GAZI BAY, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Putting on gumboots and armed with clubs and machetes, Hassam Bakari, 44, a forest guard in Makongeni mangrove fishing village at Gazi Bay along Kenya’s coastline slashes through a thick canopy, making his way along a trail of mixed shrub trees in swamps.
Hassam is among over 400 community members of the Mikoko Pamoja (in Swahili meaning Mangroves Together) project driving the expansion of Kenya’s first blue carbon credit scheme, providing multiple income generating activities and fighting climate change in the region.
“We now protect this area day and night because the livelihood and future of our children depends on these mangroves,” Hassam said during a visit of researchers and environment experts to the mangrove restoration project in the run up to the UN Environment General Assembly on December 2, 2017.
Like Hassam, the people of this coastal community say they are giving their all to make the mangrove restoration project a global reference, but for lack of financial means the impetus for expansion and protection is coming from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), via the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP.
According to Anne Wanjoru, Social impact officer of Mikoko Pamoja, the expansion of the mangrove restoration project had become necessary following increasing acceptance of the population to engage fully in the project.
“The population are now willing to voluntarily participate and this is driving the expansion and protection scheme of the project, “Anne said.
The expansion phase of the project that started in 2015 with funding of 100.000 dollars from GEF via
UNEP has seen the acres of the mangrove forest of Mikoko Pamoja increase by 117 bringing the total size of mangroves in Makonzeni, Gazi and Chale to 615 acres.
For the local population this means more income not only from a surging carbon credit sales, but also a multiplication of income generating activities.
“We are getting more and more tourists, scientists, researchers visiting and this means big markets for our fish, handicraft, restaurant business and improved income for the population,” says Jesphat Mmtwan the project coordinator.
The new community plan of action is not only limited to expansion. Efforts at protection have more than double. Every household in the community sends representatives to act as forest guards.
“We are one family here and need to protect what we have toiled to put together,” said Mohamed Ardi, another fisher man and trader in Gazi bay.
A tower of over 40 meters high has been constructed to permit community forest guards have an overview of the area against invaders while a 450 meters broad walk also set up not only to permit tourists and other visitors get a better appreciation of the rich mangrove forest but also to reinforce security, the project officials say.
The expansion of Gazi bay mangrove has made the project the biggest in Africa according to UNEP programme management officer, Gabriel Grimsditch.
On a global scale, the restoration expansion will serve as a push to ongoing drive towards including mangroves in the national Redd+ action plan and strategies.
Mangroves, scientists say has a higher capacity of capturing carbon than biomass (terrestrial rianforest trees).
According James Kairo, chief scientist with the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, KMFRI , pitlands in mangroves store three times more carbon than terrestrial rainforest.
The biggest storage on carbon is in the soil and in mangrove areas, tidal movement make sediments get trapped by mangroves and there is build up of carbon storage, he explains.
“Mangroves are unique tropical forest with an exceptional ability to capture and store carbon,” Kairo says.
The Gazi Mangrove project for example stores over 3000 tonnes of carbon per year which is sold at over 12,000 US dollars annually according to statistics from KMFRI. The carbons are bought mostly by Earth Watch and the money obtained is ploughed back into development projects in the community, the villagers benefiting from the projects admit.
Money obtained from sale of carbon credits is used to buy books for children and equip schools, making it easier and encouraging for parents to send their children to school, a complete break from a long standing tradition where children were initiated into fishing and many abandoned school because their parents could not afford.
“Schools in Gazi and Makongeni have been reconstructed with more classrooms, textbooks distributed to pupils for free and this has encouraged many more parents to send their children to school,” says Anne Wanjiru.
The Mangrove forest in the area had in the past suffered from serious degradation by activities of, commercial loggers, and industries dealing with wood from mangroves as well as local fishing community members smoking fish. The community members say illegal and abusive mangrove cutting use to scare fish away making life perilous for the fishing communities of Makongeni, Chale and Gazi villages.
“We could hardly get fish even to eat, talk less of selling to earn income to support our families and send our children to school,” says Josephat Mnwarima, fisherman and coordinator of the Mikoko Pamoja mangroves restoration and protection project.
