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Air quality: the nexus between nature and sports

A commemorative run to celebrate the 50th anniversary of UNEP took place on 4 March 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya. SEI Africa Centre Director Dr Philip Osano spoke to athletes about SEI’s contribution through the Environment and Climate Change Diplomacy flagship project.

Lawrence Nzuve / Published on 5 March 2022
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Lawrence Nzuve /

Posing for air quality: UNEP at 50 Marathon, Karura, Nairobi, Kenya

SEI Africa Centre Director Dr Philip Osano, Dr Richard Munang of UNEP Regional Office for Africa, Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Heritage and Culture, Kenya Amb. Amina Mohamed, Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Forestry Dr Chris K. Kiptoo, World Athletics Council Member Sylvia Barlag and Athletics Kenya President Gen (Rtd) Jackson Tuwei. Photo: Lawrence Nzuve / SEI.

A commemorative run to celebrate the 50th anniversary of UNEP took place on 4 March 2022 at the Karura Forest Reserve in Nairobi, Kenya, one of the natural forests in the outskirts of the city that is popular with both professional and recreational runners.

The run was coordinated by Athletics Kenya in partnership with SEI Africa and supported by World Athletics. Athletics Kenya is the first out of the 214 World Athletics global member federations to join World Athletics as a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Sports for Climate Action Framework, making it a global leader among World Athletics member federations. The framework seeks to have sports organizations reduce their carbon emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and sets a clear trajectory for the global sports community to combat climate change through commitments and partnerships in congress with verified standards, as well as using sports as a unifying tool to drive climate awareness and action among global citizens.

The commemorative run raised awareness on the need for urgent action among all actors to respond to the triple planetary crises of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss and highlights the connection between the environment and sports. It also inspired leadership in the sports community on environmental issues. The run commemorates the 50 years of UNEP in Nairobi, Kenya, celebrates UNEP’s activities and achievements in sports and the environment, raises awareness on the links between sports and the environment – specifically the importance of physical fitness and a clean environment for human health – and sensitized the participants on the UNFCCC Sports for Climate Action Framework.

Dignitaries planted commemorative trees in the forest during the run.

World renowned athletes at the event included Kenyan runners William Tanui, Hellen Obiri, Milcah Chemos, Tegla Loroupe, Timothy Cheruiyot and Douglas Wakiihuri.

In December 2021, SEI, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Office for Africa and Athletics Kenya organized a seminar on sports and the environment and developed action plans to promote activities to create awareness on the links between athletics, air quality and climate action, including a fun run to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of UNEP.

Purifying atmospheric air remains one of SEI's goals in reducing carbon emissions by 30% by 2030.

Dr Philip Osano, SEI Africa Centre Director


Philip Osano
Philip Osano

Centre Director

SEI Africa

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