June 5, 2020

World Environment Day 2020: Only One Earth

With 1 million species facing extinction, the theme of this year’s World Environment Day (WED) is “Celebrate Biodiversity”. Amid the current disruption worldwide following the coronavirus outbreak, there has never been a more important time to focus on environmental protection and, particularly, biodiversity, climate change and sustainable development.

WED is held each year on June 5 and is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of environmental protection to enhance political attention and action. WED was established by the UN General Assembly in 1972 on the first day of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, resulting from discussions on the integration of human interactions and the environment. Two years later, in 1974 the first WED was held with the theme "Only One Earth".

Biodiversity has become the governing concept of nature conservation law, regulations, and policy. It concerns species of plants, animals and micro-organisms that surround us, yet it means more than just species diversity. The international Biodiversity Convention 1992 defines biodiversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.” Article 3 of the Convention confirms the sovereign rights of states to exploit their own resources pursuant to their local environmental policies, whilst conferring responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

The Cyprus Council of Ministers this week approved a strategy for biodiversity and presented today to mark the WED. The Minister of Agriculture presented the basic principles of the strategy and an action plan, noting “this is a milestone in matters of nature conservation in our country, as Cyprus acquires its own strategy and enters the map of European countries which have strategies for conserving biodiversity.”

Consequently, local efforts toward sustainable management of nature and natural resources in Cyprus are evident, however it remains to be seen how they will be enforced in practice, along with the actions of the competent authorities. The substantial issue of funding remains in order to facilitate implementation of the European Green Deal., a set of policy initiatives by the EU Commission aiming to make Europe climate neutral by 2050.

The Commission has prepared concrete actions that will offer a strong basis for the Green Deal. It is an integral part of the Commission’s strategy to implement the UN 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. Benefits include zero pollution, affordable and secure energy, smarter transport and high-quality food.

The EU continues to be a leading forerunner in promoting and implementing environment, climate and energy policies. However, it cannot undertake such tremendous task alone and, therefore, cooperation by all Member States, other countries and all relevant stakeholders is imperative.

As the world’s largest single market, the EU can continue to set global standards. Ultimately, we must all work together in the best interest of current and future generations.
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