commit to action.
Defining the problems
A new report titled Towards a Pollution-Free Planet launched on Monday as the basis for deliberations and defining the problems says everyone is affected by pollution and member states must work together in laying out new action areas.
The report’s recommendations — political leadership and partnerships at all levels; action on the worst pollutions; lifestyle changes; low-carbon tech investments; and advocacy — are based on analysis of pollution in all its forms. They include air, land, freshwater, marine, chemical and waste pollution.
“Overall, environmental degradation causes nearly one in four of all deaths worldwide, or 12.6 million people a year, and the widespread destruction of key ecosystems,” it reads.
More than a dozen resolutions are being discussed at the assembly — including new approaches to tackle air pollution, which is the single-biggest environmental killer, claiming 6.5 million lives each year.
A broader UN Environment policy statement, released ahead of the meeting, highlights the links between events over the past 12 months.
Hurricanes in the Caribbean and the United States, droughts in the Horn of Africa and Yemen and flooding in Bangladesh, India and Europe are all linked to countries’ decisions on their ecosystems, energy, natural resources, urban expansion, infrastructure, production, consumption and waste management.
The policy statement says that technically and commercially viable solutions can improve water and energy efficiency by 60 per cent to 80 per cent in construction, agriculture, transport and other key sectors, while saving $2.9 trillion to $3.7 trillion a year by 2030.