Unep’s new status seen boosting war on climate change

Delegates sit during a meeting at the UNEP Gigiri complex in Nairobi, October 2, 2012. File
Delegates sit during a meeting at the UNEP Gigiri complex in Nairobi, October 2, 2012. File 

Kenya is banking on the elevated status of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) to put environment issues at the centre of global business and bolster the war against climate change.

As Unep’s host country, developing nations look up to Kenya to push for responsible use of the environment and compensation for having to adjust to climate change.

While opening the Universal Session of Unep Governing Council and Global Ministerial Forum in Nairobi on Monday, President Kibaki said an upgraded Unep would be efficient in handling environmental issues which the world has been grappling with.

“Kenya appreciates various developments that will contribute to the enlargement of Unep’s coordination mandate within the UN system,” President Kibaki said.

The meeting marked the first time that the powerful organ was meeting since the UN General Assembly endorsed the outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference held in Brazil last year which enhanced its status.

Mr Kibaki noted that the new universal character of the Governing Council would give the global environmental body the legitimacy and authority that it lacked under the previously limited membership.

Apart from universal membership, the elevated Unep enjoys secure and increased financial resources, consolidation of the headquarter’s functions, and strengthened engagement with key UN bodies.

“It is our hope that with enhanced coordination and coherence, there will be greater participation by member states in environmental diplomacy,” said Mr Kibaki.

He urged the council to adopt decisions that support the spirit of the Rio Outcome Document and allow environment ministers to provide the necessary leadership for attainment of sustainable development objectives.

Poor financing has in the past relegated Unep to the position of helpless fence-sitter as developing countries battle with their rich counterparts over management of the environment.

In his statement, read on his behalf by Director-General in charge of Nairobi UN Office Sahle-Work Zewde, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the general assembly was discussing provision of additional resources for Unep.

The universal membership and funding would greatly empower Unep to provide the science and analysis needed to sustainably manage developmental demands of a growing population, he said.

“In the coming months, I will count on Unep to help carry forward some of the key Rio+20 outcomes, including the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production and the formulation of sustainable development goals,” said Mr Ban.