Five decades of celebrating world environment day | By Dr Muhammad Mumtaz


Five decades of celebrating world environment day

World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated on June 5 every year since its inception at the Stockholm Conference in 1972.

It was brought in place at the time when there were growing concerns about human impacts on the planet.

In the 1960s, a series of environmental disasters such as droughts had happened and it was realized that there must be awareness campaigns for preventing, halting and reversing environmental damages.

WED is observed to sensitize the world community regarding the betterment of the environment.

With participation of over 150 countries, this United Nations International Day engages governments, businesses, civil society and communities in raising awareness and celebrating environmental actions.

Each year, it is hosted by a different country where the official celebrations take place. For 2022, the host country is Sweden.

The aim of this year’s campaign is for “collective, transformative action on a global scale to celebrate, protect and restore our planet”.

This would encourage everyone, everywhere, to live sustainably and take action on the environmental crisis.

Sweden is a place where some of the landmark environmental initiatives have been established.

As such the 1972 Stockholm Conference spurred the formation of environment ministries and agencies around the world and kick-started a host of new global agreements to collectively protect the environment.

WED is the right platform to promote awareness about environmental challenges such as climbing temperatures, extreme weather events, worsening air pollution, biodiversity losses and the depletion of natural resources. The day reminds us about our collective responsibilities to protect the environment.

It is imperative to thoroughly look in it that what the world has achieved during the past 50 years knowing that there are various human induced environmental challenges that could possibly be effectively addressed.

A question arises whether these issues have successfully resolved or not? There is no concrete answer to this question but it’s been a mixed story.

It could have not been done a lot as the intended results might not have been substantially achieved so far.

Everybody recognizes the environmental challenges and has positive attentions to resolve the issue. However, it is yet to fully turn such positive attentions into actions.

Meaningful actions could have been taken through effective governance mechanisms and international cooperation.

It should have been done much better through employing effective planning, dedicating a suitable funding, mobilizing resources at the right places, establishing promising international cooperation among others.

There are many challenges to produce effective responses to deal with environmental issues but the world is still committed and on the line to mitigate environmental challenges, especially in those parts of globe that are more vulnerable.

Environmental crisis is a global challenge but developing countries are more at risk due to their high exposure to the negative impacts of climate change, low adaptive capabilities, lack of financing, weak institutional set-up and absence of political will among others.

There is need to learn from the past experience for not producing highly impactful actions as per expectations towards environmental crisis during the last five decades.

It is high time for the international community to raise ambition and translate political commitments on combating climate change and environmental degradation into tangible actions on ground.

This 50th anniversary may come as harbinger so that the world may commit and come-up with sound directions and pragmatic approach to fix environmental crises particularly climate change.

The fight against these environmental challenges will be fought from every corner of the world.

It’s time to prepare local communities particularly in low income societies so as to halt environmental issues in an appropriate way.

However, for developing countries, this would not be possible without provision of sufficient support by developed country partners in the form of means of implementation: green finance, technology transfer and capacity building.

There is a need to design holistic governance approach to smartly tackle this global challenge of the present time.

As such meaningful participation and engagement of relevant actors in environmental planning are nebulous.

Therefore, there must be equitable stakeholder engagement at the time of planning which is key for effective implementation for such planning.

It is therefore highly important to engage underrepresented segment of society in the decision-making process on environmental issues and environmental policies.

Such policies must be based on statistical data and scientific evidence in context of local environment.

Local communities are key in dealing with environmental issues. Many environmental issues are local and they should be addressed locally through local and traditional actions.

Local communities have better knowledge to deal with such issues being closer to them.

Therefore the local actors must be listened and their local successful experiences must be encouraged as policy measures in environmental policies.

Local communities must be engaged in environmental policy debates and the message of WED should be massively disseminated at gross-root level.

On the occasion of this important day, across the world, events such as seminars, workshops, debate competitions, television programs are arranged to promote awareness about environmental issues and strategies to curb these challenges.

It is time to accept and recognize this issue and to produce sophisticated efforts to the best of our abilities to neutralize environmental issues.

The story of last 50 years handling environmental challenges is not up-to the mark. A number of environmental agreements and treaties have been established but progress towards halting these alarming challenges is still slow.

Therefore individuals and civil society must play a key role in raising awareness and urging governments and the private sector to make large-scale changes in their activities and speed up their actions ensuring sustainable environment.

This special day is a reminder for international community to realize its responsibility and expedite its efforts to constructively counter the environmental challenges particularly climate change on a priority basis for sustainable future.

—The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi.