World Environment Day Celebrations Focus on Forests

5 June 2011: Millions of people celebrated World Environment Day (WED) around the theme, "Forests: Nature at Your Service," which highlights the ecosystem services provided by the world's forests. People across the world took part in WED activities, from litter clean-ups around Mount Everest to mini-marathons in India, the host country for 2011. 

Commemorated on 5 June since 1972, WED is one of the main tools through which the UN stimulates awareness of the environment and promotes political attention and action. In Congo-Brazzaville, an international summit on tropical forest basins was held, with a focus on the sustainable management of forest ecosystems in the Amazon, Congo and Mekong Borneo basins. Costa Rica hosted participants from 15 neighboring countries for a training course on sustainable forest management. In Canada,  environmental workshops for students, a high-level consultation on the Green Economy with 40 environmental leaders and a series of book readings for children were held. In Bahrain, the regional office for West Asia of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) helped coordinate a beach-cleaning and tree-planting campaign.

In a message to mark the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that "no single day can transform development onto a sustainable path." However, looking towards the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio+20), he underlined that this year's edition of WED can communicate to those with influence in government and the private sector that it is time to fulfill the promises of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).

Also to celebrate the Day, UNEP released a report titled "Forests in a Green Economy," which highlights how increased public and private investment in forest management and forest resources can promote employment, reduce deforestation and address climate change.

David Sheppard, Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), warned that the Pacific environment is seriously threatened by development pressures, including habitat loss, invasive species and climate change. He called on the international community to support efforts to adapt to climate change and to ensure sustainable development of natural resources.  He noted that in the Pacific, people and partners worked on projects to achieve the vision of a “Pacific environment – sustaining our livelihoods and natural heritage in harmony with our cultures."

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) noted that many international standards support the goals of WED, such as the ISO 14000 family for environmental management. The development by ISO of the ISO 14000 family is one of the most visible outcomes of UNCED. [UNEP Press Release, 31 May 2011] [UNEP Press Release, 3 June 2011] [UNEP Press Release, 5 June 2011] [UN Press Release] [SPREP Press Release] [ISO Press Release] [Forests in a Green Economy: A Synthesis]