Piloted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and convened annually on 5 June since 1973, World Environment Day is the biggest global platform for environmental public outreach and is celebrated by millions of people across the world.

In 2024, it is being hosted by Saudi Arabia.

“There is sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed”. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~Mohandas K. Gandhi.

“Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites”. ~~~~~~~~William Ruckelshaus, Business Week, 18 June 1990.

Theme for 2024:

The 2024 edition of World Environment Day will focus on land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience, under the slogan “Our Land. Our Future. We are #GenerationRestoration”, as the year marks the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Land restoration is a key pillar of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, which is critical to achieve Sustainable.

History of World Environment Day:

World Environment Day is commemorated across the globe to honour and recognize the importance of nature, environment, and ecology that support all life forms. Founded back in 1972 at the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment organized by the United Nations; world environment day is one of the largest events celebrated by over 175 countries across the globe. The inception of world environment day celebration was on 5th June1974, and the event was hosted by the United States with One Earth theme.

At a time when the world is suffering the aftermath of covid pandemic, it is worthy to shed light on the destruction and obliteration caused by human activities to our environment and the enervating state of our earth.

2010 – 2023:

2023 | Solutions to Plastic Pollution

The 2023 edition marked the 50th anniversary of World Environment Day, and focused on solutions to plastic pollution, using the hashtag and slogan #BeatPlasticPollution.

With available science and solutions to tackle the problem, governments, companies and other stakeholders must scale up and speed actions to solve this crisis. Thisnderscores the importance of this World Environment Day in mobilizing transformative action from every corner of the world. A resolution was adopted in 2022 at the United Nations Environment Assembly to develop a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, with the ambition to complete the negotiations by end of 2024.

2022 | Only One Earth:

The World Environment Day 2022 global campaign #OnlyOneEarth calls for transformative changes to policies and choices to enable cleaner, greener, and sustainable living in harmony with nature. It will focus on the need to live sustainably in harmony with nature, and our possibilities for shifting to a greener lifestyle through both policies and individual choices. “Only One Earth” was the motto for the 1972 Stockholm Conference. 50 years on, the motto is as pertinent as ever – this planet is our only home, and humanity must safeguard its finite resources.

2021 | Ecosystem Restoration

Launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. A call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems and restore them to achieve global goals. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity.

2020 | Time for Nature

A call to action to combat the accelerating species loss and degradation of the natural world. One million plant and animal species risk extinction, largely due to human activities. Recent events, from bushfires in Brazil, the United States and Australia to locust infestations across East Africa – and now, a global disease pandemic – demonstrate the interdependence of humans and the webs of life in which they exist.

Nature is sending us a message.

2019 | Beat Air Pollution

A call for action to combat one of the greatest environmental emerging challenges of our time. Often you can’t even see it, but air pollution is everywhere and affects your health from head to toe. With every breath, you are probably sucking in tiny particles that attack your lungs, heart, and brain.

2018 | Beat Plastic Pollution

The aim was for people to strive and change their everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution. People should be free from the over-reliance on single-use or disposables, as they have severe environmental consequences. In addition, we should liberate our natural places, our wildlife, and our own health from plastics.

2017 | Connecting Nature to People

In the city and on land, from the poles to the equator, it encourages worldwide awareness for the protection of our environment.

2016 | Go Wild for Life

The campaign aimed to reduce and prevent the illegal trade in wildlife.

2015 | Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care. This was the slogan picked through a voting process on social media.

2014 | International Year of Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) The UN General Assembly aimed to highlight the development challenges and successes of the SIDS, focusing on global warming and its impact on ocean levels. The slogan was “Raise your voice not the sea level” for this year.

2013 | Think. Eat. Save.

The campaign addressed the huge annual food waste and loss. With the amount added together, it would release a large quantity of food as well as reduce carbon footprint.

The theme also aimed to empower people to make informed choices about the food they eat to reduce the overall ecological impact due to the worldwide production of food.

2012 | The Green Economy

The campaign invited people to examine their activities and lifestyle and see how the concept of a “Green Economy” fit into it.

2011 | Forests: Nature at Your Service.

Activities were organized with clean-ups, concerts, exhibits, film festivals, community events, tree plantings and much more.

2010 | Many Species. One Planet. One Future.

Celebrating the diversity of life on Earth as part of the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.

Obligation To Participate:

Time is running out, and nature is in emergency mode. To keep global warming below 1.5°C this century, we must halve annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Without action, exposure to air pollution beyond safe guidelines will increase by 50 per cent within the decade and plastic waste flowing into aquatic ecosystems will nearly triple by 2040.

Earth’s Biodiversity:

Biodiversity underlines life on Earth and implies the variety found in biota from genetic makeup of plants and animals to our cultural diversity on earth.

