We mark World Environment Day under extremely difficult circumstances. The globe is reeling from the impacts of COVID-19, arguably one of the worst ever global pandemics, as well as the devastating impacts of climate change that continues to push the world as we know it to that dreaded point of no-return.
Even as we applaud the efforts by various stakeholders to respond to these twin challenges of our generation, we note that more efforts are required to surmount these dynamic problems and put the world on a path to recovery.
On this 30th anniversary year of our seminal 2020 Global Human Development Report entitled, “’The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene, UNDP calls for ‘nothing short of a great transformation – in how we live, work and cooperate’ to change the path we are on. The Report explores how to jumpstart that transformation to avert the climate crisis and the biodiversity collapse in a manner that is quite consistent with the theme of this year’s World Environment Day. That important and urgent call for Ecosystem Restoration which recognizes the central role of nature-based solutions in reversing the cumulative negative impacts of anthropogenic actions.
Indeed, the call for Ecosystems Restoration is an urgent one not only in Kenya but the world over. Ecosystems support all forms of life – human life, wildlife, and biodiversity. Protecting ecosystems preserves and protects all life on earth. The year 2021 is an important year, it marks the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration coming at a time when the world races to restore degraded and destroyed ecosystems to fight the climate crisis and enhance food security, water supply and biodiversity. These three aspects are important as they affect all facets of human health and the entire life system that depends on them. The UN believes that rallying everyone – governments, individuals, corporations, and the public – to actively participate in restoring our ecosystem will reverse the negative effects of climate change and eventually heal our planet. We specifically see a very important role for youth to be involved as stewards of this future, that is steadily sliding down a perilous path. Marshaling the energy, innovation, strength, ingenuity, and the positivity within our youth will help us get sustainable solutions to these dynamic challenges. As part of our commitment to involving youth in the development agenda, UNDP is glad to launch its Green Economy Youth Activation Programme (GrEYAP) which seeks to place youth at the very center of this ecosystem restoration journey harnessing the power of technology to plant more trees while creating sustainable businesses across the tree planting and tree growing value chain.
It is important to note that we in the UN applaud the strides that Kenya has taken in participating in the restoration of the various ecosystems. Kenya has made various national, regional, and international commitments to ensure that the country contributes to this call of restoration. The Government of Kenya is committed to contributing towards the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (which will be launched on this World Environment Day). Among others, Kenya has made commitments to the Africa Forest Landscape Initiative (AFR100), updated its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and has developed and is implementing the National Action Programme on the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) since ratifying the convention in 1997. These efforts are a clear demonstration of Kenya’s commitment towards restoration of forest resources and increasing the forest cover to the Constitutional requirement of 10%. The 10% tree cover strategy guides the Government’s activities toward restoration of 5.1 million hectares of deforested and degraded forests and other landscapes by 2022. In addition, in December 2020 Kenya raised its ambition from 30% to 32% greenhouse gas emission reduction by the year 2030 as part of its renewed commitment to ecosystem restoration in the update to its NDC. The Government has also submitted its Land Degradation Neutrality targets to the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD). These are not just simple statements but demonstrate clear commitment by the Government to sustainable development.
UNDP in Kenya works towards helping the government tackle climate change, slow and indeed reverse deforestation trends, increase sustainable farming, and halt the illegal trade of endangered wildlife which will eventually contribute to ecosystem restoration. UNDP’s implementation of programmes such as the REDD+ Readiness Project, Sound Chemicals Management Project, the NDC Support project and the GEF Small Grants Programme, UNDP is firmly committed to Kenya’s quest for sustainable development.
UNDP’s support draws upon our extensive portfolio of expertise across priorities such as energy, forests, water, resilience, agriculture, health, youth, finance, governance, gender equality and green jobs. It also builds upon UNDP’s established track record in supporting governments in over 170 countries to design and deliver sound technical assistance, capacity building and important normative instruments for sustainable development.
UNDP sees nature-based solutions as essential solutions for tackling multiple development challenges: the climate and biodiversity loss crises, inequality and poverty, insecurity, and migration. Restoration and nature-based solutions can deliver one third of the ecosystem restoration needed by 2030 and achieve all the 17 SDGs. UNDP works to increase government, business, and public support for biodiversity conservation, accelerating the actions necessary for systemic change and achievement of global biodiversity goals. As such, UNDP will continue to support the Government of Kenya in domesticating the various Multilateral Environmental Agreements; including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Paris Agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and the Nagoya Protocol, among others – as well as support the government in the formulation of various policies and regulations that sustains Kenya’s leadership globally, regionally and nationally in the area of sustainable development.
I call on all of us to take advantage of this World Environment Day to make a choice to take actions that will restore our degraded ecosystems before it is too late!
By Walid Badawi, UNDP Resident Representative