What does World Environment Day mean in 2021?

Lat holding new plant in hands. Photo credit: Sam Rinang, ARD.

Today is World Environment Day, the United Nations day for encouraging global awareness and action to protect our shared environment.

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on and we’re forced to spend more and more time indoors, many of us have discovered a renewed appreciation for the natural environment. Sadly, this renewed desire to connect with nature has come at a time when the environment is facing a dire existential crisis.

Environmental degradation, dwindling biodiversity and climate change are some of the most pressing and universal issues of our time, and even more so for those living in poverty. From extreme weather events to rising sea levels, environmental changes often have a disproportionate impact on communities who lack the basic resources and infrastructure to protect themselves against the effects of these changes. 

Since many of the communities we work with depend on their environment for their livelihoods, a changing climate and environmental degradation pose some of the greatest threats to their lives - and risk driving them further into poverty. 

2020 World Bank paper estimates that between 32 to 132 million additional people will be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 due to climate change.  

World Environment Day urges governments, businesses and individuals alike to act now to address the climate crisis and environmental degradation. The theme for 2021 is 'Ecosystem Restoration' and will kick off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global mission which aims to reverse the damage to our ecosystems and heal the planet.

“Ecosystem restoration means assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact. Healthier ecosystems, with richer biodiversity, yield greater benefits such as more fertile soils, bigger yields of timber and fish, and larger stores of greenhouse gases” (United Nations Environment Programme).

Immediate action is required to help restore the planet and assist vulnerable people to adapt to environmental changes in order to ensure that global progress to reduce poverty is not reversed.  


What are we doing to help restore our planet?

We are working with our local partners on the ground around the world to build sustainable livelihoods and practices; improve sanitation, hygiene, disaster risk reduction and preparedness; and minimise the human impact on the natural environment of the communities we work with.

One of our First Australian partners, the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation is doing just that in a very real and measurable way.

The Aboriginal Carbon Foundation aims to build sustainable livelihoods and incomes for Indigenous people by supporting carbon farming projects that demonstrate environmental, social and cultural core benefits, through the ethical trade of carbon credits.

Watch Rowan Foley, the CEO of the Aboriginal Carbon Foundation, talk about how carbon farming and credits work in practice and how Caritas Australia has supported their organisation:

Today, World Environment Day, represents so much more than an awareness day. It represents the desperate cry of the earth to conserve and regenerate the rapidly degrading natural environment we still have left. The time is now and the stakes are unfathomably high – our very survival as a species depends on it.

Please stand with us and commit to being part of #GenerationRestoration this year and beyond. Only with healthy ecosystems can we combat climate change, reverse the collapse of biodiversity, and improve the livelihoods of people living in the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in the world.

If you’d like to learn more about our changing climate and the effects that it is having on the world’s most marginalised, visit our Climate Justice page. For information on other pressing global issues, visit our Global Issues page.