Tackling Climate Change during the UNEA Meeting
Bringing Optimism to Build Trust and Political Momentum
Kenya played host to the first ever meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), heralding a new era of “global efforts to address environmental sustainability”. It kicked off in Nairobi from the 23rd-27th of June, 2014 - a lofty affair, attracting environmental ministers from over 180 countries, plus officials from governments and public bodies, economists and others to talk about saving the planet.
This new UN body is of the highest-level ever assembled on the environment - a ground-breaking platform for leadership on global environmental policy – and so this five-day event was an exciting opportunity for Green Belt Movement (GBM) and Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies (WMI) to engage, lobby and network with the highest possible levels of influence; showcasing some of our work on sustainable development, which uses the late Professor Wangari Maathai’s Three Legged Stool Principle. We demonstrated how the pillars are used to help develop communities based on the holistic principles of good governance, equitable distribution of resources, environmental management, and cultivating a culture of peace in order to realize sustainable development. Through this principle GBM continues to train rural women for environmental, economic, and livelihood empowerment.
We also used the meeting to launch the "wPOWER" Project which sees GBM partner with Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace & Environmental studies and the US State department. This project will train women on clean energy and entrepreneurship by unlocking women’s potential in natural resource management and climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies across three East African priority watersheds.
Encouragingly, even though this was the first session of the new body, the UNEA showed itself as a robust policymaking platform and in particular concluded with a major announcement that Kenya would join a programme to combat illegal timber trade in East Africa. We at GBM are very excited at this prospect. In addition 16 other decisions and resolutions were agreed to encourage international action on other major environmental issues from reducing air pollution and biodiversity loss to implementing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) . Financing the Green Economy was also discussed with REDD+ featuring as a key means of transition to a low carbon future.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director at the close of the UNEA meeting shared his thoughts: “In this new forum, UNEP and its partners will be able to provide governments and other policy makers with the science, policy options and platform for international cooperation to more effectively address the environmental dimension of sustainable development.” "The resolutions agreed by Member States at UNEA will help shape the global environmental agenda into the future and will determine collaborative action on priority issues from marine plastic debris and micro plastics to the illegal trade in wildlife."