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Celebrating Earth Day

By Rosa Aguilar Rivero, Minister for Environment, Rural and Marine Affairs of Spain and President of UNEP's Governing Council.

On April 22nd we celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Earth Day created in 1970, a landmark for the environmental movement. A movement that gave birth to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Since 1970 we have addressed many aspects of the quality of the environment, while new threats have emerged. We are at a moment in the history of humanity that is essential to take decisions on what model of development we want.

As President of UNEP's Governing Council, and with regard to the international environmental agenda, the work has focused on two main areas: establishing the basis for effective environmental governance and enabling the transition to a Green Economy. This new model of development based on a low-carbon economy is essential in ensuring the adequate mitigation of climate change. The transition to this new economy model should therefore be, above all, a just transition set on a foundation of green and decent jobs.

UNEP has carried out this work hand-in-hand with civil society. In this regard, civil society should be the main actor from the beginning to the end. Citizens and governments have to work together to ensure that the quality of the environment that allows economic and social development within the framework of a new concept for an economy in which social and environmental externalities of any activity are explicitly taken into account.

During the Cancun Summit, the international community expressed their commitment to take measures to limit a rise in global temperatures by 2020 compared to pre-industrial times. In the Durban Summit that will take place in December this year, we have the opportunity to explicitly define the commitments that make it possible to meet this condition for reducing major emissions.

The Rio+20 summit will be the turning point that will lay the foundation for a model of sustainable development that will allow future generations to continue enjoying a healthy environment.

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