But now things have changed for the better according to members of the fishing community.
“I now catch three times more fish than I used to before 2010,” says Wanga Ahmed a fisherman from Wasini Island one of the villages in the area.
He expresses hope that with the ongoing expansion scheme, their community will in the future by a haven for varied species of fish bringing more income and better living condition to the population
UNEP says the mangrove forest expansion scheme is a global project also happening in other countries in the continent like Madagascar, Mozambique.
“UNEP is supporting similar initiatives in other countries in the continent,” Gabriel says.
However the scheme is not without challenges.
“We have had a series of challenges driving the expansion scheme,” he admits.
These include difficulties in carrying out scientific assessment of carbon stocks, getting the mostly illiterate village communities understand the importance of the project and also getting more buyers of carbon stocks.
“We also have problems of leakages. In the course of protecting one area we sometimes discover the mangrove cutters have relocated to other areas,” Gabriel says.
As solution, he says UNEP is supporting the planting of casuarina trees, a specie that grows quickly for wood used by locals thus preventing the cutting of mangroves.
African authorities have saluted the support by development stakeholders to the Kenyan local community mangrove conservation initiative to fight climate change, calling on the project to be replicated in other coastal regions in the continent.
“We have to be proud of our continent and support good practices that serves as world model like the local community-led mangrove conservation efforts in Kenya. In the next African environment ministers meeting in South Africa 2018 efforts at replicating such initiative will be put on the table,” announced Pacome Moubelet Boubeya, President of African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, at the ongoing UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya.
“The future of food – if the biosphere and her humanity are to be sustained – is local, organic, permaculture exchanged without intermediaries.” – Dr. Glen Barry
The global environment is collapsing and dying. For too long we have lived our lives as if nature doesn’t matter and have failed to embrace an ecology ethic. We have treated water, air, land, and oceans as resources to be plundered and as waste dumps. Nothing grows forever – certainly not economies on the back of finite ecological systems – and mass psychosis pretending infinite growth is possible is a death wish.
Such ecological imprudence is now catching up with us, threatening our very daily bread.
Climate change is having profound impacts upon agricultural systems including a lack of regular seasonality. That is, the boundaries between cold and warm, and dry and wet, periods have become highly variable. In much of the world this makes it difficult to know when to grow your food. Knowing when to plant and when to harvest is becoming extremely problematic and this aseasonality is decreasing yields. This climate weirding is the direct result of our haphazard changing of atmospheric chemistry.
Climate change is making it more difficult to grow food the way we have been. Huge swathes of farmland are faced by droughts and floods. Temperate region’s lack of cold weather and snow has meant an increase in agricultural pests. Similarly, factory animal agriculture and fisheries are being hammered from disease, parasites, and decreased feed stocks brought on by abrupt climate change.
Shifting seasonality, and at times even a lack of seasonality, simply exacerbate problems associated with industrial farming. Modern agriculture consumes massive amounts of fossil fuels which cause both warming and are finite. Factory animal farming’s prodigious amounts of fecal waste become even more toxic in the heat. Increasingly toxic GMO Frankenseeds are being peddled in conjunction with a soup of dangerous chemicals as a means to keep production high.
Our increased dependence upon limited genotypes mean that one crop or animal disease could swiftly kill vast amounts of agricultural products ushering in massive price increases and widespread hunger. Soils are eroding and becoming less fertile due to increased industrial intensification.
Any increase in plant growth from increased temperatures and/or carbon dioxide is quickly eliminated as another limiting factor such as water and nutrient availability goes unmet. In many cases rising temperatures simply kill plants. And the food that is grown is often stressed and thus contains fewer nutrients. The end result of climate stressed industrial agriculture is low quality junk foods that are killing our bodies and our planet. Much of the over-developed world is addicted to the sugar and additives found in this industrially produced crap.
As the global food supply becomes more precarious and subject to unexpected extreme weather events, the global population continues to soar, and has now reached approximately 7.5 billion people.
