UN Environment Assembly must translate aspirations into actions for a pollution-free planet -President Granger tells UNEA

Georgetown, Guyana – (November 5, 2017) President David Granger, this morning, said that if the theme of this year’s United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), ‘Towards a Pollution Free Planet’ is to be achieved then world leaders must find a way to translate aspiration into action. The Head of State, during his address to the High Level Segment Opening of the Third Session of the UNEA, which is currently underway in Nairobi, Kenya, proposed a four pronged approach, which focuses on (1) information, education and communication, (2) cooperation, (3) international organisation and (4) legislation and regulation.

President David Granger is accompanied by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya (centre) and President Anthony Carmona of Trinidad and Tobago (right) at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Kenya (UNEA photo).

Pointing out that small states are limited in size, human resources, technology and capital, the President said that they cannot effectively eradicate pollution on their own. Small states, therefore, he said need the support of international organisations to propel the processes of public education, international cooperation and capacity-building necessary for ensuring people’s entitlement to a clean and healthy environment. President Granger said that the Assembly must be cognizant of the fact that not all states are created equal and their different endowments must guide the four-pronged approach.

The first approach of his proposed four pronged plan calls for a focus on information, education and communication that extended through a sustained campaign aimed at raising awareness on the urgency of eliminating pollution at the level of citizen, household and community in all countries. “It is not to be assumed that peoples everywhere are aware of the consequences of contamination and pollution. Poverty reduces peoples’ range of choices. Persons in remote areas might be ignorant or uninformed, leading to risk-taking or recklessness,” he said.

Secondly, the President said that cooperation should be strengthened to ensure that states, particularly small states, can benefit from the transfer of technologies and can access international financing to support programmes to reduce pollution.  Thirdly President Granger called for an international mechanism, which drives an organised approach to building partnerships and matches small states with the resources they need fight pollution. “The world needs an international organisation to drive cooperation, collaboration and coordination to ensure a pollution free-planet. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is that organisation. UNEP must be supported, by all members of the United Nations, in fulfilling its mission,” the President said.

But more importantly, the President said that legislation and regulation to promote environmental security must be comprehensive and be backed by robust enforcement. “Much of the pollution in the mining and forestry sectors takes place in remote areas, away from the main population centres. This isolation can conceal lawlessness. It makes it difficult, also, to enforce environmental laws. Given the transnational potential of pollution, municipal laws must reflect the principles of environmentalism contained in international agreements and conventions. A sustained public information and education campaign, the intensification of cooperation, a strong international environmental organisation, and the robust enforcement of environmental laws form the bases for ensuring a safe and healthy environment for all of earth’s citizens,” he said.

To this end, the President said that as Guyana embarks on its journey to becoming a ‘green state,’ it recognises that “… a life of dignity and well-being” is linked to the protection of the environment.

“Guyana is setting aside an additional two million hectares of its land mass for conservation, bringing the total protected area system to 15 percent of the country’s territory. Guyana’s ‘Constitution’ provides that: “Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to his or her well-being.” Conservation is a vital tool in preserving and protecting biodiversity, freshwater sources and the integrity of ecosystems. It promotes the production of environmental services which support life on earth,” he said.

The ‘green state’, he said, can become a model of environmental stewardship. He noted that it can show how small states can play a big role in protecting the world’s air, water and land from the threat of pollution. “A pollution-free planet is consistent with people’s entitlement to live in a clean and healthy environment. It promotes the environmental security of small states. That entitlement can be realised through support for an extensive information, education and communication campaign aimed at raising awareness of environmental responsibility, international cooperation, international organisation and legislation aimed at giving effect to principles of international environmental law,” President Granger said.

The Assembly, which commenced on December 4, 2017, will run until December 6, 2017. According to the UN’s website, this year’s UN Environment Assembly will be a sustainable and climate-neutral event that aims to deliver a number of tangible commitments to end pollution in all its forms.

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