Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki opened a meeting of the world's environment ministers on Monday, calling for an elevated status of the Nairobi-based U.N. Environmental Programme (UNEP) to better manage the world's environmental matters.
The Kenyan leader also called for the raising of the status of the ministerial meeting to become the ultimate voice on the environment across the globe.
"It is for this reason that the African Union has taken a common position to support the transformation of UNEP into a specialized UN agency," said Kibaki.
"I would like, therefore, to call upon the UNEP Governing Council to support the African Union position and endorse the transformation of UNEP into a specialized organization based here in Nairobi," he said.
The Kenyan leader joined the Chairman of the African Union (AU) Committee of 10 Heads of State and Government spearheading climate change negotiations on behalf of Africa, in calling for the transformation of the UNEP into a special agency of the U.N. to coordinate environmental matters.
Congo Republic's President Denis Sassou Nguesso, in a speech delivered for him by his minister Henry Jombo, said the management of the environment on a global scale was affected by duplication of duties and inefficiencies, which should be eliminated with the transformation of UNEP into a specialized body.
"It also underlines the need to set the world on a low carbon pathway which incorporates natural ecosystems," Kibaki told the more than 100 environment ministers attending the 12th special session of the UNEP Governing Council meeting, which also doubles as the Global Ministerial Environment Forum.
Kibaki said such a transformation will create a broader legitimacy through universal membership and result in better coherence in decision-making and also enable more efficient implementation of decisions.
President Kibaki said several other countries had managed to achieve a level of climate change resilience by putting in place measures to deal with greenhouse gas emission and cited Kenya as one of those which have prioritized "green growth."
"Achieving green development and environmental development requires strong institutions. The AU has taken a common position to support UNEP transformation into a specialized UN agency," Kibaki said.
President Kibaki is a member of the AU's Committee of 10 Heads of State and Government, tasked with the responsibility of spearheading Africa's common search for a binding global treaty on environmental management.
President Kibaki decried the environmental degradation that continues to limit development options to many countries especially the developing nations despite the many advances made over the past 40 years.
"The scale and frequency of environmental disasters are often beyond national capacities to manage since they affect and even reverse the gains made in poverty eradication and sustainable development objectives. Sadly, the natural capital, which is the basis wealth for many nations and especially the poor, is being lost at alarming rates," he said.
President Sassou-Nguesso said the transformed UNEP should enjoy similar status as the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
He said such an institution must remain autonomous and be governed by one-country, one vote, but with adequate powers to coordinate the implementation of multilateral agreements.
Kibaki also hoped that by transforming the institution, more capacity to deal with urgent environmental matters and the implementation of the international decisions reached worldwide would be effectively implemented.
The Kenyan leader insisted that achieving green development and reversing environmental degradation requires strong institutions.
"We believe that a green economy must foster accelerated economic development, address poverty eradication and improve social welfare," he stated.
Kibaki stressed the need to intensify efforts towards environmental conservation and protection, adding that it also underlines the need to set the world on a low carbon growth pathway which he said incorporates the real values of natural ecosystems.
Kibaki said Kenya has embraced green growth as a national priority to guide the country's future development and achieve climate resilience due to the belief that a green economy fosters accelerated economic development, addresses poverty eradication and improves social welfare.
The Kenyan leader said since the 1972 Stockholm Conference and the Rio Summit held in 1992, the world has had a better understanding of how to progress towards sustainable development.
The meeting opened with a song by students from the Swedish School in Nairobi who sang a song "I have a dream" by ABBA, a former Swedish singing quartet to trace the path of the birth of the world body in 1972 in Stockholm.
The meeting also evoked the memory of the late Nobel Peace Laureate and environmental campaigner Wangari Maathai who was described by UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner as an individual who left the world a better place than she found it.