Since 1974, the world has celebrated World Environment Day every 5th of June. It serves as a day to take stock of progress made toward global environmental governance. This year’s celebrations are unique as they coincide with 50 years since the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme headquartered in Nairobi. It has also served as a day to highlight key issues affecting the health of our planet. This year, World Environment Day celebrations focus on three planetary crises: climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
The recently released Global Risk Assessment Report notes that risk creation is outstripping risk reduction interventions. Moreover, it emphasizes the need to transform governance systems to enhance understanding of underlying risks. With the climate change effects already being experienced across most of Africa, within the Horn of Africa region, climate-induced hazards are causing an unprecedented impact on communities and their livelihoods. Now more than ever, disasters have become more frequent, occurring concurrently and with little to no time to recover.
In Kenya, compounded climate-related hazards and emergencies including desert locust infestation in 2019, cyclic droughts and floods, disease outbreaks, natural resource-based conflicts, increased human mobility especially during drought peaks and displacement continue to overwhelm not only the capacity of the communities but also the institutions managing these risks. In this regard, WED 2022 must serve as a platform to reflect on the interconnectedness of disaster risk and environmental protection and the interplay of socio-economic and cultural vulnerabilities of the communities. As such, environmental governance needs to adopt systematic disaster risk management approaches to address the underlying risks to the environment.
This will entail understanding gender dimensions of climate change and environmental protection, integration of climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction and environmental plans and strategies to enhance coherence and systematic risk management and enhance community engagement and localisation of disaster risk and environmental governance. Due to the nature of cascading effects of hazards, institutions will need to evolve and adapt to the emerging needs of people and the planet.
By Esther Muiruri, Programs Officer Disaster Risk Reduction, Climate Change Adaptation and Environment