ENVIRONMENT EVENT CALENDAR AND ITS SIGNIFICANCE
TANISHKA GROVER, Student, Amity Law School, Noida
The United Nations Conference on Human Environment, 1972 held in Stockholm, Sweden, also known as Stockholm conference was the first UN conference with a focus on international environmental issues. It laid the foundation stone for global environment governance and also mark the initiation of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), a specialised agency for coordinating global efforts towards sustainability and protection of natural environment.
The year 1972 is considered a turning point with regard to environment and later that year, UN General Assembly designated JUNE 5 as World Environment Day, commemorating the first day of the landmark Conference. Since then, the day is celebrated for raising awareness, importance of maintaining and conserving mother nature from harmful and destructive human actions.
Every year, the auspicious World Environment Day have divergent themes selected on the basis of present environmental challenge with a view to figure out possible solutions for the same. The celebration with one particular theme helps in spreading awareness and encouraging human activities, major corporations, NGOs, governments etc to promote and align their actions in consonance with that environmental issue.
For 2020, the theme is Biodiversity, an urgent and existential global concern in lieu of recent events like bushfires in Brazil, the United States, and Australia to locust infestations in East Africa, also a global disease pandemic now.
Biodiversity includes varieties of life existing on Earth, reaching an estimate of eight million plant and animal species, their ecosystem and genetic diversity. It is an interdependent and complex web consisting of abundant food, air, water and the weather which makes our planet a habitable place, hindrance to any of the element of the web can produce negative consequences on entire ecological system.
Though biodiversity is an essential element of life cycle, perverse human activities have resulted into loss of 32 million hectares forest, melting of glacial ice, acidification of oceans and so on. The ratio of wildlife extinction has been tens to hundreds of times faster since past ten million years. Loss of biodiversity continued may bring humanity, food and health systems to collapse. This theme was selected also due to the global COVID-19 pandemic interpreting it as a message from nature to humanity to reform and reimagine the inter relationship by restoring and sustaining healthy environment.
A collective plan in form of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was adopted under 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for achieving peace and prosperity on earth. It addresses world level challenges, related to inequality, climatic change, poverty, environment issues, world peace etc and biodiversity is critical to all as the goals are interdependent for their progress.
Biodiversity is crucial for economic prosperity, global GDP which is equivalent to US $ 44 trillion approximately, is depend on nature. Healthy ecosystems are said to mitigate around thirty-seven percent of global temperatures rise. Additionally, they may help mitigate the adverse effects of natural disasters too, like floods, tsunamis, storms, landslides and droughts, when native biodiversity is high, zoonotic disease infection rates are also lower.
FIVE DECADES OF WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY
Since, 1972, World Environment Day has evolved as a global platform for raise of awareness and curbing actions against environment, millions of people across globe participate for driving change in consumption and utilisation habits of natural resources.
A glimpse of previous years’ themes of Environment Day has been enumerated below-
|2018||Beat Plastic Pollution|
|2017||I’m with Nature|
|2016||#WildforLife International Wildlife Crime|
|2015||Seven Billion People. One Planet. Consume with Care|
|2014||Raise your voice not Sea Level|
|2013||Think. Eat. Save|
|2011||Forests-Nature at your Service|
|2010||Many Species. One Planet. One Future|
|2009||Unite to Combat Climate Change|
|2008||CO2. Kick the Habit!|
|2007||Melting Ice? – A Hot Topic|
|2006||Desert and Desertification- Don’t desert drylands|
|2005||Green Cities- Plan for the Planet|
SIGNIFICANCE OF THEMES
The themes selected every year are based on the burning environment related issue that year or the issue unaddressed and unrecognised which is required to reach out to public in general.
The various events conducted on World Environment Day at regional, state, country and even international level provides an insight to current environment issues, it helps towards-
Public Awareness– The day helps to spread awareness among the public in general about the theme selected or we can say, the current environmental issue world is going through which is required to be addressed. People can be motivated to perform their part as responsible humans for protection of mother earth and ways by which it can be pursued.
Assessment by government– The theme is selected by the UNEP, according to the world scenario. This provides every participating country a chance to assess the status of that issue in their own country and potential in handling it.
Identification of Contributory Actions– The actions, industries and other exploitative acts causing the environment issue could be identified, so the efforts can be channelized to control them.
Possible Solutions– The international events and conferences conducted in lieu of Environment Day, discuss regarding the possible solutions and reforms that could help curb the current environment issue.
This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all the events went online and a total of 1850 events were registered under UNEP across various countries.
