UNEP at Work                

Achim Steiner
Secretario General Adjunto de las Naciones Unidas y Director Ejecutivo del PNUMA

For 40 years World Environment Day (WED) has been the United Nations’ principle vehicle for raising awareness across communities, cities, countries and continents on environmental issues, after being established at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment — which also founded UNEP.

And for 40 years WED has brought to the world’s attention evolving and pressing challenges that everyone faces as a result of rising environmental degradation, pollution and unsustainable patterns of consumption and production.

In 1974 — the first year WED had a dedicated theme, with the banner ‘Only One Earth’ — the headline underlined a simple but still relevant fact: humanity has only one home, and thus it is prudent to look after it.

In 1989 the issue of climate change was raised through the WED theme ‘Global Warming: Global Warning’.

In the 1990s WED made the links between poverty and the environment and expressed rising concern over the seas and oceans.

In 2003 a key Millennium Development Goal was brought to the fore under the hard hitting slogan ‘Water—Two Billion People are Dying for It!’

Recent WEDs have perhaps changed in character, reflecting much more sharply the urgency of bringing the environmental, social and economic strands in the DNA of sustainable development far closer together through the lens of a Green Economy.

Take ‘Kick the Habit—Towards a Low Carbon Economy’ in 2008 and ‘Forests—Nature at Your Service’ in 2011 for example.

The banner for WED 2012 represents not only one of the overarching themes for Rio+20 — a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication — but it speaks to the issue of equity that any transformation of the global economy must address.

‘Green Economy—Does It Include You?’ is also addressed to nations preparing for Rio+20 — two decades after the Rio Earth Summit.

It urges all leaders — alongside ministers, companies and civil society delegates — attending to join in delivering an outcome that generates opportunity and work for the underemployed and unemployed in a way that keeps humanity’s footprint within planetary boundaries. Rio+20 needs to be a defining moment that puts in place the action and the pathways to realise a sustainable 21st century.

Everyone on this planet has a stake in that. So let us make this year’s WED, happening just weeks before the Summit, the moment when citizens everywhere get out and act for a positive outcome.

So that 20 and 40 years from now the WED themes are less warnings of environmental decay and more celebrations of the way the prospects for seven billion people — rising to over nine billion by 2050 — on our Only One Earth have prospered since 2012.

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