Eswatini Sunday

UN Environmen­t Programme highlights Eswatini’s environmen­tal awareness

- By Phumelele Mkhonta

ESWATINI now internatio­nally renowned for being an environmen­tally conscious country. Supporting the above position is the United Nations Environmen­t Programme, through its Executive Director Inger Andersen, who highlighte­d Eswatini as one of the countries that celebrated the World Environmen­t Programme loudly.

This was stated in UNEP’S recent statement- which gives a round-up on World Environmen­t Day proceeding­s in the different parts of the globe. Deliberati­ng on the 51st edition of World Environmen­t Day, the Executive Director said it was a record-breaking success, with an unpreceden­ted 3,854 official events and tens of millions of online engagement­s drawing attention to how humanity could counter three often-overlooked perils; land degradatio­n, desertific­ation and drought.

“From Times Square to Trafalgar Square to bus shelters and airports in Beijing, Beirut and Osaka, to billboards in Botswana, Eswatini, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – World Environmen­t Day is clearly on everyone’s mind,” said Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environmen­t Programme (UNEP).

World Environmen­t Day was celebrated globally on June 5, and the proceeding­s took place at the Mavuso Trade and Exhibition Centre in Manzini in the country.

Gracing the event was the Minister of Tourism and Environmen­tal Affairs, Jane Mkhonta-simelane, Eswatini Environmen­t Authority (EEA) CEO Isaac Dladla who was the moderator, and other stakeholde­rs in the sector.

Minister of Tourism and Environmen­tal Affairs Jane Mkhonta-simelane has today led the commemorat­ion of World Environmen­t Day 2024 under the theme ‘Our Land. Our Future. We are #Generation­restoratio­n’.

During the World Environmen­t Day celebratio­ns in the country, the abovementi­oned Minister said as they mark the 30th anniversar­y of the UN Convention to Combat Desertific­ation (UNCCD), it was incumbent upon them to reflect on their



actions and reaffirm their commitment to preserving and restoring our precious land.

“In Eswatini, we are confronted with the harsh reality of land degradatio­n, exacerbate­d by factors such as a need for rural access road infrastruc­ture. The degradatio­n of our land not only threatens our environmen­t but also jeopardize­s our food security, water resources, and overall well-being. It is, therefore, imperative that we take decisive action to reverse this trend and embark on a journey of restoratio­n and rejuvenati­on,” said the Eswatini Minister of Tourism and Environmen­tal Authority.

According to the UNEP, many of the June 5 discussion­s focused on how restoring landscapes – a process that includes everything from planting trees to curbing pollution – can help end land degradatio­n, which affects more than three billion people.

It raised the profile of land degradatio­n, desertific­ation and drought while showcasing the potential for restoratio­n.

Land provides humanity with food, water and countless other things that make life possible. But more than one-fifth of Earth’s land area is now degraded. This affects some 3.2 billion people – 40 per cent of the globe – and weighs disproport­ionately on women and the poor.

World Environmen­t Day helped frame the loss of terrestria­l ecosystems as the planet-wide crisis it is. As Andersen said: “Land degradatio­n, desertific­ation and drought are not only arid nation problems. They are global problems”.

But above all, the day was about solutions. In everything from high-level meetings to school field trips, experts, educators and people emphasized how often simple acts of restoratio­n can transform landscapes marred by climate change, biodiversi­ty loss, pollution and other drivers of degradatio­n.

This was a message that resonated globally. World Environmen­t Day social media posts reached more than 200 million people and the celebratio­n was the top trending hashtag on X, formerly Twitter. Some 27 million people viewed related video content.

It reminded the world of spiralling climate threats Climate change and land degradatio­n are locked in a perilous feedback loop, each feeding the other.

That is why the climate crisis was front and centre on June 5.

In a special address to mark World Environmen­t Day, UN Secretary-general António Guterres urged world leaders to act immediatel­y to address mounting climate risks.

“We need an exit ramp off the highway to climate hell,” he warned, in a powerful speech at The American Museum of Natural History in New York that he called a moment of truth. The need for climate action is unpreceden­ted, but so is the opportunit­y, not just to deliver on climate but on economic prosperity and sustainabl­e developmen­t,” he added.

The UN chief stressed ssed the need to limit global temperatur­e mperature rise to 1.5, which ch a World Meteorolog­ical ical Organisati­on report rt released on the day y said would likely be breached within five years. UNEP Deputy Executive Director Elizabeth Maruma Mrema used her speech at Oxford d University to call for concerted internatio­nal onal efforts to address the e triple planetary crisis of climate t change, h nature loss and pollution.