SDGs AND ITS IMPACT
Since, introduction of Sustainable Development Goals (hereinafter SDGs), 2030 Agenda has become the guide for actions and plans by the UNEP and various countries to incorporate into national plans and strategies. Organising various events on environment day all over world promote the SDGs, further, many private sectors business, civil societies and NGOs are inclined in favour of sustainable development.
However, till now the negative trends by manmade damages have not yet reversed which limits the success to achieve 2030 Agenda. This should be a strong concern and even a red alarm for international communities that much more is required to be done in an accelerated fashion.
Initiatives like World Environment Day is an optimistic step but according to data and assessment reports the real impact in curbing the issues and progress towards sustainability has not been so favourable in relation to expectations.
According to UN Global Sustainable Development Report 2019, the assessment tables suggest that with current rate of progress many objectives are attainable, however, this straightforward interpretation exclude the complexities and its impact on the growth rate, therefore, constant rate of progress cannot be a realistic expectation. The declines are apparent especially when approaching a target towards complete eradication. The most worrisome are the targets which are acknowledged and promoted recently and the trend is not even in right direction. Currently, COVID-19 pandemic has led to a global level economic and humanity crisis which will be the first priority of various nations to recover from and stabilise their economy.
Critically, four major trends of: rising inequality, biodiversity loss, climatic changes and human activity waste presage a move towards negative tipping points and leading there would result into irreversible changes that have adverse effects on society and earth. Hence, 2020 to 2030 have to be an action-packed decade with rigorous efforts to achieve 2030 Agenda and to bring the natural processes at healing points to make earth a better place for all.
Urbanisation and globalisation have been the key drivers of the catastrophic condition of environment. The scientific data shows that:
- Post 1990, we have lost around 420 million hectares of forest land;
- 75 percent of earth’s habitable land has been altered;
- Illegal wildlife trade is fourth largest trade crime in the world;
- Nearly one million species have faced extinction;
- Around 75% of emerging infections are zoonotic, for example, Ebola, SARS, Ziku virus;
- Since 1980, per-person consumption of materials has risen up by 15%;
- Extraction of biomass, fossil fuels, minerals etc rose by 80% since last three decades.
The list goes on which paints a clear picture that the pro-environment efforts have not provided the expected results, in fact, the constantly rising development efforts have always overpowered thereof. The mother nature has so much to give back to humanity in many forms, be it production of oxygen by marine plants, absorption of carbon dioxide and returning back oxygen, essential element for life or any other nature benefit.
This reflects that events like World Environment Day and its worldwide celebrations intending to reverse the negative trends have been incompetent to produce an environment friendly outcome.
The different themes selected ever year, with an aim to tackle that particular issue through various strategies, international or national policies and environment missions are only words without action. Even if the actual efforts were there to attain the environment goals, they have been surpassed by harmful human actions i.e. there have been more damage than efforts for its cure.
WORLD ENVIRONMENT CALENDAR
In addition to the world environment day, there are other much celebrated days concerning various other environment related issues. Coincidently, there is a day or two mostly in every month allocated for environment which provides us an opportunity to recall global environment issues and work upon them. The days include:
World Water Day: The day is celebrated to give a wake-up alarm towards the issue of depleting drinking water resources and the necessity for conserving them. Since, 1993, 22nd March every year is observed as world water day for tackling global water crisis. The core focus behind it is achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6, Water and Sanitation for all by the year 2030. The states are expected to devote the day in consonance with national scenario for activities such as programs for public awareness, documentaries diffusing the idea for need to protect freshwater, seminars and conferences on water resource conservation. It must inspire the world for judicial use of water reaffirming water and sanitation measures for the sake of poverty reduction, economic growth as well as environment sustainability.
Earth Day: A group of US citizens got together drawing attention of the world on adverse effects caused due to modernisation. So, since 1970, the day of April 22 is celebrated as Earth Day and now it is recognised a planet’s largest civic event influencing common people at large. The day marks the passage of environment laws in United States like Clean Air, Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act which adds to its significance. For 2020, the theme was Climate Action and it led to filling of digital space with global interactions, calls for actions, video tech awareness etc. Climate Change holds significance for managing future of humanity and life systems on earth.
World Ozone Day: The day of 16th September marks the signing of Montreal Protocol wherein UN also declared it as international day for Preservation of Ozone layer around the earth which is getting severely damaged due to human activities. The ozone layer is a shield of gas surrounding the earth protecting humanity from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. This day is celebrated to phaseout ozone depleting substances and protect the layer for future generations. It also balances the climatic conditions on earth. The International day occasions to mobilize political will, educate people on the issue and conserve resources to address problem as ozone plays vital role in protecting human health and ecosystem. This year the nationwide lockdowns halted human activities in various countries amid Covid-19 pandemic, which had a positive impact on ozone layer leading to healing of gaps and holes in the layer caused by such activities. Thus, human pandemic resulted into environmental rejuvenation.
