AN UMBRELLA association to raise funds for the environment sector, and lobby government and other parties, was launched on Tuesday. Speaking at the launch of the Namibian Chamber of Environment (NCE) in Windhoek, founding member Chris Brown said there is no umbrella body that represents the sector and address as issues challenging various organisations in the country. We believe the establishment of such an umbrella organisation to which all interested and legitimate environmental organisations can become a member is long overdue. The chamber aims to become a financial and other resource centre that is sponsored by the industry, while at the same time keeping the industry at arm's length and ensuring complete independence, according to Brown. Many environment specialists work in remote areas, often alone or in small groups with little in the way of support structures. The chamber thus aims to provide support to such individuals and organisations. It will be a body representing the interests of environment practitioners and organisations that support the environmental interests of Namibia as set out in the Constitution. The NCE will also help the sector to become more informed, effective and networked, and disburse raised funds for priority environmental and conservation outcomes, while also supporting the development and entry of young Namibians into the sector. Membership will be determined at the first annual general meeting, for which a date is yet to be set. It will not compete with its members in areas of implementation and it will not compete with its members in the raising of funds - it will target those areas of the corporate sector which have not traditionally been large contributors to the environmental sector, said Brown. Speaking at the same event, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism Malan Lindeque commended the move, noting that the chamber could create a great opportunity for further cooperation and collaboration. In the past, commerce and industry were culprits of environmental degradation and destruction, but today some of the more forward-looking private sector companies are effective and influential advocates that practice and promote corporate environmental citisenship. During the same event, B2Gold Namibia handed over N$1 million to the chamber with their managing director Mark Dawe noting that the mining company will not have any influence in the disbursing of funds, but a council will be appointed to look into such decisions. This is just a start and I know other companies are grappling with each other to follow suit. This chamber was born of B2Gold, but it distances itself from any corporate identity. It is fully independent and democratic and fully aligned with the objectives of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. Other founding members are Otjikoto Environmental and Education Trust, the Namibian Environmental and Wildlife Society (News) and the Sustainable Solutions Trust.