Already nearly one billion people experience chronic hunger, sapping their soul and energy, and providing limited opportunity for a healthy and fulfilling life. Billions of emerging consumers now view steaks and hamburgers as their birthright, with all the attendant medical and ecological costs. In much of the world the cost of food is by far the greatest expenditure, and quality food is increasingly expensive in over-developed nations as well.
The world’s agricultural system is weak and vulnerable to major disruption that will soon result in an international famine of the sort that already ravages numerous nations such as Haiti and Somalia. Abrupt climate change may well be the final straw that ushers in global mass hunger and collapse into the bad sort of anarchy.
It is difficult to communicate the horrors that await us if the globe faces widespread failure of food systems. Suffice it to say that post-modern collapse will utterly strip cosmopolitan consumers of technological vestiges of comfort including variety of high-quality and nutritious food. Rural areas will face a shortage of open-pollinating seed due to seed monopolies, and lack of traditional farming know how. Everyday life will be a struggle to avoid murder, find food, and otherwise meet basic needs. Sadly this is already the reality for a billion people who live in abject poverty, and soon it will be all our fates if we don’t change.
It is increasingly probable that climate change will precipitate a massive crop failure on a global scale. Perhaps America’s wheat and corn crops fail. Or globally a drought persists for years that wrecks the majority of Earth’s foodstocks. Or a super pathogen takes out genetically modified corn. One can expect in our lifetime for periods where the supermarkets are mostly empty and each of us left to persist from what we can raise, exchange, or gather locally.
Imagine the coming horror of starvation in the heartland as formerly petite bourgeoisie experience the depredations of the street people they once ignored.
The solutions are difficult yet known. We must re-localize our agriculture systems. More of our food must be grown in our own bioregion, and exchanged and consumed locally. Much more of our population is going to have to find employment in growing food. Every human being will be called upon to grow an increasing percentage of their own food, and bartering and otherwise exchanging their surplus with those nearby.
The use of fossil fuels must be eliminated from the global food chain. Factory animal feedlots must be eliminated and whatever meat is produced come from time-tested small scale animal husbandry practices (or when desired eliminated).
Monocultures protected with synthetic toxic pesticides and herbicides are literally death traps. We must return to inter-cropping and no-till agriculture that focuses upon maintaining the soil’s structure and fertility. The emphasis must be upon organic food production and permaculture from natural seed stocks, whereby the boundaries between natural ecosystems, tree crops, and food crops are not strictly delineated.
Permaculture is committed to realizing the full potential of righteous land and soil management to benefit the community’s well-being including both high quality food and ecosystems. Increasingly our forest tree crops and traditional garden vegetables will be intermingled, to the extent feasible given a bioregion’s flora, as forests and gardens merge.
In general an agro-ecology ethic requires a profound shift in global consciousness to re-embrace our oneness with nature. Industrial agriculture has viewed natural ecosystems as decadent wastelands that should be destroyed, rather than embracing them as the ecosystem engines that make the biosphere habitable. And which provide the genetic seed stocks and inspiration for constructing semi-natural productive ecosystems.
Continued exponential growth in human populations, particularly as some have so much as many have so little, can only result in global ecological collapse. Human population growth must be limited with urgency through incentives, and educating all girls and boys, including in the use of contraception; or the global environmental system will seek balance far more harshly. And there is no path to food sustainability that does not include reducing military expenditures, a basic income, and more sharing. Fairness is not communism.
In sum, much more work must be done to achieve the balance between natural and semi-natural productive ecosystems necessary to sustain Earth, her humanity, and all creatures. My peer-reviewed science “Terrestrial Ecosystem Loss and Biosphere Collapse” suggests that 2/3 of Earth’s land mass must remain as ecosystems, 2/3 of which must be natural ecosystems (44%), and 1/3 semi-natural permaculture and other productive ecosystems (22%).
Or we face biosphere collapse and the end of being.
The future of food – if the biosphere and her humanity are to be sustained – is local, organic, permaculture exchanged without intermediaries.
EcoInternet is committed to re-localizing, de-toxifying, and making global food systems ecologically sustainable. We are in the process of creating Internet resources which will help fulfill this vision. And we could use your help. More soon on these exciting initiatives.
