World Environment Day: Your planet needs you

05 Jun 2009

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Green power comes to the province of Xinjiang in northwest China.
(Photo: Stephen Shaver)
This year’s World Environment Day finds the world at a critical juncture. Multiple crises are rocking the globe, from the economic and financial to food and energy price volatilities. The have-nots stand to lose the most as the haves scramble to shore up their financial losses and plan for the future. 

As the international community charts its way forward through these uncertain times, it is crucial to remember that climate change and ongoing environmental degradation represent a crisis that will not go away. In fact, it will only exacerbate the threats to human development. At the same time, we have a real opportunity to address climate change in a way that promotes economic recovery for countries and their people, including the poorest and most vulnerable. The time has come for a new way to think about how we, as a global community, approach and plan for economic growth and poverty eradication in the face of far-reaching environmental and climatic change.

“The economic and financial turmoil sweeping the globe is a true wake-up call sounding an alarm about the need to improve upon old patterns of growth and make a transition to a new era of greener, cleaner development,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. 

UNDP estimates that due to climate change effects an additional 600 million people will face food shortages and malnourishment in the coming years, 1.8 billion will struggle to find water and 330 million will be displaced. UNDP is on the ground in developing countries across the world, providing policy and technical assistance to governments and people as they work to mitigate or prevent the rapidly intensifying effects of climate change. For example, in Croatia, UNDP is working with the Government to limit the amount of carbon produced by the building sector, its most energy-intensive. In Chile, UNDP used solar ovens to help prevent deforestation.

UNDP takes seriously its role to find and implement solutions that reduce poverty and sustain biodiversity in an environment degraded by climate change. In Indonesia,  for instance, UNDP and its partners convinced local fishermen in Les to abandon fishing practices that were devastating a coral reef. As a result, the coral reef came back to life. In Africa, UNDP and the Global Environment Facility are getting people in remote areas onto the electrical grid by harnessing green sources of energy like hydropower and solar energy.

One fact can no longer be ignored: climate change effects will be increasingly felt by people from all walks of life. We will all be affected by food and water shortages, by the disappearance of species, by the expansion of warm weather killer diseases into new territories and by rising sea levels. This December, leaders from around the world will meet in Copenhagen for high-level climate change talks. But we cannot simply wait for decision-makers – our planet needs us now. The time for action is now.

As the Secretary-General said: "Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose we can make a tremendous difference."

Statement:Related site:

The United Nations' Seal the Deal! campaign brings attention to world leaders ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2009.

Did you know?

A UNDP-supported initiative starting on the World Environment Day will replace millions of incandescent light bulbs with low energy-consumption bulbs in Tunisia. Between 2009 and 2011, five million low consumption bulbs will be distributed by the Tunisian Company for Electricity and Gas.One million low consumption bulbs will be given free of charge to people who cannot otherwise afford them. The government has already established an increasing sales tax on incandescent bulbs sales: from 10 per cent in 2000 to 30 per cent in 2008 to 50 per cent in 2011. The tax revenues will support the National Fund for Energy Conservation. In addition to reducing Tunisia’s carbon footprint, the country will save annually 290 GWh and USD 10 million.