Being a text of an address by Mr. Siim Kiisler, President of the fourth UN Environment Assembly and Ms. Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment at the opening plenary of Fourth United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya.
Honourable Minister Siim Kissler, Minister of Environment for Estonia and President of the fourth UN Environment Assembly
My colleague, Maimunah Sharif, Acting Director General of UN Office in Nairobi and Executive Director of UN Habitat
The Honourable Minister of Environment of the Republic of Kenya, Keriako Tobiko
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
Please allow me to begin by expressing our condolences to the victims and all those affected by the Ethiopian airlines crash yesterday. You are all in our thoughts this week.
Welcome to the Fourth United Nations Environment Assembly or as we say in Kiswahili: Karibu kwenye Bunge la Nne la Umoja wa Mataifa
We are here today because we share a common sense of purpose.
We can no longer delay taking action to protect people and this planet.
And the good news is that around the world, there are many examples of people, governments, enterprises and civil society that are not willing to wait to change our collective future.
In Cameroon, farmers use solar-powered driers to dry cassava crop. This means they can store what they produce for longer and get a better price in the market. In the Philippines, a textiles startup collects waste and transforms them into footwear and fashion accessories. And in Sri Lanka, affordable electric conversion kits aim to transform the iconic tuk tuk. So we’re not starting from scratch.
These innovations challenge the very basis of how we treat our planet. We can no longer grow now and clean up later.
We have reached the planet’s limits and we have the power to do so.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is clear that we need to transform the way we live, how we produce and the choices we make.
We have grown at the expense of nature and it is time to take a 360-degree u-turn.
And we have compelling science that lays out the urgency with which we must act.
Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report saying that we must quickly and drastically reduce our climate-warming emissions. A few weeks later, UN Environment’s Emissions Gap Report concluded that, in order to avoid a rise of more than 1.5°C in global temperatures, we need to step up climate action five times.
So what could this transformation look like?
One, we need to move quickly to a low carbon, green economy that by 2050, reduces fossil fuel use by 80 percent.
Two, it is time to be kinder to the environment in how we produce food, reducing the environmental impact of food production by two thirds.
Three, we need to achieve a near-zero waste economy by 2050. Circularity must be the driving force of the future we want.
This week, thousands of us are gathering here in Nairobi. Your commitment sends a strong signal that we can achieve these ambitions.
The presence of almost 100 ministers of the environment demonstrates that political will is not in short supply. Partnerships will be the glue that bind us together because a healthy planet depends on us all.
Innovation will be the heartbeat of the transformation we want and this cannot happen by itself. Policies and incentives to spur innovation and sustainable consumption and production must be backed by efforts to build implementation capacity.
And I am so proud that we will have many civil society organizations, governments, social enterprises and companies here at the Assembly who will be demonstrating the power of innovation in reducing poverty, powering businesses and achieving sustainable development.
The appetite to change the way we live and consume does exist. UN Environment Programme’s Solve Different campaign aims to inspire us to change the choices we all make in our daily lives and I am excited to report that we have already recorded more than 2.7 million positive choices aiming to reduce the environmental costs of consumption and production models.
More than 4,000 delegates from 170 countries will be at the Assembly this week. I challenge you all to join the global push and share your commitments using the Solve Different hashtag and I look forward to reporting our progress on March 15.
I ask us all to be open, optimistic and bold. And to focus on the end goal – which is to ensure the collective well-being of all people on this planet.
To close in the words of the UN Secretary-General: “In this fast-changing world, standing still means falling further behind.”
So let’s move ahead!