NYAKACH, Kenya (PAMACC News) - For 25 year old Jacinta Akoth Ocholla from a village in Nyakach sub-county, Kisumu County of South Western Kenya, the small kerosene tin lamp before her, is just, but a painful reminder of a dark past. What she wants to forget is the poor lighting she grew up in; cost and pollution.
She used this lamp for her studies, and just last month, Solar Now BV, a clean energy company, installed a strip of solar panels and 7 lamps on the roof of their village house. And now the painful story of kerosene is almost a forgotten one. Solar Now operates renewable energy projects across East Africa with about 50 branch distribution networks in Uganda alone.
And when she was asked to display kerosene tin lantern recently - for visitors who wanted to compare its light and that of the solar lamps in their house, - Akoth quickly lost the warm spark on her face. It was visible.
This, equally affected her 70-year old mother, Regina Ocholla who was more than ready to demonstrate the good things about the one month they had used solar. She enjoyed a momentary happiness reading a verse from her old bible for the visitors.
Both, mother and daughter, felt kerosene tin lantern was a reminder of a dark past.
“For the time I have lived I didn't know that one day we will have light at night in this home. Today, for the last one month we have light in this house, day and night,” she said.
Even though some of the homesteads in the area including the Ochollas, are connected to government Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) programme, this system has been seen as unreliable.
“The new solar system, besides delivering clean lighting, is reliable and sufficient than the government line, which, out of the seven days of the week, lasts only three days forcing us to switch to the kerosene option,” Akoth added.
Both of them however, shared positive messages about the solar system. About five people in that family charge their mobile telephones using the system. Now, it is even an income earner for the family. “We charge other peoples' phones here too but at Ksh10 per person. The money we get is used to buy some of the basic items like sugar,” she added.
Mrs. Ocholla said, the solar lighting is a blessing to the family. Besides being in the process of addressing the health issues associated with the small kerosene tin lamp, the family has been able to avoid the paraffin costs.
“We used roughly Ksh800 or even up to Ksh1000 every month for paraffin alone, but that's now history,” said Mrs. Ocholla. The family used to buy kerosene worthy Ksh20 every day to service four kerosene lamps, locally known as nyangile.
Compared to the cost of paraffin for a year that goes to around Ksh12,000 a year and the cost of indoor pollution that comes with the toxic spewing lamp, with an initial deposit of Ksh42, 850 and monthly instalments of Ksh8, 100, Akoth and her family could be able to acquire a 150 watts solar system to light their 7 lamps. This, according to Victor Ndiege saves the family the lifetime cost of paraffin and health hazards that accompany the use of the toxic fuel.
Ndiege is the Portfolio Manager for Renewable Energy and Adaptation to Climate Technologies (REACT) at the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) .
Annually, he said, African households and small businesses spend upwards of US $17 billion (Ksh170 billion) on lighting, mainly kerosene. “Many households spend up to 30 percent of their disposable income purchasing fuel. The technology is inefficient and expensive, provides limited and poor quality light, and exposes users to health and fire hazards,” he added.
Wood and charcoal make up about 90 percent of the primary energy supply in sub Saharan Africa (SSA), presenting environmental and livelihood challenges as nearly 4 million hectares of forest are lost each year, adding to the degradation of water catchments and soil erosion.
The AECF, a US$304 million (Ksh30.4 billion) private sector challenge fund provides catalytic funding to enterprises in 24 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The fund supports innovative commercial businesses in the agribusiness, renewable energy and adaptation to climate change technology sectors with the aim of reducing rural poverty, promoting resilient rural communities and creating jobs through private sector development.
“We invest in businesses that are seen as high risky and therefore struggle to meet traditional risk-return standards set by commercial lenders. We invest in business that offer significant impact on poverty alleviation by creating jobs and sustainable incomes for rural people,” Ndiege adds.
Therefore after seeing the benefits of the solar system, though just in one month of installation, Mrs. Ocholla confided to The East African that her son, Alloys Ocholla is planning to buy a television set for the family.
“I know this is going to bring in more money if we also install some football screening channels so that we can show English Premier League matches here. We will cut the distance young men use to go to the shopping centre to watch these games- which is 3 kilometres away,” the daughter, Akoth quickly adds.
