The United Nations is marking World Environment Day with the launch of a decade dedicated to restoring the Earth’s ecosystem, which is rapidly approaching “the point of no return,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday.
“Science tells us these next 10 years are our final chance to avert a climate catastrophe, turn back the deadly tide of pollution and end species loss,” Guterres said in a video address, a day ahead of the international day intended to raise environmental awareness and protection.
"So, let today be the start of a new decade – one in which we finally make peace with nature and secure a better future for all,” he said.
Guterres said the world faces a “triple environmental emergency”: biodiversity loss, climate disruption and increasing pollution.
“The degradation of the natural world is already undermining the well-being of 3.2 billion people – or 40% of humanity,” he warned.
The U.N. secretary-general blamed human behavior, including deforestation, the polluting of rivers and oceans, and unsustainable agriculture practices for contributing to the planet’s poor health.
“Luckily, the Earth is resilient,” he said.
To reverse the damage, he said, societies need to start replanting forests, cleaning up rivers and seas, and greening cities.
“Accomplishing these things will not only safeguard the planet’s resources,” Guterres said. “It will create millions of new jobs by 2030, generate returns of over $7 trillion every year and help eliminate poverty and hunger.”
He acknowledged that the job ahead would be “monumental” and called on governments, the private sector, civil society and ordinary citizens to do their share in this “global call to action.”
Without action, he said, environmental degradation will undermine progress in development and threaten the health and safety of future generations.
In a new report, the U.N. Environment Program says the global population is using about 1.6 times what nature can sustainably provide, which means conservation is not adequate to prevent ecosystem degradation.
The report says if action is taken now, humans will benefit from cleaner air and water, as well as better health, and contribute to the slowing of climate change.