On Mother Earth Day, UN Member States urged to promote harmony with nature

Climate change is a growing cause of displacement in Africa, where some areas have been devastated by drought.
UNHCR/B. Bannon
Climate change is a growing cause of displacement in Africa, where some areas have been devastated by drought.

On Mother Earth Day, UN Member States urged to promote harmony with nature

Top United Nations officials today urged the 193 Member States to renew their pledges to honour and respect Mother Earth marking the day selected by the world body to promote harmony with nature and sustainable development.

Today is a “chance to reaffirm our collective responsibility to promote harmony with nature,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature held to mark International Mother Earth Day.

Noting this year’s theme, Faces of Climate Change, Mr. Ban urged the UN General Assembly “to confront the hard truth that our planet is under threat.”

He noted that unsustainable exploitation of natural resources is eroding fragile ecosystems, destroying biodiversity, depleting fish stocks by short-sighted commercial fishing and threatening marine food chains by raising the acidity in oceans.

“When we threaten the planet, we undermine our only home – and our future survival,” Mr. Ban said, calling on countries to ensure that upcoming development strategies include measures to support and sustain Mother Earth.

“On this International Day, let us renew our pledges to honour and respect Mother Earth,” Mr. Ban urged.

In his speech, Mr. Ban also noted the growing momentum among world leaders to support sustainable development, citing in particular the efforts of Bolivia, which adopted a legal framework that specifically protects Mother Earth, with the rights of nature included in the national Constitution, and which led the effort to create the Day.

Since 2009, the UN General Assembly has marked International Mother Earth Day on Earth Day or 22 April, expressing its conviction that, to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations, “it is necessary to promote harmony with nature and the Earth.”

The General Assembly’s current president, Vuk Jeremic, emphasized that “the irreversible torrent of physical and ecological transformations across the globe is threatening us with a future reality that is profoundly different from anything that we have experienced until now.”

As a result, the General Assembly is planning for a series of events to boost the efforts towards the 2015 anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the post-2015 agenda.

These include the Secretary-General’s high-level panel of eminent persons created in the wake of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). To take place at the end of May.

The General Assembly also plans to hold a thematic debate on 16 May on the nexus of water and energy, organized in collaboration with the newly established UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Jeremic said.

Meanwhile, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) today launched the “Think-Eat-Save: Reduce Your Footprint” Campaign aimed at reducing at least one-third of all food produced that never makes it from the farm to the fork. The countdown comes ahead of World Environment Day, marked annually on 5 June.

As part of the effort, UNEP is calling on people across the world to share their traditional knowledge and ideas of food preservation whether it be biltong in South Africa, pickling or jam making, sauerkraut in Germany, or the way shark meat is ripened and preserved in ice in Iceland.

“Every loss and waste of food represents a loss of the energy involved in growing the food in the first place, and the fuel spent needlessly on transporting produce from farms to shops and homes, often across the globe,” UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner said in his message for the Day.

Mr. Steiner added that a “small but significant amounts of methane - a powerful greenhouse gas - are linked to food thrown away into the globe's landfills, in addition to emissions linked with livestock and forests cleared for food that is never eaten.”

In addition, FAO today announced that it has adopted the first Global Plan for Action for the Conservation, Sustainable Use and Development of Forest Genetic Resources.

According to a news release, FAO’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture adopted the plan last week and are set for final approval of it in June.

Among the key priority areas for action include improving the availability of and access to information on forest genetic resources; development of the worldwide conservation strategy; and sustainable use, development and management of forest genetic resources.

The UN just wrapped up a two-week Forum on Forests in Istanbul, Turkey, to promote the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests and to strengthen long-term political commitment.

Estimates of the number of tree species worldwide vary from 80,000 to 100,000, UNEP said. Forest ecosystems remain essential refuges for biodiversity, and 12 per cent of the world's forests are designated primarily for the conservation of biological diversity.

Following his presentation to the Mother Earth Day event, Secretary-General Ban today spoke to partners of his initiative called Sustainable Energy for All. Given the threats to the planet from energy consumption and the fact that over a billion people lack of access to electricity, Mr. Ban said: “We need a paradigm shift – a transformation – in the way we produce, use and share energy.”