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The United Nations leveraged World Environment Day yesterday as yet another call for urgent climate action.
“This planet is our only home,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said in a statement ahead of the 49th annual World Environment Day.
He says the Earth’s natural systems are failing and cannot support the material demands we’re putting on them.
“It is vital we safeguard the health of its atmosphere, the richness and diversity of life on Earth, its ecosystems, and its finite resources. But we are failing to do so.
“We are asking too much of our planet to maintain ways of life that are unsustainable,” he said.
World Environment Day
World Environment Day, which launched in 1973, has evolved from its origins as a tool to inspire political action and raise awareness over environmental concerns. It has become a platform targeted at changing habits of consumption and pushing for more global policies to thwart the excessive consumption of natural resources.
Guterres also stresses that social issues are deeply tied to the climate and environmental issues—ensuring access to food, clean water, and medicine is as essential as climate regulations and protection from climate change’s impact.
“It is essential that we wisely manage nature and ensure equitable access to its services, especially for the most vulnerable people and communities,” Guterres said.
According to the U.N. degrading ecosystems are impacting nearly half of the global population—more than three billion people. Pollution is a leading cause of death around the world, taking more than nine million lives per year and pushing more than a million species of plants and animals closer to extinction.
“Close to half of humanity is already in the climate danger zone – 15 times more likely to die from climate impacts such as extreme heat, floods and drought,” he said, pointing to a recent report by the World Meteorological Organization that says humanity faces a 50:50 chance of surpassing the 1.5°C temperature rise maximum in the next few years. Surpassing a global temperature rise of 1.5°C would lead to catastrophic climate-induced extreme weather events, sea level rises, and more zoonotic disease outbreaks.
According to the U.N., if meaningful climate action isn’t increased, by 2050, more than 200 million people will risk displacement every year from climate-induced disruption.
“We can no longer ignore the alarm bells that ring louder every day,” Guterres said.
Among his recommendations is an immediate increase in renewable energy—accessible to all people and all nations, reducing bureaucratic red tape to policy changes, and increasing investments into sustainable industries and technologies.
“Businesses need to put sustainability at the heart of their decision-making for the sake of humanity and their own bottom line. A healthy planet is the backbone of nearly every industry on Earth,” he said.
Guterres also put the focus on empowering women and girls, calling them “forceful agents of change” and encouraged putting them in positions of decision-making power across the globe. He also cited Indigenous wisdom and knowledge as a key to protecting fragile ecosystems.
“This year and the next will present more opportunities for the global community to demonstrate the power of multilateralism to tackle our intertwined environmental crises, from negotiations on a new global biodiversity framework to reverse nature loss by 2030 to the establishment of a treaty to tackle plastics pollution,” he stated, adding that the only way forward “is to work with nature, not against it.”
Photo by Adrien Taylor on Unsplash