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UN Under Secretary General Mr. Achim Steiner Lectures on Green Pathways to Sustainable Future

It was a full house as Strathmore Law School hosted Mr. Achim Steiner, the UN Under Secretary General and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, and Her Excellency Ambassador Amina Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Kenya, for a public lecture on Green Pathways to a Sustainable Future today morning.


The insightful talk started off with Mr. Steiner, acknowledging the remarks of her Excellency Amb. Amina; who stated that there is an existing gap between academia, the government, and the industry with relation to cooperation towards a sustainable economy, in her keynote address. He highlighted the fact that the Strathmore Business School building, where the lecture took place, is a testimony to the possibility of creating a green, 21st century building as a result of the cooperation between these three main fields.


Mr. Steiner went on to highlight that the unique and well-founded bonds between UNEP and Kenya is seen clearly in the fruits that the organization has borne over the years. The very mission and vision of Kenya, back in 1972, influencing the decision of having the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi. He also encouraged the university students to seek complex solutions to the emerging compound problems that the world is going to be faced with. Mr. Steiner emphasized on the fact that, the challenge to maintain a sustainable environment is a responsibility for all persons, be they rich or poor. He pointed out that through innovate technological ideas, 7 billion people all over the world are able to live without having to despair. However, as a result of the vast rate in which the world population is growing, there is a need to reinvent the economies of the world, to reflect this change. That includes figuring out how to feed this emerging population as well as reducing carbon dioxide emissions that are rapidly destroying the Ozone layer.


Mr. Steiner further spoke on the objective of UNEP on examining, accessing, and analysing the environment and its impact on the world. Therefore, the UNEP’s main role is to advise governments on how to prevent environmental issues from occurring. He gave the example of industrialization, a challenge that has seen massive pollution in many first world countries, but which is a great development opportunity for countries such as Kenya. Being the leader of renewable energy resources in Africa, Kenya has managed to steer clear of the cynical oil markets and develop sustainable energy projects such as the wind power project in Lake Turkana.


Mr. Steiner also highlighted that UNEP seeks to challenge the notion, development has to come at the expense of the environment and further, and that the protection of the environment is always at the expense of a country’s economy. He went ahead to speak on UNEP’s recent achievements such as the establishment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Energy which, for the first time, created a universal agenda that ensured accountability towards a  sustainable economy. Mr. Steiner emphasized on the need to rethink energy policies traditionally recognized as modern technology. He asked the audience to consider the connection between natural resources and Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and how forests are an ecological infrastructure, despite being treated poorly.


Mr. Steiner urged the young audience to prevent the watering down of sustainable solutions that are innovative, while challenging and encouraging them to participate in the upcoming United Nations Environment Assembly. He ended the public lecture with wise words; learn the wisdoms of the past and question the answers of the future.


Mr. Steiner has been the Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for the past 10 years and will be completing his extended term this year in June. We wish him all the best in his following years.