NAIROBI, June 24 — The inaugural meeting of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) kicked off in Nairobi on Monday with Kenya pledging to adopt a low carbon emission strategy to achieve its national development agenda.
The five-day meeting brought together hundreds of environment ministers, decision makers, scientists, civil society representatives and business leaders who are expected to tackle growing global challenges.
In her opening remarks, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary of Environment, Water and Natural Resources Judi Wakhungu told the gathering that the strategy will help prevent environmental degradation.
"Kenya plans to achieve economic growth side by side with lower carbon emissions," Wakhungu told over 1000 delegates from around the world. Wakhungu said that Kenya is switching towards a greener economy.
"We are currently investing in green energy solutions by taping geothermal, solar and wind power," she said. The CS urged the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to provide leadership in developing environmental policies.
"This will allow the world to attain the Sustainable Development Goals. However, there is need for increased financial support bearing in mind that the global environmental challenge continues to grow," Wakhungu said.
"We have opportunity to develop innovative practical solutions to stop further degradation of the environment," the environment cabinet secretary said.
According to the government official, it is only through cooperation we can overcome environmental challenges.
The first ever UNEA meeting is tackling the major issues such as illegal trade in wildlife, air quality and pollution environmental rule of law, financing the Green Economy, the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, including sustainable consumption and production.
The President of the UNEA Hassan Hilal said the international community has agreed to strengthen and upgrade UNEP so that it will become the leading global environmental authority.
"This will help in efforts to integrate environmental protection into all facets of life," he said. Hilal, who is also the Sudan's Minister of Environment, adding that there is need for a global and coherent implementation of environmental strategy.
"This will ensure that all government actions promote environmental protection," he said. Hilal noted the challenge of increasing climate change variability is a phenomenon that is threatening arid and semi rid areas.
These environments are naturally fragile and less resilience to climate change and are predominantly home to rural households.
"This vulnerability combined with high population growth and rapid industrialization creates an environment that demands urgent attention. So the world must respond energetically to emerging environmental challenges," he added.
Last year, there was a global agreement on the control of mercury as well as biodiversity protection.
The global community is not able to reach environment targets it had set, the environment minister said.
"We know about the alarming rates of degradation of the ecosystem which sustains livelihoods of millions of people," he said.
"The international community must strengthen the resolve to ensure we adopt sustainable development pathways so as to realize more inclusive growth," he said.
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said that the UNEA is coming at a time when the world is concerned about environmental issues.
He said that the assembly will provide government and other policy makers with science tools and innovation required to consolidate environmental stewardship to support sustainable development.
"Environment is now on the same level as peace, security, health and trade. But it is up to governments and parties to translate pledges into action to demonstrate we can move towards a more sustainable future," Steiner said.
"The fact that for the first time all member states of the United Nations will be represented in UNEA means increased legitimacy, representation of all voices across the spectrum of both regional and developmental realities, and empowerment of the Ministers responsible for the environment," he added.
United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) Director General Sahle-Work Zewde said that the UNEA will make strategic decisions that will guide the planet for next generation.
Zewde, who is also the United Nations Undersecretary General, said that the first UNEA will implement recommendations of the the Rio plus 20 decisions on sustainable development.
"It will also inform the decisions at the United Nations General Assembly for the post 2015 agenda," she said. (PNA/Xinhua)