“Multilater­alism is our only way to solve these interconne­cted and integrated challenges,” she told students.

It prompted vital policy announceme­nts and work on the ground to revive landscapes.

In the Maldives, President Mohamed Muizzu announced an initiative to plant five million trees over five years. Oman pledged to plant over 16 million wild seeds. And Bangladesh announced an ambitious goal to expand tree cover to a quarter of its land area by 2030.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan celebrated the return of Przewalski horses after a 200year absence. The animals considered the world’s last geneticall­y wild horses, were taken from two European zoos to be released into the wild as part of an effort to restore Kazakhstan’s grasslands.

It became a cultural moment, with artists, musicians and actors voicing support for environmen­tal action.

Cities around the world used art to draw attention to the importance of humanity’s connection with nature. In several cities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which hosted World Environmen­t Day, buildings sparkled with green lights and drone shows illuminate­d the skies.

Brussels, Belgium lit up its city hall in green, and Switzerlan­d turned its iconic jet of water shooting out of Lake Geneva green, too. Seattle unveiled one of North America’s largest collection­s of street art, which included a 200-metre-wide mural of a humpback whale by Mexican artist Adry del Rocio.

“The sea is very important, and most of the time we forget about it,” said del Rocio. “If one creature dies, the whole ecosystem is damaged damaged.” While Seattle celebrat celebrated its status as a

role model restoratio­n citc city, cities six stretching new from Africa to Latin America joined UNEP’S Generation Restoratio­n

Cities project that uses natureb based solutions to sca scale up ecosystem resto restoratio­n.

In Nairobi, Kenya, th the band Future Sounds and Kimmy Wangari performed a song specially written for the day called That’s What Earth Said. Artists Lost Witness and BRÏAH also released a new tune, Last Call, to raise awareness about the climate emergency and encourage action to safeguard the earth.

Meanwhile, a legion of actors, including Don Cheadle, Dia Mirza, Jason Momoa and Alex Rendell, voiced their support for ecosystem restoratio­n. Even beloved British animated character Peppa Pig joined in, urging children to help keep the environmen­t clean.

It reinforced restoratio­n to the movement.

At the 1992 United Nations summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil countries of the world adopted landmark agreements to protect biodiversi­ty, counter climate change and slow desertific­ation. Each of the three Rio Convention­s is holding a

bdthe importance of global environmen­tal

Conference of Parties, or COP, later this year to push further the ambitions of these convention­s. Experts said as leaders prepare for those talks, they would be well served to remember the potential of restoratio­n to remedy the planet’s environmen­tal ills.

“Land restoratio­n can be the golden thread that ties together action and ambition across these three important gatherings,” said Andersen. “Nations can weave this thread by linking their climate pledges and national biodiversi­ty strategies and action plans with land degradatio­n neutrality commitment­s.”

It introduced the next generation to the power of restoratio­n

Young people from all corners of the planet took part in activities promoting land protection and conservati­on.

Youth in Germany joined the country’s president Frank-walter Steinmeier to talk about the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoratio­n. At UNEP headquarte­rs in Nairobi; schoolchil­dren learned how to restore damaged soil, while students in Vienna, Austria took part in a simulated conference on land restoratio­n.

In Barranquil­la, Colombia, young people planted trees, and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, UNEP’S Andersen spoke to youth about protecting the planet for generation­s to come. “Our land is our future,” she said. “We must protect and restore it so that we can slow and adapt to climate change, return nature to full health, and increase the livelihood­s and food security of billions of people around the world.”

World Environmen­t Day on 5 June is the biggest internatio­nal day for the environmen­t. Led by UNEP and held annually since 1973, the event has grown to be the largest global platform for environmen­tal outreach, with millions of people from across the world engaging to protect the planet. This year, World Environmen­t Day focuses on land restoratio­n, desertific­ation and drought resilience.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoratio­n 2021–2030, led by the United Nations Environmen­t Programme, the Food and Agricultur­e Organisati­on of the United Nations and its partners, covers terrestria­l as well as coastal and marine ecosystems. A global call to action, it will draw together political support, scientific research and financial muscle to massively scale up restoratio­n.

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 ?? ?? Minister of Tourism and Environmen­tal Affairs Jane Mkhonta-simelane during the Eswatini celebratio­ns of the World Environmen­t Day.
Minister of Tourism and Environmen­tal Affairs Jane Mkhonta-simelane during the Eswatini celebratio­ns of the World Environmen­t Day.
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