President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday urged the international community to emulate Kenya’s commitment in ensuring future generations inherit a pollution free world by banning the use of plastic bags in their respective countries.
The President said Kenya had made tremendous progress in dealing with all forms of pollution through robust policy initiatives and will endeavour to take more bold steps to secure a sustainable planet.
He told hundreds of decision-makers from across the world gathered at the third United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-3) in Nairobi that building a sustainable future cannot be treated as an afterthought hence the urgent need for action to protect lives.
Mr Kenyatta said the government ban on plastics, which was praised at the conference, may seem only a small step but its success was enough proof that the world should not give in to pollution.
“My advice is that nations should not heed the sceptics, who say that all countries cannot protect our planet better by banning plastic carrier bags,” said the President.
“If citizens can work with their governments to end such a ubiquitous source of pollution, then they can move on to even bigger, more demanding targets. We now know that maintaining high levels of ambition in fighting pollution is an achievable and positive undertaking,” he said.
President Kenyatta said signing the global air pollution deal will be Kenya’s second major policy stride and show of commitment after the ban on manufacture and use of plastic bags.
“It is now Kenya’s intention to move on to another major anti-pollution project. Soon, we will host the East African Framework Agreement on Air Pollution, building on the Nairobi Agreement of 2008.”
The 2008 Nairobi agreement brought together 11 countries to develop actionable targets to address air pollution.
“In furthering the Agreement on Air Pollution, we hope to repeat the success we have achieved with the ban on plastic carrier bags,” he said.
Kenya will sign the resolutions 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, he assured.
The President spoke at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) at Gigiri in Nairobi, where he opened the High-level segment of the third session of UNEA.
The assembly, which ends today, is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on matters environment, and brings together governments, entrepreneurs, activists and others to share ideas and commit to action.
More than 4,000 participants, including 110 government delegations from across the world are gathered in Nairobi to discuss how to tackle the global menace of pollution.
Kenya, the President said, is bidding to host the second United Nations Oceans Conference in 2020. The first conference was held in New York in June.
The President also urged the Unep to strengthen its functions even as he announced that Kenya will increase its voluntary contributions to the world environmental body.
The President said Kenya remains wholly committed to strengthening and supporting the agency to achieve its noble goals.
“That is why we will increase Kenya’s funding to the organisation in order to support its programmes,” said the President.
“I would also like to encourage other member states to consider raising their voluntary contributions to help Unep discharge its mandate effectively.”
The President of Guyana, Mr David Granger, and the President of Trinidad and Tobago, Mr Anthony Carmona, who spoke at the assembly, praised Kenya for implementing the ban on plastic bags.
President Carmona said through the ban, Kenya has become the hope for humanity.
“Nothing stops Kenya from becoming known as the hope of humanity just as it is known as the cradle of humanity.”
Mr Carmona said he learnt with admiration that the ban on plastic bags in Kenya has resulted in renewed growth in paper and jute industries in the country. He called on the assembly to come up with implementable resolutions that can guide humanity towards intergenerational equity.