by Peter Mutai and Bedah Mengo
NAIROBI, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- Ministers of environment from more than 100 countries began a week-long meeting in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday to discuss ways of adopting a green economy to improve capital base and ecosystem services.
The ministers attending the 26th UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum also said governments have a key role in changing laws and policies to make the transition to green economy possible.
In his opening remarks, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki reaffirmed that the government was tapping into the country's abundance of renewable energy to secure a future that was based on a sustainable green economy.
"Kenya is committed to playing its role as host of UNEP and the entire UN fraternity," President Kibaki said when he officially opened the meeting in Nairobi.
He said that large scale investments in geothermal and wind energy production programmes were already under implementation in the country and supported with extensive forest restoration programmes.
The president emphasized that smart innovations of the world have enormous potential to deliver win-win outcomes and help nations to become less vulnerable to climate change.
Urging all actors to support the strengthening of environmental governance through reforms that will elevate the Nairobi based UN agency to the status of other UN agencies on social and economic pillars, Kibaki acknowledged that the environmental challenges facing the world underscored the importance of a strong UNEP.
"Indeed, the Kenyan government is encouraged by the UN overall assurance in strengthening its presence in Nairobi. The construction of a multipurpose, ultra-modern and eco-friendly building on these grounds is a clear testimony to this commitment. We commend the UN fraternity for this investment," he said.
President Kibaki also advocated that the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility to support developing countries transition towards green growth and urged the participants to provide new impetus towards the Green Economy agenda.
The president expressed confidence that sustained global partnership would help nations succeed in addressing various challenges that afflict the world environment.
Addressing the session, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner commended Kenyans under the visionary leadership of President Kibaki for passing a new constitution which enshrined investment on geothermal and other renewable energy to increase electricity connectivity in the country.
Steiner also praised Kenya's constitution for recognizing the need to increase forest cover from the current 2 percent to 10 percent and restoration of water towers to brighten the future of the young generation.
He regretted that worldwide 1 percent of arable land is lost annually due to climate change despite the ballooning of population from 5.8 billion in 1992 to 7 billion.
He cited Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa as among countries in Africa whose leaders were committed to protect the environment.
"The next 12 months promise to be an exciting and intense time for the international discourse surrounding how to achieve sustainable development in the 21st century," he said.