She is a victim of poverty that she was not even able to complete her secondary education. “I dropped from studies at Form 2,” she said. This could also be linked partly to lack of sufficient light, besides other challenges.
The paraffin smoking lamp is mostly the only affordable, but equally costly lighting and cooking fuel option for millions of rural Kenyans.
Statistics with the United Nation's World Health Organisation (WHO) show that an estimated 14,000 people in Kenya die annually from health conditions which can be traced back to indoor pollution. Kerosene is one of the major contributors.
These fuels such as charcoal, wood and lighting sources release pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, poly-aromatic hydrocarbons and particulate matter in different sizes.
The Ochollas are benefitting from SolarNow's “PayPlan” model that sells and distributes high-quality modular solar PV home systems (SHS) with an end-user credit facility. Through its “PayPlan” model Alloys Ocholla - who is paying for the installation has six months to complete its purchase starting mid-January 2018. “After paying the full amount, I would have totally buried the problems light poverty in our homestead,” Alloys said.
The company provides free transportation and installation of the system; a two-year warranty and five years of maintenance and service to the installation.
SolarNow, the Kampala based enterprise through a network of trained and authorized solar dealers and entrepreneurs in rural Uganda and Kenya - who distribute its products - has evolved as an asset finance company providing end user finance to facilitate access to its expanded product range for households, small businesses, retail services for rural industries as well as farming activities.
Its operations are complimented by AECF's funding facility and are seen to change the lives of individuals in rural east Africa areas.
“We started in Uganda as a simple solar panels maker in 2006 and moved to Tanzania. Almost immediately we also started a Foundation through which we deliver solar services on credit. Our customer base is growing gradually targeting the bottom of the pyramid consumers of our services. AECF was the initial financier,” Ronald Schuurhuizen, SolarNow Business Development Director said.
SolarNow BV has established over 50 branch distribution networks complete with a logistics infrastructure to ensure an efficient distribution network.
The arrangement costing the company up to US$2 million (Ksh200 million) of investment according to Schuurhuizen has enabled the company to reach over 18,000 households (90, 000 people) and create about 500 full time jobs in Uganda; installed about 750 kWp of power leading to a reduction of about 390 tonnes of CO2 equivalent annually.
In 2017, SolarNow BV expanded its services to Western Kenya, and in its strategic plan, by the end of 2018, it should have set up about 25 branches. Schuurhuizen said the company is eyeing Lodwar, North of Nairobi and Nakuru in its expansion plan. “We are putting up to US$1 million (Ksh100 million) in this plan,” he added.
He said 60 branches are sufficient to deliver solar energy lights and water pumps for irrigation.
In Matungu, Kakamega, Rukia Wakhu cannot afford but smile. A leader of Vumilia Women Group, one of the several self-help rural women entities who have christened themselves Smart Thinkers, Rukia is making money besides experiencing the benefits of solar energy light. Thanks to Newlight Africa Limited which trades as Heya.
At home in Mayoni, she demonstrated how the Omnivoltaic pilot x (ovPilot x) produces bright light even during the day. Her seven children out of eight can now do their after-school studies up to 11 pm, and still wake up at 4am for morning studies before going back to school.
“In the past my children could not study beyond 9pm. Most of the times, the kerosene lanterns could go dry forcing them to go to bed in darkness. Besides seeing the reduction in pollution from the kerosene lamps, we have also witnessed improved school marks,” she said.
She said it takes up to 5 days of using after charging it fully. It can still be used to charge up to 10 mobile phones every day. “Women in the chamas I manage, bring home more money compared to the past from their small businesses,” Rukia said.
She just needed one-day training to become an agent of this company. Since April 2017 she has sold about 30 boxes of Omnivoltaic pilot x (ovPilot x) 1, 2 and 3 solar lamps. For a woman who only depended on a one acre to feed, clothe and educate her 8 children, making Kshs6, 000 from every box is not a mean feat.
“I deposited an initial Ksh2, 200 being payment for one lamp but they gave me 10 that I pay Sh300 per week installments for 10 weeks to cover the required cost for pieces at point of delivery,” she added.
