United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has called for commitment to restoring the planet, and to making peace with nature, in his message to mark International Mother Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22.
This year’s observation is taking place as the planet is at “a tipping point”, he said, as humanity continues to abuse the natural world.
Marking the International Mother Earth Day in 2019, the United Nations debated how best to build “an equitable and sustainable future” for all, through enhanced education and climate action, on the road to a key international summit on the issue due to take place in September.
Billed officially as an Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature, the UN General Assembly session involved Member States and top officials discussing the need to take urgent action against the pace of global warming, in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement, to keep carbon dioxide emissions to well-below two degrees Celsius.
In a tweet to mark Earth Day, Guterres said it was vital “every day” to “commit to taking better care of our planet. Please do everything in your power to tackle climate change – the defining issue of our time”, he said.
“Climate change is one of the largest threats to sustainable development globally,” said the concept note prepared for the General Assembly meeting, “and is just one of many imbalances caused by the unsustainable actions of humankind, with direct implications for future generations.”
President of the General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, said that taking care of nature was, in essence, “taking care of people”. She also noted the importance of respecting life-cycles of the natural world, and contributing to biological diversity so that the world can “continue and prosper”.
“We are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to the planet and to its inhabitants” she tweeted. “We are at a crossroads; this is the moment in which we decide the path we wish to take, to avoid reaching a point of no return in global warming. We already know the results of inaction.”
The international day recognizes a collective responsibility, as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration, to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity.
It also provides an opportunity to raise public awareness around the world to the challenges regarding the well-being of the planet and all the life it supports.
To boost ambition and accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the UN Secretary-General will host the 2019 Climate Action Summit on 23 September, to meet the climate challenge.
End the war on nature
This year, Guterres is harping on ending the war on nature. “We heedlessly plunder the Earth’s resources, deplete its wildlife and treat air, land and seas as dumping grounds. Crucial ecosystems and food chains are being pushed to the brink of collapse”, the UN chief stated.
“This is suicidal. We must end our war on nature and nurse it back to health”.
The Secretary-General said ending this war calls for “bold climate action” to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Stronger steps to protect biodiversity, and reducing pollution and waste, are also needed.
Guterres assured that these steps will not only safeguard the planet, “our only home”, but will also create millions of new jobs.
“Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is a chance to set the world on a cleaner, greener, more sustainable path”, the Secretary-General said.
“On International Mother Earth Day, let us all commit to the hard work of restoring our planet and making peace with nature”.
For the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Day highlights the need to shift to a more sustainable economy that benefits both people and the planet.
“Mother Earth is clearly urging a call to action”, the agency said. “Nature is suffering. Australian fires, heat records and the worst locust invasion in Kenya. Now we face COVID-19, a worldwide health pandemic link to the health of our ecosystem”.
“As the climate emergency intensifies, the transition towards climate stability becomes increasingly critical. Progress will depend on countries and their ability to cover ground on their commitments under the Paris Agreement and eventually, their collective contributions to keep the global average temperature well below 2°C.”