Remarks by Ambassador Munir Akram, President of UN ECOSOC and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN at the virtual commemoration of UN World Environment Day Event

Islamabad, June 04, 2021 (PPI-OT):Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, We celebrate World Environment Day 2021 at a critical moment in history. It was a bio-diverse and hospitable planet which accommodated the emergence and evolution of the human species – providing nutrition food, clean air, fresh water, rich oceans, natural medicines and bountiful raw materials. It allowed humankind to survive, grow, prosper and build great civilizations. Unfortunately, in the past 100 years – the era of the Anthroprocene – when humans became the prime cause of the changes to our planet that we have, in the pursuit of health and power, disturbed and damaged the balance and boundaries of Nature and created an existential threat to our own species.

In the past 50 years, the human population has doubled, the global economy has grown nearly fourfold and global trade has grown tenfold, together driving up the demand for energy, raw materials and much else and generating multiple forums of pollution with increasing negative impacts on Nature. Seventy-five percent of the planet’s land surface has been significantly altered; 66 percent of the ocean area is experiencing increasing cumulative impacts, and over 85 percent of wetlands have been lost. Approximately half the live coral cover has disappeared since the 1870s, with accelerating losses in recent decades due to climate change. As the UN Secretary General has said, Man has been at war with Nature, and “Nature is fighting back”.

The Covid-19 pandemic which has created the most severe global health and economic crisis is itself a zoonotic disease, triggered by the loss of biodiversity and the closer interaction between man and various animal species. If current trends of biodiversity loss and degradation continue, it could increase the risk of further zoonotic disease and jeopardize global food security. It is high time to discard the economic models that are driving States to fight Nature – and each other. It is time to transition to a new economic and social paradigm which values the preservation of Nature as much, if not more than gross natural product and per capita incomes – an economic model which enshrines sustainability as an integral part of the development paradigm. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals provide the broad blueprint for action. Even as we battle the pandemic, we have – at the UN – committed ourselves to “building back better”. We have committed ourselves to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. We must also commit ourselves to ecosystem restoration – to reversing the harm we have done to our Planet, its forests its oceans, its glaciers, its rivers and lakes.

Thus, the theme of this years’ Environment Day celebration: “Ecosystem Restoration.” Today also marks the launch of the Decade for Ecosystem Restoration It is a matter of pride that my country, Pakistan, is the host of this year’s Environment Day Celebration. As we have heard from Adviser on Environment to Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan launched its Ecosystem Restoration Initiative in 2019. It has adopted a number of nature based solutions to strengthen biodiversity and nature including by initiatives such as the ‘billion tree Tsunami’.

These are good examples that can and should be promoted globally. Science and experience has vividly illustrated that the foundation of a strong ecosystem can enhance people’s livelihoods, support nutritious and resilient food systems, reverse desertification and freshwater degradation, protect our oceans and prevent the collapse of biodiversity. Without strong and resilient ecosystems, we will not be able to achieve the SDGs – to end poverty and hunger and promote health, prosperity and human wellbeing. Let us, therefore, on World Environment Day, commit ourselves to mobilize agreement and action at the Climate Change. Biodiversity and Ocean Conferences and create a global community of Nations at peace with Nature, and with each other. Thank you

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