Every day, we wake up on distressing news relaying stark warnings issued by experts and scientists that our planet, and our very existence on it, are under serious threat due to climate change. A human-made crisis. Warnings are issued every day, including by the UN secretary-General that humanity is facing an existential threat that can only be addressed through urgent action.
The fiftieth commemoration of the World Environment Day marked annually in June since Stockholm Conference in 1972, was yet another reminder of our collective poor record in protecting our planet, the only home we have. A reminder that we are on a path of collective suicide, if we do not act swiftly and resolutely.
Our only planet is at risk!
Nine out of ten people are breathing unclean air with expected death toll of seven million people every year caused by air pollution. It is expected to increase by fifty per cent in the next decade.
Human actions threaten around one million species to face extinction.
Climate change is irreversibly damaging the lives of all living creatures on earth. Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people are highly vulnerable to climate change. This represents forty-five percent of the world’s population.
These are mere examples of shocking scientific data piling up threatening doom and gloom for humanity and its future generations.
Some of the damage we caused can never be undone. Yet, solutions exist to help mend our planet and restore our environment. Experts’ reports filled with science backed evidence show there are alternative and feasible solutions available to all to protect people and planet for generations to come. But the same scientists are warning that we are running out of time and that if humanity is to survive, the time is now or never to seriously commit and act with urgency and resolve to ensure a sustainable planet.
We need to transform our economies and societies to make them more inclusive, more sustainable and more environment friendly through inducing and enforcing urgent transformative change by introducing and acting on sustainable alternatives to achieving social progress and economic growth.
The eyes of the world, particularly the young generations, are on the upcoming 27th edition of the UN Climate Change Conference 2022 (UNFCCC COP27) taking place in November in Sharm El-Sheikh. People around the world, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable, are counting on the developed and industrialized countries to commit and act to reduce global net carbon emissions. They are also counting on decision-makers to commit to support broader economic and development priorities in developing countries, including Africa.
Urgent action to address the world’s overpopulation is also needed. Overpopulation is one of the major responsible causes of climate change and global warming on Earth, rising unemployment rates, environmental degradation, depletion of natural resources, loss of fresh water and many other environmental and social issues in the world. Solutions for problems caused by overpopulation, thus turning the demographic challenge into opportunities, are available to us. They include investment on women education, poverty alleviation, and promoting family planning. This investment will ensure the strengthening of nations’ human capital by improving education, decreasing child mortality, and providing people with economic opportunities, which in turn, will help to reduce population growth.
Lastly, individual actions highly matter. Everyone can contribute to address one or more aspects of the triple planetary emergency: climate change, biodiversity and nature loss, pollution and waste. Curbing plastic pollution, cleaning seas, rationalizing consumption are examples of possible ways for each one of us to contribute to preserving the environment, and our one planet.
The United Nations system has long been actively engaged in addressing these complex and interrelated challenges. It has been always a critical partner for governments, private sector, civil society, and development actors in addressing development challenges and supporting countries in their journey to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - the blueprint for inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising the future of the generations to come.
Looking at the UN system in Egypt, environmental sustainability and natural resource management are at the core of our strategic cooperation with the Government of Egypt. It takes into consideration multiple environmental challenges that pose severe constraints on Egypt’s future development, including climate change, land degradation and water scarcity. We proudly support and promote Egypt’s national efforts to manage natural resources and its urban environments as well as mitigating environmental hazards and climate risk, in an inclusive, sustainable, efficient, and productive manner. A key achievement of the work of the UN system in Egypt is strengthening resilience and adaptation to climate change of those highly vulnerable to climate risks such as farmers. From 2018 till 2021, we supported around 127,000 small holder farmers to increase their production through introducing them to climate smart, resilient, and efficient sustainable agricultural practices. In addition, we focused on supporting national efforts in protecting low-lying lands in the Nile Delta Coast, the most affected areas of sea surges and global warming.
Our goal is to ensure that together we protect the basic human right to a clean, healthy environment for everyone, leaving no one behind.
The UN system is a critical partner in supporting Egypt’s priorities as identified in its national sustainable development strategy. We are fully committed to supporting the recently launched national climate change strategy, including through our new Cooperation Framework with the Government of Egypt 2023-2027 that we are currently finalizing. We will work together towards advancing a just transition to a green, circular and inclusive economy; building more sustainable cities; and reducing food waste, promoting recycling and reuse, and improving water quality and efficiency to benefit those most vulnerable to environmental consequences linked to poverty.
Preserving the environment is not a luxury. It is not just an option. It is a necessity. It is the only option we have to survive as humans and for our one planet to survive. It is a collective and an individual moral responsibility.
Time to act is NOW. #OnlyOneEarth.
* Elena Panova is the UN Resident Coordinator in Egypt