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President Mwai Kibaki/ FILE


Environment conference opens in Nairobi

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 19 – A major international conference on the environment is scheduled to open in Nairobi on Monday.

President Mwai Kibaki will officially open the 12th Special Session of the Governing Council/ Global Ministerial Environment forum at the United Nations Office, Nairobi.

“On arrival, President Kibaki will be received by the Under Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Dr. Achim Steiner, United Nations Office Nairobi (UNON) Director-General Ms. Sahle-Work Zewde, the Under Secretary-General and Executive-Director of UN-Habitat Dr. Joan Clos and Environment and Mineral Resources Minister John Michuki among others,” said a brief statement from the Presidential Press Service.

The meeting will see top scientists on Monday urge governments to replace GDP as a measure of wealth, end damaging subsidies, and transform systems of governance to set humanity on a new path to a better future — or risk climate, biodiversity and poverty crises that will spawn greater problems worldwide.

These are among the messages from a new paper by 20 past winners of the Blue Planet Prize — often called the Nobel Prize for the environment.

Bob Watson, the UK’s chief scientific advisor on environmental issues and a winner of the prize in 2010, will present the paper to government ministers from around the world at the UN Environment Programme’s governing council meeting in Nairobi.

“The current system is broken,” says Watson. “It is driving humanity to a future that is 3-5°C warmer than our species has ever known, and is eliminating the ecology that we depend on for our health, wealth and senses of self.”

“We cannot assume that technological fixes will come fast enough. Instead we need human solutions. The good news is that they exist but decision makers must be bold and forward thinking to seize them.”

Watson’s co-authors include James Hansen of NASA, Emil Salim, former environment minister of Indonesia, Susan Solomon of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Professor José Goldemberg, who was Brazil’s Secretary of Environment during the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

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Their paper comes ahead of the 20th anniversary of that summit – the Rio+20 conference in June this year – when world leaders have an opportunity to set human development on a new, more sustainable path.

The paper urges governments to replace GDP as a measure of wealth with metrics for natural, built, human and social capital — and how they intersect and also eliminate subsidies in sectors such as energy, transport and agriculture that create environmental and social costs, which currently go unpaid.

“Sustainable development is not a pipe dream,” says Dr Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development. “It is the destination the world’s accumulated knowledge points us towards, the fair future that will enable us to live with security, peace and opportunities for all. To get there we must transform the ways we manage, share and interact with the environment, and acknowledge that humanity is part of nature not apart from it.”

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “The paper by the Blue Planet laureates will challenge governments and society as a whole to act to limit human-induced climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in order to ensure food, water energy and human security. I would like to thank Professor Watson and colleagues for eloquently articulating their vision on how key development challenges can be addressed, emphasizing solutions; the policies, technologies and behaviour changes required to grow green economies, generate jobs and lift people out of poverty without pushing the world through planetary boundaries.”

The Blue Planet laureates who contributed to the paper are:
· Professor Sir Bob Watson, Chief Scientific Adviser of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
· Lord (Robert) May of Oxford, former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government and President of Royal Society of London
· Professor Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University
· Professor Harold Mooney, Stanford University
· Dr. Gordon Hisashi Sato, President, Manzanar Project Corporation
· Professor José Goldemberg, secretary for the environment of the State of São Paulo, Brazil and Brazil’s interim Secretary of Environment during the Rio Earth Summit in 1992
· Dr Emil Salim, former Environment Minister of the Republic of Indonesia
· Dr Camilla Toulmin, Director of the International Institute for Environment and Development
· Bunker Roy, Founder of Barefoot College
· Dr Syukuro Manabe, Senior Scientist, Princeton University
· Julia Marton-Lefevre, Director-General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
· Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
· Dr Will Turner, Vice President of Conservation Priorities and Outreach, Conservation International
· Professor Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Founder of The Natural Step
· James Hansen, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
· Gro Harlem Bruntland, former Prime Minister of Norway and director-general of the World Health Organization, now Special Envoy on Climate Change for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
· James Lovelock, independent scientist and proponent of the Gaia Hypothesis

In 1992, the year of the Rio Earth Summit, the Asahi Glass Foundation established the Blue Planet Prize, an award presented to individuals or organizations worldwide in recognition of outstanding achievements in scientific research and its application that have helped provide solutions to global environmental problems.

The Prize is offered in the hopes of encouraging efforts to bring about the healing of the Earth’s fragile environment.

The award’s name was inspired by the remark “the Earth was blue,” uttered by the first human in space, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, upon viewing our planet. The Blue Planet Prize was so named in the hopes that our blue planet will be a shared asset capable of sustaining human life far into the future.

2012 is the 20th anniversary of the Blue Planet Prize. The Asahi Glass Foundation wishes to mark this anniversary with a fresh start in its efforts to help build an environmentally friendly society.

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