Promise to the environment

The first United Nations conference on the environment, held in Stockholm, Sweden, on June 5, 1972, is considered an important milestone marking humanity’s joint efforts in environmental protection. However, 50 years after the conference in Stockholm, the environmental situation has worsened, and it seems that people have not kept their promises to the environment.

Steam rises from the Lethabo power plant in South Africa, February 2016. (Photo: Reuters)
Steam rises from the Lethabo power plant in South Africa, February 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

At the conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations’ environmental activities, the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Environment Day (June 5), UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that although the world has recorded successes in protecting the green planet since 1972, Earth’s natural systems cannot keep up with the demands of mankind and humanity has not kept its promise to the environment.

The United Nations pointed out alarming numbers regarding the health of the planet as well as human lives and the fate of living things on Earth. According to the United Nations, more than 3 billion people are currently affected by the degradation of ecosystems. Pollution is responsible for about nine million deaths each year.

More than 200 million people are at risk of being displaced by the impacts of climate change each year until 2050. Meanwhile, about one million out of the eight million species of animals and plants on Earth are in danger of completely disappearing due to environmental destruction. It has even been forecast that one out of every four species known to humans will be completely wiped out within the next 10 years.

The level of plastic pollution is becoming more and more alarming as microplastics are still detected in the stomachs of fish at the deepest bottom of the ocean in the most pristine and remote places on the planet and insideice sheets in the Arctic. Plastic waste is also believed to be responsible for the deaths of more than a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals each year.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warns that plastic pollution is continuing to worsen, with the volume of plastic products expected to nearly triple in less than 40 years.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said that the world is facing three serious environmental challenges, including the climate change crisis, the loss of biodiversity, and problems related to pollution and waste. Scientists warn that humanity does not have much time left to take steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions, as decades of international diplomatic efforts to protect the environment have stalled.

According to the Carbon Tracker organisation, which tracks the impact of climate change on financial markets, the climate commitments of large energy corporations around the world lack credibility as these corporations still depend on costly technologies to reduce emissions while maintaining the production of polluting energies. The world’s top 15 energy companies have outlined a series of new targets, but most have yet to make a commitment to cutting emissions.

The United Nations has re-selected the slogan “There is only one Earth” of the first environmental conference in Stockholm in 1972 as the theme of World Environment Day 2022 with the aim to revive action efforts to protect the only living planet of mankind today.

The organisation of the summit “Stockholm+50: A Healthy Planet for the Prosperity of All – Our Responsibility, Our Opportunity” by the United Nations General Assembly 50 years after the 1972 conference is a reminder of the responsibility to fulfil the commitments and unfinished promises that man has made to protect the Earth.