World Environment Day is celebrated every year on June 5, to remind humans that they are not alone on this planet. There is a huge biological ecosystem that exists and human beings survive because of that. World Environment Day is observed by United Nations to encourage worldwide awareness and work towards improving the environment. Every year responsibility is given to a country to host the event and provide a platform to discuss Sustainable Development Goals.
This year the baton is passed to the South Asian country Pakistan to host World Environment Day 2021. The theme for this year will be ecosystem restoration, with a special focus on creating a good relationship with nature.
This year’s event will also mark the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021–2030. In the next 10 years, the United Nations with the support of countries, partners, and people want to focus on preventing and reversing the loss of degraded natural ecosystems to fight the impacts of climate change.
The end of this decade is also the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals and the timeline that scientists identified as significant to evade the consequences of climate change.
The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is Ecosystem Restoration. Pakistan will act as global host of the day. World Environment Day 2021 will see the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
The ambitious project- which is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – sets out to plant ten billion trees by 2023. Launched in 2019, the project has just reached a new milestone – planting of the billionth tree.
This year also sees the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 and projects such as the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami are key to preventing, halting and reversing the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean.
“Large scale restoration initiatives such as The Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Project are central to Pakistan’s efforts to support the UN Decade and to increase ecosystem restoration,” said DechenTsering, UNEP’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, “We are at a point in history where we need to act and Pakistan is leading on this important effort.”
Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. Bloomberg estimates that only five per cent of the country has forest cover, against a global average of 31 per cent, making it one of the six countries most susceptible to climate change.
According to a UNDP report, Pakistan is particularly suspectable to increased variability of monsoons, receding Himalayan glaciers and extreme events including floods and droughts. The knock-on effects of these will be an increase in food and water insecurity.
It is a problem the Pakistan government is aware of and is looking at urgently addressing. As well as the TBTTP the government has committed to increasing its Protected Areas to 15 per cent by 2023 (in 2018 they stood at 12 per cent and today they stand at over 13 per cent).
Large scale restoration projects such as The Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Project are central to Pakistan’s efforts to support the UN Decade and to increase ecosystem restoration
DechenTsering, Director Asia and the Pacific, UNEP
The environmental problems in Pakistan are exacerbated by its large population, it is the fifth most populous country in the world, which puts increasing strain on the environment. Additionally, according to the World Bank over 24 per cent of Pakistan’s population lives in poverty, which puts them at greater risk to impacts of climate change. This is largely because they have a higher dependency on natural resources and are less able to cope with climatic variability.
UNEP’s Inclusive Wealth Report for Pakistan, a first-of-its-kind accounting of the country’s natural, human and produced capital, found that between 1990 and 2014 Pakistan suffered a decline in natural capital, a trend which is now being reversed.
“It is worrying that we’ve seen declines in natural capital, including in Pakistan,” said Tsering. “But it is promising to see the steps that the country’s government is taking to turn things around, particularly with its restoration projects.”
The Ten Billion Tree Tsunami is not only helping restore ailing ecosystems and improve natural capital; it is also supporting livelihoods. The project is expected to create jobs for almost 85,000 daily wagers. In addition, Pakistan’s protected areas initiative will create almost 7000 long term jobs.
The United Nations General Assembly has declared the years 2021 through 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Led by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN Decade is designed to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide. The UN Decade will draw together political support, scientific research and finance to massively scale up restoration with the goal of reviving millions of hectares of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.