World Environment Day celebrations mark four decades of continuous dedication to bring environmental awareness into every home on the planet. It also brings the world to a singular moment for ushering in changes to ensure there is no conflict between economic and environmental health.
“Green Economy: Does it include you?” is the theme for the 2012 World Environment Day commemoration by the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP). The Green Economy, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, is an overarching theme of the RIO+20 Summit later this month, where world leaders would consider proposals to ensure we can grow our economies without harm to the environment or our social fabric.
UNEP’s working definition of the Green Economy is an economy that results in “improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive”.
the need for a paradigm shift
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the 40th World Environment Day should highlight for all the need for “a paradigm shift towards a more sustainable world”. “This year’s theme, ‘Green Economy: Does it include you?’ underscores the need for everyone to play their part in keeping humankind’s ecological footprint within planetary boundaries”, he said.
In a report published last month, the World Wildlife Fund found that our ecological footprint has increased “significantly” and should this continue, we will be using the resources of three planets by 2050.
The government is celebrating the day and the entire World Environment Month by showing how it puts to practice these Green Economy principles, by creating job opportunities while preserving the environment. Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms. Edna Molewa has stressed that the government has identified the green economy as one of the key elements of its new growth path and its industry action plan. “A low-carbon, resource efficient and sustainable economy has the potential to create jobs across many sectors of the economy and we can become an engine of development,” said the minister.
revamping towns & providing jobs
Indalo Yethu, the national environment agency, has demonstrated the potential of job creation and environmental protection through its Eco-Towns project. Over the last two years, ten towns in rural areas across South Africa were revamped through interventions that restored the urban environment and took hundreds of tons of harmful waste out of its ecosystems, while simultaneously providing employment and livelihood opportunities to 3000 previously unemployed beneficiaries. Several other programmes also tackle climate jobs and skills and the decarbonising of the environment at once.
These pathways to sustainability are critical to overcome South Africa’s twin challenge of reducing its high levels of carbon emissions, while overcoming its considerable unemployment challenge.
World Environment Day is the principle event through which the UN involves people to not only realise their individual responsibility towards the environment, but as UNEP puts it, also their “power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development”.
Let each of us be an agent for our one, beautiful planet and a prosperous future.