Remarks by Mary Muthoni Morrison at the Climate and Clean Air Conference 2024

Opening remarks

Welcome to the closing plenary session of the Climate and Clean Air Conference. My name is Mary Muthoni Morrison, I am an environmental attorney, a climate champion and a youth passionate about her community and the environment. I am honoured to be before you all today as we discuss and engage in some of the most important environmental issues confronting our planet. The theme for today's session is "Working with all sectors to drive change," which emphasizes the need for collaborative action in combating climate change and air pollution. 

Before I go into the rest of my remarks, I want to share a short story about myself. Growing up in a humble community, I can say, despite my parents’ desire to provide a better energy source, I had my share of exposure to black carbon - which I later learnt was a potent short lived climate pollutant. 

I was lucky enough to have parents that understood effects of pollutants like black carbon. Of course with the humble backgrounds, any health complications would set them up for debt. As a result, they made sure that our exposure to smoke was limited. However, this was not the case for some of my community members, with others succumbing to health-related complications. 

My story illustrates that it is the vulnerable in society that are most affected by air pollution, as well as the effects of climate change which are partly brought about by the same air pollution. As a woman, I understand the risk is higher to me and my future child. The vulnerable populations (and actually some communities) may not necessarily understand the entire concept of climate change, but they clearly understand what pollution does to their health. With main causes of climate change being the same things that affect our health, doesn’t it stand that both are interconnected? That in solving or mitigating one, we mitigate or solve the other? Therefore, in this journey of tackling climate change, it is critical to have a clear vision for the future, a vision that protects the health and well-being of our planet and its inhabitants, for current and future generations.

The call to action that is at the centre of our conversations today is a call to work with all sectors. I believe that there is an urgent need to address climate change and air pollution concurrently, emphasizing the interdependence of both concerns and the numerous benefits that may be obtained with collaborative action, which in most cases is advantageous. For example, collaboration enables people to pool resources so that initiatives have an impact, help in skills and knowledge sharing, and promotes the democratic process by enabling community’s members in influencing the necessary policies. The combined strength of corporations, governments, civil society organizations, and young leaders bring about significant change in a number of important areas. There is endless potential for innovation and cooperation in a variety of fields, including waste management, agriculture, transportation, fossil fuels, home energy, and refrigeration, all which sectors are contributors of short-lived climate pollutants.

Specifically, to the youth, as the largest group of population especially in Africa, it is imperative to engage youth for the world to drive any tangible improvements in our effort to fight against climate change and air pollution. I believe youth make a significant contribution in these areas by bringing new ideas, inventive solutions, and unflinching resolve to the table. These can be achieved through supporting youth led – innovations that explore sustainable solutions to mitigate the health impacts of climate change, providing the platforms in which youth leadership is grown, and promotion of education and awareness.

In conclusion, this conference provided us the opportunity to engage and strategize on mitigating short lived climate pollutants, and enhance collaboration across the sectors. Our efforts can only work if we implement them in a coordinated manner, involving the various stakeholders which include youth, with a shared sense of purpose and determination. I implore every one of you to take advantage of this chance to work together, and be innovative, for a sustainable futureIn doing so, not only are we tackling climate change matters, but we are also upholding fundamental human rights.