Ismail Makokha, Newlight Africa Limited Field Sales Representative and trainer on the use and management of the solar lamp gadgets smiles broadly when asked how he managed to bring together 94 agents in Matungu sub-county alone. This is where Facebook tycoon Mark Zuckerberg's "Move fast and break things" business remark mattered.
Since the lamp was small and difficult to sell he had to invent a way. This is besides the training programmes.
“I realised that necessity is the mother of invention. With the number of funeral meetings in this area growing by the day, and vigil going deep into the night, I had to frequent a number of homesteads where I provided free light from the ovPilot solar lamps. I hanged one in every such home, and the light it could supply was amazing. People liked it and that's how it started to sell,” he said.
He sold 60 pieces in 6 packs each within two months between April and June, 2017. That gave him a head start. His returns demonstrates the rising number of sales agents, and eventually it created employment for many.
Zainab Muranda has even forgotten how her small kitchen outside the main looks. Several months ago she spent hours every day in this structure - powering firewood with a steel pipe amid violent coughs - in order to be able to cook for a family of eight.
“However, since I was introduced to the Safi Gas Cooker, an Ethanol powered cookstove even my health has improved. I have also seen reduction of firewood fuel smoke in the compound. No dirt like that of charcoal, no smell on food and it is friendly to operate,” she said.
She deposited Ksh1, 500 with Newlight Africa Limited, that is Ksh1, 000 for the stove and Ksh500 for the Ethanol. Under a payment plan Ksh300 per month, she was able to cover the Ksh5, 700 asking price for the energy efficient environmental friendly cookstove.
Head of Sales Global at Newlight Africa Limited, Jakob Werner said the company is focused on covering base of pyramid last mile customers, mainly those not covered by on-grid power. “We are giving them access to these clean energy products so that as we grow we are also able to alleviate power poverty and other affiliated problems such as unemployment,” he added.
Pauline Mbayah, AECF Director of Strategy & Partnerships told The East African that the organization's key focus is to address market failures by plugging in the gaps where the government cannot reach, in the case of electricity.
However, the AECF, she said puts money in the private sector where partnering companies prove they can leverage what is invested.
“We invest subject to research. We put money where no one has bothered to invest. As AECF, we identify companies that do environmental friendly products that are quality and capable of addressing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These companies must also demonstrate that they can leverage with the same amount of money we provide on interest-free grants,” she said.
The conversation on how people are going to access quality reliable energy products both off-grid power connections, agribusiness and cooking in Nyanza and Western Kenya regions, she said was growing and needed attention.
She said the AECF is currently designing a youth fund to address the gap left by aging farmers so that young people can be attracted into agribusiness. “This way the ever unending unemployment headache can be addressed,” she added.
Some of these challenges according to Ndiege are being addressed within the REACT funding window which is demonstrating how renewable energy technologies and businesses have the potential to reach Africa’s rural communities.
“Through REACT funding, the AECF has shown that private sector innovation has the potential to reach people in ways that large-scale government investment in grid extension and climate adaptation infrastructure struggle to deliver,” he underscored with a specific reference to Climate change which has the potential of reducing agricultural yields, increase water scarcity and the frequency of extreme weather in developing countries.
He said - in six years – the AECF's REACT funding window has committed over US$83 million (Ksh8.3 billion) to 68 companies implementing innovative business models that provide increased access to clean energy, financial services and climate smart solutions for the rural poor. SolarNow BV and Newlight Africa Limited are part of the companies the AECF is partnering with.
“Our main focus areas are; increased access to low cost, clean energy for rural businesses and households,” he said.
Some of them include cost effective renewable power, commercially viable renewable fuels and other clean energy alternatives; products and services that help rural people and smallholder farmers adapt to climate change; financial services that increase access to finance for low cost, clean energy and climate resilient technologies that are used to catalyse financial solutions.
“For instance, with the current power generation trends showing a clear failure to keep pace with both rural and urban demands in Africa, it is evident that the population without electricity will increase steadily until at least 2025. To worsen the scenario is the high cost of grid extension to the remote areas of the continent,” he said attributing this scenario as encouraging funding in these areas.
