Recently, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, released its report entitled “Towards a Pollution-Free Planet.”
The agenda is to serve as a call to action for governments, businesses, local authorities, civil society, and individuals with the aim of preventing and reducing pollution globally.
The report provides evidence to the world that the level of pollution emitted in the atmosphere is still an extractable challenge to all countries—whether rich or poor. Since we share everything on Earth with every living thing on the planet, what happens in one area affects everything too, no matter how far away.
The report primarily galvanizes action to pollution. It is a call for countries to live up to their obligations with respect to the Paris Agreement on Climate change. In particular, these obligations are encapsulated in nationally determined contributions (NDCs) which are at the heart of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of these long-term goals.
NDCs embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The Paris Agreement (Article 4, paragraph 2) requires each Party to prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions.
According to the report, it is important to understand that the peaking of emissions is a serious hindrance to achieving sustainable development goals, such as eradicating poverty, which is a critical development priority for many developing countries, including Rwanda.
Also, the report highlighted challenges to effective actions, and the opportunities that exist in Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and the Sustainable Development Goals provide to reduce pollution. It underscores the need for a global framework for action to tackle pollution head-on and move towards a pollution-free planet.
Global concerted efforts on pollution can make a significant difference. However, countries must be on the same wavelength in understanding the level of danger pollution poses to all living creatures. As it goes without saying that ‘pollution has no borders’. If this understanding is lacking across the countries, combating pollution will have a lukewarm commitment.
In truth, environmental governance needs to be strengthened at all levels. Sustainable consumption and production, through improved resource efficiency and lifestyle changes, should be promoted; waste reduction and management must be prioritized.
Investment in cleaner production and consumption will help to counter pollution.
Multi-stakeholder partnerships and collaborations are vital for the innovation, knowledge-sharing and transdisciplinary research needed to develop technological and ecosystems-based solutions.
Undoubtedly, pollution is not a new phenomenon; it is largely controllable and often avoidable, but considerably neglected.
Across the world, governments have inherent responsibility to impart better knowledge, encourage alternative consumption and production models, as well as innovative technological solutions now mean that many countries, cities, and businesses are successfully tackling serious pollution issues.
However, it isn’t a responsibility incumbent upon governments alone, it requires all stakeholders’ role, namely companies, civil society organisations and individuals. It is quite important to acknowledge that the capacity to adequately tackle pollution varies hugely across stakeholders.
In fact, the spirit of ‘Towards a pollution-free planet’ is about encouraging a synergetic mix of actions and a whole system, multi-beneficial policymaking approach that builds directly on existing internationally agreed environmental goals, including those relating to climate change, disaster and risk reduction and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its numerous pollution-reducing targets.
The most common intractable challenges of pollution are: air pollution, freshwater pollution, soil/land pollution, marine and coastal pollution, chemicals, and waste. Pollution effects are indeed many and wide-ranging. There is no doubt that excessive levels of pollution are causing a lot of damage to human and animal health, tropical rainforests, as well as the wider environment.
The effects in living organisms may range from mild discomfort to serious diseases such as cancer to physical deformities. Findings have demonstrated that pollution effects are quite often underestimated and that more research is needed to understand the connections between pollution and its effects on all life forms.
Basing on regional multilateral environmental agreements, states must take initiatives and networks therein to enhance synergies and cooperation in tackling global pollution issues at the local level, while benefiting from the localized knowledge bases that cannot be easily accessed at the global level.
To the developed countries, there is a need to provide additional resources to enhance the capacity of insufficient regional initiatives, specifically in Africa, Asia and Latin America and Caribbean. This is achievable, if these countries develop joint initiatives on topics such as environment and health, environment and water, environment and agriculture, or to integrate them into the concept of the green economy.
Africa, in particular, a continent that faces threats of environmental degradation, including deforestation, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, depletion of fish stocks and effects of climate change, must prioritise programmes and strategies that are green economy-oriented.
A green economy offers considerable opportunities for mobilizing resources toward a low-emission, climate-resilient development pathway.
The writer is a law expert.
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.