The world is celebrating its “Only One Earth” today, as people in over 150 countries are coming together to participate in environmentally themed events and communicate the message that sustainable living is the only way forward for our suffering planet.
The Earth is faced with a triple environmental crisis today: climate change, biodiversity loss, and rampant pollution.
The good news is that the solutions and the technology exist to drive us out of this “red code alert,” which is why the United Nations’ “Only One Earth” campaign calls for collective, transformative action on a global scale to celebrate, protect, and restore our planet.
“We must shift from harming the planet to healing it,” it states.
A real threat to life and humanity
According to official data shared by the United Nations, more than 3 billion people are affected by degraded ecosystems while pollution is responsible for some 9 million premature deaths each year. Over 1 million plant and animal species risk extinction, many of them within decades.
Half of humanity is in the climate danger zone and fifteen times more likely to die from climate impacts such as extreme heat, floods, and drought. This means that 200 million people could be displaced each year by climate disruption by 2050.
“We are running against the clock. Today, as we look to a future of heatwaves, droughts, floods, wildfires, pandemics, dirty air, wars, and plastic-ridden oceans, action is more important than ever,” says Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in a video message.
She does point out, however, that it’s not too late to repair the damage humanity has caused. To achieve that, people need to make environmentally conscious decisions, financial institutions need to contribute to the transition to a greener future, and politicians must “see beyond election cycles to intergenerational wins.
Fast action required on all levels
Governments urgently need to prioritize climate action and environmental protection through policy decisions that promote sustainable progress, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterrez notes.
He has five suggestions as to how we can dramatically speed up the deployment of renewable energy everywhere, including making renewable technologies and raw materials available to all, cutting red tape, shifting subsidies, and tripling investment.
“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,” Guterres points out.
At the same time, voters and consumers must make their actions count, he adds: “From the policies we support, to the food we eat, to the transport we choose, to the companies we support. We can all make environmentally friendly choices that will add up to the change we need.”
Stockholm hosts World Environment Day celebrations
Hosted by Sweden, the “Only One Earth” theme of this year’s World Environment Day echoes the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, which led to the creation of both UNEP and World Environment Day.
The official ceremony was held at the Technology Museum with Swedish Minister for Climate and the Environment Annika Strandhäll and UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen taking part with a group of young people from Voices of the Future.
In Stockholm’s city center, Sergels Square was turned into a “green plaza,” allowing visitors to talk to environmental experts while touring a purpose-built garden.
A special live UNEP broadcast showed how World Environment Day 2022 is being celebrated globally, as it met some of the people taking action for our planet—from an electric vehicle rally in Cairo to a massive cyclathon in Mumbai and an e-waste drive in Bucharest.