Celebrated on 5 June every year since 1974, World Environment Day is the single most important day for environmental action.
It offers a global platform for inspiring positive change and recognises that this change requires a global community.
It pushes for individuals to think about the way they consume; for businesses to develop greener models; for farmers and manufacturers to produce more sustainably; for governments to safeguard wild spaces; and for youth to become fierce gatekeepers of a greener future.
This year’s theme pushes for urgent action to protect biodiversity.
Why is biodiversity so important?
From devastating bushfires in Brazil, the US and Australia, to locust infestations across East Africa and the current global disease pandemic, recent events demonstrate the interdependence of humans and the webs of life in which they exist.
Biodiversity encompasses the 8 million species on the planet – from plants and animals to fungi and bacteria, the ecosystems that house them and the genetic diversity among them.
It provides us with oxygen, purifies our drinking water, ensures fertile soil and produces the variety of foods we require to stay healthy and resist disease.
It’s the foundation of most industries and livelihoods and it even helps mitigate the impact of climate change by storing carbon and regulating local rainfall.
So when one component is changed or removed, the entire system is affected, and this can produce positive or negative consequences.
Humans have pushed nature beyond its limit
In the past 50 years, the human population has doubled; the global economy has almost quadrupled and global trade has increased by around 10 times.
It would take 1.6 Earths to meet the demands that humans make of nature each year.
The emergence of COVID-19 demonstrates that when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life – creating ideal conditions for pathogens such as the coronavirus to spread.
Putting nature first
To better protect biodiversity going forward, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and its partners are launching the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030), a global initiative to restore the relationship between humans and nature.
This can only be achieved if we reverse the negative impact of biodiversity loss and pursue full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Biodiversity cannot be addressed as a standalone issue but must be linked to the human issues and global processes that affect it. This means engaging with development sectors to address the root causes of biodiversity loss, such as food consumption, pollution, energy and mining.
Each World Environment Day is hosted by a different country, in which official celebrations help to build momentum, raise awareness and unite the global community in actions for positive change.
This year’s host is Colombia, in partnership with Germany, and celebrations will take place digitally around the world.