Pakistan to host World Environment Day

Nairobi, Feb 23 (IANS) Pakistan has announced that it will host World Environment Day 2021 in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) with the theme of ‘ecosystem restoration’ and focus on resetting relations with nature.

It will also mark the formal launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.

World Environment Day takes place every year on June 5. It is the United Nations’ flagship day for promoting worldwide awareness and action for the environment.

Over the years, it has grown to be the largest global platform for environmental public outreach and is celebrated by millions of people across the world.

Making the announcement on the margins of the virtual Fifth UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) on Monday, Pakistan’s Adviser to Prime Minister and Minister of Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, joined UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen to acknowledge the urgency of preventing, halting and reversing the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.

Led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the government of Pakistan — in one of the world’s most ambitious afforestation efforts — plans to expand and restore the country’s forests through a 10 Billion Tree Tsunami initiative spread over five years.

The campaign includes restoring mangroves and forests, as well as planting trees in urban settings, including schools, colleges, public parks and green belts. Pakistan has launched an Ecosystem Restoration Fund to support nature-based solutions to climate change and facilitate the transition towards environmentally resilient, ecologically targeted initiatives covering afforestation and biodiversity conservation.

Recently, the Prime Minister of Pakistan launched the Protected Area Initiative to develop 15 model protected areas across the country to conserve over 7,300 sq km of land area and create over 5,500 green jobs.

“The government of Pakistan is fully committed to playing a leadership role in addressing the issue of climate change, including through the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami initiative, which will restore and enhance over one million hectares of forest across the country,” said Minister Aslam.

“We are honoured to host this year’s World Environment Day and lend our support to global restoration efforts.”

As host of World Environment Day, Pakistan will highlight environmental issues and showcase the country’s own initiatives and its role in global efforts. The day will be celebrated across the world through various events and activities, in line with latest Covid-19 regulations.

“2020 was a year of reckoning, facing multiple crises, including a global pandemic and the continued crises of climate, nature and pollution,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.

“In 2021, we must take deliberate steps to move from crisis to healing: and in so doing, we must recognize that the restoration of nature is imperative to the survival of our planet and the human race.”

“Pakistan has shown real leadership in efforts to restore the country’s forests; we are grateful for their commitment to host World Environment Day 2021 and lead the charge for all nations to restore our damaged ecosystems through the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration,” she added.

The UN Decade is intended to massively scale up the restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems to fight the climate crisis, prevent the loss of a million species and enhance food security, water supply and livelihoods.

Reviving natural carbon sinks — such as forests and peatlands — could help close the climate emissions gap by 25 per cent by 2030.

Replanting with native tree species can also help buffer some of the expected devastating effects of a warming planet, such as increased risk of forest fires. Currently, 3.2 billion people — 40 per cent of the world’s population — suffer from the continued degradation of ecosystems, for example by losing access to fertile soil or safe drinking water.

The UN Decade runs from 2021 through 2030, which is also the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals and the timeline scientists have identified critical for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.

To achieve restoration at the required scale, incentives and financial investments must be made in changing the way lands and oceans are exploited, in research and education, and in inspiring a movement of people, businesses and governments through celebrating success stories.

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