More than 160 participants from Kenyan higher education institutions on Friday attended the launch of the Kenya Green University Network (KGUN), which is aimed at including environmental and sustainability practices into the curricula, campus designs and research projects of Kenyan universities.
Speaking at the launch of KGUN—a joint initiative of the Commission for University Education (CUE), the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)—Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director, said that Kenya is seeing fast progress in higher education.
With the increase in student enrolment there is more reason, challenge and opportunity to integrate sound environmental practices and knowledge-sharing into the higher education fabric, he said.
“Many Kenyan universities have already recognized sustainability demands and have responded in ways that are worth sharing. They are investing in greener campuses, greener curricula, and ways of engaging staff, students and community,” said Mr. Steiner.
In her opening remarks, Prof. Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Natural Resources and Regional Development Authorities of Kenya, said that the network marks the beginning of long-term cooperation between 70 universities in Kenya that will address sustainability issues through the adoption of low-carbon strategies, mainstreaming environmental sustainability across the curriculum, and engaging with community and other stakeholders at various levels.
She called on all Kenyan Universities to green their policies, programmes and activities.
“The benefits of embracing environmental sustainability include a positive attitude change towards the environment, increased compliance to environmental laws and standards, and cost reductions as a result of resource use efficiency,” she said.
The National Environment Management Authority, through its Director General Prof. Geoffrey Wahungu, expressed its commitment to continuously work with universities, through various initiatives including this network to harness synergy and mobilize resources for capacity building to enhance environmental sustainability.
“NEMA has allocated KES 3 million to initiate and launch this network and a further KES 3 million to support the roll-out of pilot projects by the network,” said Prof. Wahungu
With 70 public and private universities in Kenya, there is great potential to promote sustainability both through education and practice. Some universities are already implementing low-carbon solutions at their campuses; for example, Strathmore University has installed solar panels with the capacity to produce 0.6 megawatts annually. In addition to being climate-friendly, the move has also proven economically viable, with the university selling 0.25 megawatts to Kenya Power at a price of 12 shillings per kilowatt-hour.
Addressing the participants, Prof. David K. Some, Secretary and CEO of the Commission for University Education urged universities to come up with innovative ways of harnessing the energy of their students and resources of the communities in which they are located.
“While selected universities have put in place innovative sustainability projects, these have remained small and isolated islands that are not speaking to each other. Universities should think big and conceive projects that will transform the country,” he said.
Following the historic adoption of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change last year, KGUN will provide a platform for Kenyan higher education institutions to play their part in these global processes. The universities that comprise the network will serve as hubs for innovation and knowledge-sharing of best practices in Kenya.
KGUN will also support the implementation of the African Environmental Education and Training Action Plan 2013-2023 adopted by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) in March last year in Cairo.
UNEP supports KGUN as part of its broader work on environmental education, including the Global Universities Partnerships on Environment and Sustainability (GUPES), which has close to 800 partner universities around the world, as well as the Tunza initiative, which focuses on youth.
For more information check: http://www.unep.org/training/programmes/KGUN.asp