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June 15, 2024
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World Environment Day Sees Record Participation, Focuses on Healing the Planet’s Land

With a focus on restoring degraded lands, combatting desertification and building drought resilience, countries around the world came together to mark World Environment Day 2024, under the rallying call ‘Our Land. Our Future and We are #Generation Restoration’.

On the biggest calendar moment for environmental action, World Environment Day 2024 registered a record-breaking number of events– 3657 and counting at the time of launch – held by governments, cities, civil society, universities and schools, and businesses spanning the globe.

Activities ranged from high-level events in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to week-long festivities in South America, from zoo celebrations in Europe and Asia to soil restoration labs for children in Africa.

From posters dotting transport hubs to the largest mural in North America, and from film screenings to video messages from celebrities and space agency NASA. Tens of millions of people joined the online global conversation, with #WorldEnvironmentDay trending above blockbuster movies and global politics on social media, amplifying the global rally to restore the land that humanity and countless other species depend on for survival.

“Today, we’re pushing planetary boundaries to the brink – shattering global temperature records and reaping the whirlwind”, said António Guterres the UN Secretary-General in a special address on climate action at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. “And it’s a travesty of climate justice that those least responsible for the crisis are hardest hit: the poorest people; the most vulnerable countries; Indigenous Peoples; women and girls,” he added.

This World Environment Day aims to support accelerated progress on global commitments, which include protecting 30 per cent of land and sea for nature and restoring 30 percent of the planet’s degraded ecosystems. While countries have promised to restore one billion hectares of land by 2030, current trends suggest 1.5 billion hectares would need to be restored to meet the 2030 land degradation neutrality goals.

Saudi Arabia has announced environmental sustainability goals to help tackle the challenges of drought, desertification and land degradation, including a pledge to plant 50 billion trees across the region. On World Environment Day the government celebrated its land restoration efforts and announced greater support and funding for private and philanthropic organisations working on environmental issues.

Addressing government officials and industry leaders at the Riyadh event, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen stressed the need for urgent action to make the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration goals a reality by 2030.

Executive Director Andersen said, “Billions across the world are facing food insecurity, crippling droughts, and livelihoods are under threat. That is why on World Environment Day we’re asking the world to join the global movement to restore our lands, increase drought resilience and combat desertification.”

“Restoration is the natural solution to help address the triple planetary crisis, deliver new jobs, lower poverty and build resilience to extreme weather. Land is life – and we must protect it,” she added.

On World Environment Day, six new cities stretching from Africa to Latin America joined UNEP’s Generation Restoration Cities. Collectively, these urban areas – representing 45 million inhabitants, 2.1 million hectares of land and 600 kilometres of waterways – are now seeking to replicate and scale up ecosystem restoration initiatives using nature-based solutions.

Countries like Nigeria have promised to ensure the planting of 25 million trees by 2030 to protect the environment and provide opportunities for Nigeria’s youths within the green economy value chain.

Some World Environment Day announcements and commitments 

  • The President of the Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, launched a 5 Million Tree Project.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reaffirmed the government’s commitment to conserve 30 per cent of land and ocean by 2030, and to boost clean energy industries.
  • Brazil President Lula da Silva attended a presentation by the Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, summarizing the actions of the ministry in nearly a year and a half of government. The minister also announced new environmental protection measures, including decrees signed.
  • Oman plants over 16 million seeds under initiative to plant 10mn indigenous trees
  • Bangladesh to expand tree cover to 25 per cent of land area by 2030
  • Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and his ministers announced the government’s intention to ban bottom trawling in marine protected areas (MPAs) and all Swedish territorial waters (up to 12 nautical miles).
  • New observatory to track progress of Africa’s Great Green Wall unveiled .
  • Largest exterior mural in North America unveiled in celebration of World Environment Day.
  • Rainforest Trust announced a massive milestone—50 million acres of habitat protected to date, an area 40 times the size of Grand Canyon National Park
  • Przewalski’s horses land in Kazakhstan marking a new chapter in biodiversity conservation.
  •  Prince Talal International Prize for Human Development announced the winners of $1,000,000 dedicated for Life on Land.
  • Liberia president Joseph Boakai proclaimed World Environment Day to be observed throughout the country as a Working Holiday.

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