Since energy is a binding constraint on growth in many African countries, especially in rural areas Ndiege said the AECF has just completed a five-year funding agreement with Sweden International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), for REACT Sub-Saharan Africa valued at US $48 million (Ksh4.8 billion) to support Africa’s renewable energy sector.
This programme which is currently at its inception phase, will support private sector companies to accelerate access to clean energy solutions by rural communities in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The funding competition will commence in June 2018.
PAMACC News (NAIROBI, Kenya)
The world today committed to a pollution-free planet at the close of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, with resolutions and pledges promising to improve the lives of billions across the globe by cleaning up our air, land and water.
If every promise made in and around the summit is met, 1.49 billion more people will breathe clean air, 480,000 km (or around 30 per cent) of the world’s coastlines will be clean, and USD 18.6 billion for research and development and innovative programmes to combat pollution will come online.
“The science we have seen at this assembly shows we have been so bad at looking after our planet that we have very little room to make more mistakes,” said Dr. Edgar Gutiérrez, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica and the President of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly.
“With the promises made here, we are sending a powerful message that we will listen to the science, change the way we consume and produce, and tackle pollution in all its forms across the globe.”
Over 4,000 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, UN officials, civil society representatives, activists and celebrities gathered at the summit in Nairobi, which ran for three days.
For the first time at a UN Environment Assembly, environment ministers issued a declaration. This declaration said nations would honour efforts to prevent, mitigate and manage the pollution of air, land and soil, freshwater, and oceans – which harms our health, societies, ecosystems, economies, and security.
The declaration committed to increasing research and development, targeting pollution through tailored actions, moving societies towards sustainable lifestyles based on a circular economy, promoting fiscal incentives to move markets and promote positive change, strengthening and enforcing laws on pollution, and much more.
The assembly also passed 13 non-binding resolutions and three decisions. Among them were moves to address marine litter and microplastics, prevent and reduce air pollution, cut out lead poisoning from paint and batteries, protect water-based ecosystems from pollution, deal with soil pollution, and manage pollution in areas hit by conflict and terrorism.
“Today we have put the fight against pollution high on the global political agenda,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “We have a long struggle ahead of us, but the summit showed there is a real appetite for significant positive change.
“It isn’t just about the UN and governments, though. The massive support we have seen from civil society, businesses and individuals – with millions of pledges to end pollution – show that this is a global challenge with a global desire to win this battle together.”
A large part of the impact from the assembly comes from global support. UN Environment’s #BeatPollution campaign hit almost 2.5 million pledges during the event, with 88,000 personal commitments to act.
Chile, Oman, South Africa and Sri Lanka all joined the #CleanSeas campaign during the Nairobi summit, with Sri Lanka promising to implement a ban on single-use plastic products from 1 January 2018, step up the separation and recycling of waste, and set the goal of freeing its ocean and coasts of pollution by 2030. There are now 39 countries in the campaign.
Colombia, Singapore, Bulgaria, Hungary and Mongolia joined 100 cities who were already in the #BreatheLife campaign, which aims to tackle air pollution. Every signatory has committed to reduce air pollution to safe levels by 2030, with Singapore promising to tighten fuel and emissions standards for vehicles, and emissions standards for industry.
The global momentum comes not a moment too soon, as the UN Environment report, The Executive Director’s Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet, lays out.
Overall, environmental degradation causes nearly one in four of all deaths worldwide, or 12.6 million people a year, and the widespread destruction of key ecosystems. Air pollution is the single biggest environmental killer, claiming 6.5 million lives each year.
Exposure to lead in paint causes brain damage to 600,000 children annually. Our seas already contain 500 “dead zones” with too little oxygen to support marine life. Over 80 per cent of the world’s wastewater is released into the environment without treatment, poisoning the fields where we grow our food and the lakes and rivers that provide drinking water to 300 million people.
There is also a huge economic cost. A recent report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health says that welfare losses due to pollution are estimated at over USD 4.6 trillion each year, equivalent to 6.2 per cent of global economic output.
“We had two missions at this assembly,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, UN Environment’s deputy head. “One [agreeing on action] is accomplished. The second we must start tomorrow.”