In his message for International Mother Earth Day this Wednesday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres acknowledged that all eyes are on the COVID-19 pandemic, which he flagged as “an unprecedented wake-up call”
Recognizing the “immediate and dreadful” impact of the coronavirus, the UN chief urged everyone to “work together to save lives, ease suffering and lessen the shattering economic and social consequence”.
At the same time, he observed that climate disruption is approaching “a point of no return”, and a “deep emergency” that long predates the pandemic.
“Greenhouse gases, just like viruses, do not respect national boundaries”, stated the top UN official. “We must act decisively to protect our planet from both the coronavirus and the existential threat of climate disruption”.
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Emphasizing the need to turn the recovery into “a real opportunity to do things right for the future”, he proposed climate-related actions to shape the recovery.
While spending huge amounts of money to bring economies back, Mr. Guterres asserted, “we must deliver new jobs and businesses through a clean, green transition”.
And where taxpayers’ money is used to rescue businesses, he maintained that it needs to be tied to achieving green jobs and sustainable growth.
He also underscored that to make societies more resilient, “fiscal firepower must drive a shift from the grey to green economy”.
The UN chief maintained that Fossil fuel subsidies must end, polluters must pay for their contamination and public funds should be invested in sustainable sectors along with pro-environment and climate projects.
Moreover, climate risks and opportunities must be incorporated into financial systems, public policy making and infrastructure.
Finally, he stressed the “we need to work together as an international community”.
“On this Earth Day, please join me in demanding a healthy and resilient future for people and planet alike”, he concluded.
Harmony with nature
Meanwhile, General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to promote harmony with nature for a “just, sustainable and prosperous society”.
In his message, he conceded that the loss, suffering, and unprecedented challenges created by COVID-19 has affected “everyone’s daily lives” and awoken us to the fact that “solidarity is our best and first line of defence”.
“Our experience with COVID-19 demonstrates that we, humanity, are not separate from the world around us”, said the Assembly President. “In this Decade of Action and Delivery to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)…we must work together to protect our planet and ecosystems, which affect every aspect of human life”.
He underscored the importance of prioritizing the sustainable use of planetary resources when pursuing industrial growth, notably in food production and agriculture; and to protect biodiversity in climate action efforts, industrial practices and urban expansion.
“We will only preserve Mother Earth through a paradigm shift from a human-centric society to an Earth-centred global ecosystem”, he spelled out.
Calling education “critical” to safeguarding our planet, Mr. Muhammad-Bande maintained that everyone has something to teach and something to learn, and by working together the world could implement the SDGs in harmony with nature.
“I call on all Member States to reaffirm our commitments to protect Mother Earth, in particular the 2030 Agenda”, he concluded.
Earth Day ‘more important than ever’: UN environment chief
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, and also five years since the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, providing a “stark reminder of the vulnerability of humans and the planet in the face of global scale threats”, according to the UN environment agency, UNEP.
In a video released to commemorate the Day, UNEP chief, Inger Andersen, said that ‘the more we are putting pressure on nature, the more that is then impacting us”.
We have altered and impacted about 75 per cent of the surface of planet Earth”, she added, a process which has “led us to where we are today. Healthy people and a healthy planet is part and parcel of the same continuum. Climate change could cause an even greater danger. A three to four degree warmer world is something we can’t even begin to imagine”.
UNEP’s message is that, as the international community works through potential solutions to the current health crisis, the post-pandemic recovery plan should be seen as an opportunity to “build back better”, with a focus on “green jobs” in a more sustainable economy.