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Africa is grappling with myriad environmental and climate challenges, from drought to loss of biodiversity, cyclones and plastics pollution. Africa Renewal's Zipporah Musau spoke with the United Nations Environment Programme's Deputy Executive Director, Ms. Joyce Msuya, on how African countries can mitigate some of these challenges and the opportunities that are available.

It is about a year since you were appointed Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, and for a while you acted as the Executive Director. What has this journey been like for you?

I joined UNEP in August 2018 and it has been a fulfilling journey for me. Given the absolute centrality of environment in development, in attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), it's been great to see how the UN has played a leading role in many ways. For example, we recently released the Global Environment Outlook 6, showing that we are increasingly connecting the environment to the broader development issues.

What are some of the highlights of your time at UNEP?

A key highlight has definitely been the Fourth UN Environment Assembly in March 2019, which focused on the innovations that can help us achieve sustainable production and consumption. After five days of discussions, ministers from more than 170 UN member states delivered a bold blueprint for change, saying the world needed to speed up moves towards a new model of development in order to respect the vision laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Member States agreed to 23 non-binding resolutions covering a range of environmental challenges, including a more circular global economy; sustainable public procurement; addressing food waste and sharing best practices on energy-efficient and safe cold chain solutions. If countries deliver on all that was agreed here and implement the resolutions, we could take a big step towards a new world order where we no longer grow at the expense of nature but instead see people and planet thrive together.

I have a strong team behind me-the staff at UNEP and the rest of the UN family. As a woman from East Africa, it is a very humbling experience to serve in the organisation, and be based at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, to work on environmental issues.

What are some of the major environmental challenges facing Africa today and how can they be addressed?

I would summarize the biggest environmental challenges facing Africa today in four categories. One is the impact of climate change...

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