The UN Secretary-General has called for safeguarding Earth’s vital ecosystems from rampant pollution, worsening climate impacts and “biodiversity decimation”.

In a message marking Wednesday’s World Environment Day, António Guterres emphasised that countries “must deliver” on all their commitments to restore degraded ecosystems and land, and on Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework, the global agreement to protect biodiversity.

“They must use their new national climate action plans to set out how they will halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. And we must drastically scale-up finance to support developing countries to adapt to violent weather, protect nature, and support sustainable development.”

The UN chief further highlighted that prompt and effective action makes economic sense.

“Every dollar invested in ecosystem restoration creates up to thirty dollars in economic benefits,” he said.

Failure to curb runaway pollution, climate chaos and biodiversity destruction are clear for all to see. Healthy, fertile lands are transforming into deserts, thriving ecosystems into dead zones and rising carbon dioxide emissions.

“That means crops failing, water sources vanishing, economies weakened, and communities endangered – with the poorest hit hardest … It is time to break free,” the UN chief said.

“We are Generation Restoration. Together, let us build a sustainable future for land, and for humanity,” he added.

Celebrated by millions around the world, World Environment Day has been held annually since 1973 and has grown to be largest global platform for environmental outreach ever.

This year, it is being commemorated under the overarching theme “land restoration, desertification and drought resilience”.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), called on everyone to join the global movement on putting those words into action.

“By restoring ecosystems, we can slow the triple planetary crisis: the crisis of climate change, the crisis of nature and biodiversity loss, including desertification, and the crisis of pollution and waste.”

In addition, by doing so, the world can get closer to limiting global temperature rise in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement by increasing carbon storage, and reduce poverty and hunger, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she added.

“Land restoration can be a golden thread that ties these together, ties together action and ambition across all these three important gatherings.”

Kicking off the commemorations, in Asia and the Pacific, the UN’s regional development arm (ESCAP) alongside UNEP will bring together key stakeholders to identify priority actions.

Broad solutions under discussion include circular water resource use, sustainable food production and resilient urban development.

Saudi Arabia is the host for the 2024 global commemoration. The country is also hosting the sixteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP16), the global framework addressing land degradation and desertification, in December.