Every year, on June 5 we celebrate the World Environment Day. Since its beginning in 1974, World Environment Day has developed into a global platform for raising awareness and taking action to address pressing environmental issues. Every year, the World Environment Day is hosted by a different country in which official celebrations take place. This year, the host country is Pakistan. From global virtual gatherings to community clean ups, live social discussions to musical and film screenings, thousands from around the world are organizing virtual and physical events, small and large to celebrate World Environment Day. You can register your event details here for others to view and join, or browse through several events and see what intrigues you the most.
In addition, this year, the World Environment Day will kick off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030). The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is a global effort aimed at “supporting and scaling up efforts to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide and raise awareness of the importance of successful ecosystem restoration” (A/RES/73/284).
Over 4.7 million hectares of forests – an area larger than Denmark – are lost every year. That’s one football pitch every three seconds.
Over half of the world’s wetlands have disappeared in the last century.
Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown for three consecutive years and the planet is one pace for potentially catastrophic climate change.
The emergence of COVID-19 has also shown just how disastrous the consequences of ecosystem loss can be. By shrinking the area of natural habitat for animals, we have created ideal conditions for pathogens – including coronaviruses – to spread.
From forests and farmlands to freshwater, oceans and coasts, the vitality and diversity of Earth’s ecosystems are the basis of human prosperity and well-being. Ecosystem restoration means assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact. Restoration of ecosystems is also fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, mainly those on climate change, poverty eradication, food security, water and biodiversity conservation. The deadline of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (which runs through 2030) also overlaps with the UN Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Ecosystems are our lifeline and underpin all 17 goals.
Restoration is a monumental task. Over the next ten years, every action counts. Restoration initiatives can be launched by almost anyone, from governments and development agencies to businesses, communities and individuals. Restoration can happen in many ways – for example through actively planting trees, cleaning up trash alongside rivers and coasts or by removing pressures so that nature can recover on its own. In this context, everyone has a role to play: Individuals need to think about the way they consume; Educators need to inspire students to take action to build a greener future; Farmers and manufacturers need to produce more sustainably; Businesses need to develop greener models; And governments need to invest in repairing the environment. Between now and 2030, the restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems could generate US$9 trillion in ecosystem services. Restoration could also remove 13 to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The economic benefits of such interventions exceed nine times the cost of investment, whereas inaction is at least three times more costly than ecosystem restoration.
Only with healthy ecosystems we can enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change and stop the collapse of biodiversity. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration will inspire and support governments, UN agencies, NGOs, civil society, children and youth, private sector companies, indigenous peoples, farmers, women’s groups, local communities and individuals globally to collaborate, develop and successfully implement restoration initiatives across the world.
There has never been a more urgent need to revive damaged ecosystems than now. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is a monumental opportunity to do our part in healing our planet. When it comes to restoring the ecosystems, each one of us can make a difference. Join #GenerationRestoration to revive and protect our ecosystems for people and nature to be able to have a sustainable future.
On June 5, 2021, on World Environment Day, use the UN Decade’s logo (see above) on your website, social media, printed on a T-Shirt or on a sign at your restoration site to show your support for the launch of the UN Decade.
Stay safe everyone!!
Dr. Despoina Afroditi Milaki
IPA NGO Representative at the UN