International Day for Biological Diversity: The day of May 22nd ever year is proclaimed to be devoted for increasing understanding and awareness about biodiversity issues around the world. There is an inseparable connection between nature and humanity and worldwide around 25% of the plant and animal species are under the threat of extinction. This year’s theme was ‘Our solutions are in nature’ with aim of focussing on hope, solidarity and importance of working together across the globe to create life harmonising with nature. Currently, the world is grappling to recover from Covid-19 pandemic and we must build a framework to bend the curve on biodiversity loss.
Apart from the days discussed above which are largely recognised and celebrated across the world, there are other days too attached with environment which requires more popularisation and acknowledgement. They are:
|February 2||World Wetland Day: The date marks the signing of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands which is of international importance due to its essential role in the biodiversity.
|March 21||World Forest Day: It is celebrated to encourage planting of trees and highlighting the requirement of increase in the green cover worldwide for quality living.|
|March 23||World Meteorological Day: The day reminiscent that weather and climate are integral part of the environment and bearable weather conditions are essential for survival.|
|April 7||World Health Day: The esteemed UN body, World Health Organisation (WHO) was constituted on April 7, 1948 and the day marks its genesis.|
|May 31||Anti-Tobacco Day: Tobacco causes irreversible damages to the body of the consumers and smoking affects the nearby people too. The day is celebrated to campaign against tobacco and spread awareness about its harmful effects.|
|July 11||World Population Day: The day brings attention to control the population boom around the world and due scarcity of resources to accommodate the population, especially in countries like India.|
|September 28||Green Consumer Day: The day aims to spread awareness among the consumers relating to recycling-reusing- reducing to decrease the impact on consumerism on environment.|
|October 3||World Habitat Day: The habitat on earth does not only consist of humans but also other living creatures like animals, birds, plants etc whose habitat is threatened by human activities. So, the day is celebrated for initiatives to protect them.|
|October 1 to 7||World Wildlife Week: The is celebrated through various events for building awareness and preservation of our wildlife which are essential for ecological balance.|
|October 4||World Animal Welfare Day: Animal welfare is much discussed issue and there are various aspects attached with it. Protection of animals is essential to save life cycle on earth.|
|October 13||International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction: The day aims to draw attention for efforts to reduce natural disasters.|
The ecosystems and biodiversity have a direct fall on human health and wealth. COVID-19 has transmitted from animals to humans, a result of human interference and exploitation of wild spaces leading to starkness in economy and human life. It is considered to be a red alert from the nature. The themes of the World Environment Day should not mere be a topic for events worldwide but, the day, June 5, should be the starting point for complete eradication of selected environment issue and the nations must collectively participate for the cause. If the journey reaches the end point, that is where the global event calls for celebration. World Environment Day with new theme every year is a call for collective conscience to recognise the fragile links of humanity and its existence with nature. The various days in the world environment calendar are still a formality in practice due to inadequate efforts and awareness among the world population about them. The United Nations as well as State governments stands responsible here for spreading more awareness and familiarising the human population with the opportunities to expand horizon and work upon the specific issue demarcated for the specific days spread over the whole year.
Image Sourced from – http://www.globalstewards.org/environmental-calendar.htm
 Five Decades of Environmental Action, United Nations (June 18,2020 1.30pm) https://www.un.org/en/observances/environment-day/background
 What is Biodiversity?, United Nations Environment Program UNEP ( June 19, 2020 12:30pm) https://www.worldenvironmentday.global/did-you-know/what-biodiversity
 Biodiversity and Sustainable Development Goals, UNEP ( June 19 2:30pm) https://www.worldenvironmentday.global/did-you-know/biodiversity-and-sustainable-development-goals
 Registered Events :Global Online Registrations, World Environment Day 2020, UNEP ( June 20,2020 02:10pm) https://www.worldenvironmentday.global/get-involved/registered-events
 Global Sustainable Development Report 2019, UNSD (June 21, 2020 10:00am) https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2019/The-Sustainable-Development-Goals-Report-2019.pdf
 Dia Mirza, This World Environment Day it’s time to give it back to nature, The Hindu: Business Line ( June 21, 2020 01:30PM) https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/this-world-environment-day-its-time-to-give-back-to-nature/article31747273.ece
 International Day for the Preservation
of the Ozone Layer, United Nations https://www.un.org/en/events/ozoneday/