Establish “polluter pays” Principle for Environmental Conservation: Nuncio in Kenya

Archbishop Hubertus Maria van Megen. Credit: ACI Africa

There is need to establish an international agreement requiring polluters to pay for the environmental damage they cause, the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan has said.

In his speech at the Friday, September 15 Interfaith Youth Forum on Peace and Climate 2023, Archbishop Hubertus Maria van Megen also emphasized the need to empower African youths with skills in environmental conservation.

“What we need is an international agreement calculating the cost of environmental damage over and against any mining, industrial or other activity, that has an effect on the environment,” Archbishop van Megen said, adding that those behind industries need to pay “an environmental tax congruent to the damage caused by their activities.”

The Nairobi-based Vatican diplomat said paying for environmental damages “will be able to stop or slow down any activity which is detrimental to the environment.”

“We need to apply the ‘polluter pays’ principle in its full rigor,” he emphasized, adding that while laws may make it compulsory for polluters to pay for their respective damages, “weak government regulatory mechanism makes enforcement an onerous exercise.”


“These challenges are even more pronounced in the case of multinational enterprises. An equally weak civil society is disabled from monitoring the level of compliance with environmental obligations and provide meaningful contributions to environmental policy formulation and management,” the Dutch-born Apostolic Nuncio said at the event that was held at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA).

He said that while taxes play a role in environmental conservation, “taxes alone will not do the job.”

“World leaders must agree on stopping the expansion of fossil fuel exploration and manage a just transition to green energy under the proposed Fossil Fuel Non- Proliferation Treaty, while assuring access to electricity for everyone,” he said.

He highlighted the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) as one of the fossil fuel projects that would cause carbon and land degradation once completed and operationalized.

The 1,443-kilometer oil pipeline running from Hoima at the Lake Albert basin in Uganda to Tanga in Tanzania “is a big risk to the environment vis a vis the economic gains it is projected to produce,” 

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In his speech at the event organized under the theme, “Harmony for a Green Sustainable World: Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty for Justice and Peace”, Archbishop van Megen emphasized the need for he introduction of ecological education in schools to empower young people with environmental conservation knowledge.

“There is a growing need for ecological education in all institutions of learning to equip the youths with tools to curb the increasing effects of climate change,” the Vatican diplomat, who has been representing the Holy Father in Kenya since he was transferred from Sudan in February 2019 said.

He added, “As echoed in the just ended Africa Climate Summit: youths must play an integral role in environment policies making and their implementation.”

Leaders need to “recognize and invest in the youths for a smooth and continuous implementation of environmental policies,” the Vatican diplomat who started his service as Apostolic Nuncio to Sudan in March 2014 said. 

Archbishop van Megen called upon the youth to change the world positively. He said, “Your youthfulness and skills are the greatest resources. You have to make this world a better place for you and for future generations. You can make a difference. Every step counts: Use your strength and abilities which God has given you and it will bear fruits.”


He cautioned young people against engaging in activities that damage the environment, saying, “Treat Mother Nature as you would treat your own mother, with love and respect.”

By treating nature with love and respect, “she will cherish and make you share in her rich fruits,” said Archbishop van Megen.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.