The UN Environment’s sixth Global Environment Outlook (2019) report published in time for the recent Fourth United Nations Environmental Assembly, calls on decision makers to take immediate action to address pressing environmental issues to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as well as other Internationally Agreed Environment Goals, such as the Paris Agreement.
Even when such flagship reports show governments how they can put the world on the path to a truly sustainable future, there is still reluctance by many to take full action. For example, when over 170 countries recently gathered in Nairobi to address the environmental impacts of plastics, they could not still take bolds decision to eliminate single-use plastic products. So how do we then deal with the report’s emphasis on urgent and inclusive action needed by decision makers at all levels to achieve a healthy planet and with healthy people?
As RLP and Uganda join the rest of the world on March 21 to mark International Day of Forest, a day proclaimed by the UN General Assembly for raising awareness on the importance of forests, I offer my thoughts on our different roles in this journey to achieve a truly sustainable world by 2050.
First, pollution of the aquatic spaces: Annually more than eight million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans—leave alone what ends up in our lakes, rivers, wetlands, and the environment around us. Earlier proposed initiatives such as the phasing out of single-use plastic by 2025 had already been objected to by several richer nations - led by the US. So with such high profile engagement failing to bring about an agreement to phase out single-use plastics, for how long shall we continue postponing our moral obligation to address our environment issues? It’s a shame that selfish interests coupled with lack of political will of nations, institutions and individuals continue to impede achieving key milestones in the right direction to save the environment for future generations. The current Pope once expressed his support during the push to the #BeatPlasticPollution for clean seas campaign, saying “we cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic”. Natural polymers and organic materials that biodegrade rapidly are practicable options that also could manage our ecosystems smartly & sustainably. Uganda needs to revive or enforce the seemingly shelved government ban on environmentally hazardous product (Plastic/Kavera) that the president ordered last year to be effected (Section 2 of the 2009 Finance Act), a statutory instrument issued over nine years ago banning the manufacture, importation and sale of polythene bags less than 30 microns in order to protect our environment but fell short of implementation by NEMA for some reasons.