The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is the specialized agency within the United Nations (UN) system helping set the global environmental agenda. It was established by UN resolution in 1972 and acts as an authority and advocate for the environment within the global discussion on sustainable development.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the UN in 2015, contains the world’s resolution “to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources.” UNEP helps work toward fulfilling the environmental dimension of the Agenda’s 17 goals and 169 targets.
Some of the environmental success targets of the Sustainable Development Goals are:
Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries
- By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
- By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources
- By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse
- By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes
- By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
- By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally
- By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world
- By 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, in order to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development
Damage to the environment increases the impact floods and other natural disasters have, and the poor bear the brunt. “Natural disasters” are as much a result of poor government, bad infrastructure, population density, and unequal living conditions as anything else. Poverty helps create a disaster.
In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami; killed 230,000 people. All of them were in lower middle-income countries (e.g., Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, etc.). In 2011, a similar magnitude earthquake spawned a tsunami that struck high income Japan. The waves were 30 feet taller than the Indian Ocean tsunami, but only 19,000 people died. Poverty was the difference in the death toll.
The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010 killed 223,000 people. Equally forceful earthquakes hit Chile and New Zealand later that same year. Five hundred people died in Chile, and no deaths occurred in New Zealand. Poverty caused the difference.
World Environment Day is held annually on June 5. It is an international day for raising awareness and taking action on urgent environmental issues.
Since it was first celebrated in 1974 World Environment Day has helped generate political momentum for the preservation and enhancement of the world’s environment. From marine pollution and desertification to sustainable consumption, wildlife crime and global disasters, World Environment Day is a global catalyst for public discourse on all aspects of the world’s environment.
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