Importance of Biodiversity:

People depend on biodiversity in their daily lives, in ways that are not always apparent or appreciated. Human health ultimately depends upon ecosystem products and services (such as availability of fresh water, food, and fuel sources) which are requisite for good human health and productive livelihoods. Biodiversity loss can have significant direct human health impacts if ecosystem services are no longer adequate to meet social needs. Indirectly, changes in ecosystem services affect livelihoods, income, local migration and, on occasion, may even cause political conflict.

Additionally, biophysical diversity of microorganisms, flora and fauna provides extensive knowledge which carries important benefits for biological, health, and pharmacological sciences. Significant medical and pharmacological discoveries are made through reater understanding of the earth’s biodiversity. Loss in biodiversity may limit discovery of potential treatments for many diseases and health problems.

Facts About Land Desertification:

The 2024 day is focusing on land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience. As a nation facing degradation, desertification and drought, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is deeply invested in delivering solutions. The Kingdom is acting nationally and regionally through the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative. And it is acting globally, as we saw when the Saudi presidency of the G20 resulted in the adoption of the Global Land Restoration Initiative.

Such action and leadership are vital as we face a worrying intensification of the triple planetary crisis: the crisis of climate change, the crisis of nature and biodiversity loss, and the crisis of pollution and waste. This crisis is placing the world’s ecosystems under assault. Billions of hectares of land are degraded, affecting almost half of the world’s population and threatening half of global GDP. Rural communities, smallholder farmers and the extremely poor are hit hardest. Combating plastic pollution by 2024 Globally:

But land restoration can reverse the creeping tide of land degradation, drought, and desertification. Every dollar invested in restoration can bring up to US$30 in ecosystem services. Restoration boosts livelihoods, lowers poverty and builds resilience to extreme weather. Restoration increases carbon storage and slows climate change. Restoring just 15 per cent of land and halting further conversion could avoid up to 60 per cent of expected species extinctions.

But we must also end the drivers of land degradation, drought, and desertification, such as climate change. Last year, temperatures records were shattered. Much of the world felt the impacts, not just in heat but in storms, floods, and drought. Restoring land without tackling climate change would be like giving with one hand and taking away with the other, so G20 nations must show leadership across the whole climate agenda – as the Kingdom has done and continues to do on land restoration.

There is real hope. Countries have promised to restore one billion hectares, an area larger than China. If they deliver, this will be huge. Through World Environment Day and through hosting the UN Convention to Combat Desertification’s conference of the parties this December, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can build momentum and action towards these restoration goals, slow climate change, protect nature and boost the livelihoods and food security of billions of people around the world.

The Crisis of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought, and the Importance of Land Restoration:

Desertification, land degradation, and drought (DLDD) are a silent and invisible crisis that affects people and the planet. As human life requires fertile and productive lands for many essential activities, desertification represents an important obstacle to sustainable development and an aggravator of poverty, poor health, lack of food security, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, forced migration, and lowered resilience to climate change or natural disasters.​ Estimates indicate that human-induced land degradation affects at least 1.6 billion hectares worldwide, directly affecting 3.2 billion people.

While desertification impacts mostly dry land areas, droughts have become a common event in many areas of the world. The intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds medium confidence that agricultural and ecological droughts have increased in several regions on all continents, with variable certainty of human-induced climate change impact on these changes (Chapter 11 of the IPCC AR6 of Working Group 1 – 2021).

As the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste impact the health of land it is essential to halt human activities that lead to land degradation and work towards restoring land to protect livelihoods, climate, and biodiversity. According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), restoring degraded land globally could lock away three billion tons of atmospheric carbon into the soil every year, supporting the achievement of the 1.5° target. Land restoration is also essential to ensure human rights, sustainable development, food security, employment, disaster risk reduction, ecological benefits, and improved public health.


Desertification is defined as land degradation in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, mostly climatic variations, and human activities (UNCCD, 1994). Although the term can include the encroachment of sand dunes on land, it does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. It occurs, however, because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one-third of the world’s land area, are extremely vulnerable to overexploitation and inappropriate land use. In the past decades, the range and intensity of desertification have increased, reaching approximately 30 to 35 times the historical rate and the risks from desertification are projected to increase due to climate change (IPCC, 2019). While being a hard process to quantify, desertification is characterized by declining vegetation productivity, reduced agricultural productivity and biodiversity loss (IPCC, 2019).

According to the IPCC, the major human drivers of desertification interacting with climate change are the expansion of croplands, unsustainable land management practices and increased pressure on land from population and income growth. On the other hand, desertification exacerbates climate change through several mechanisms such as changes in vegetation cover, sand and dust aerosols and greenhouse gas fluxes.


Meteorologically, drought is defined as a prolonged absence or marked deficiency of precipitation that can be characterized as a period of abnormally dry weather with a sufficiently prolonged lack of precipitation as to cause a serious hydrological imbalance (WMO, 1992). Other definitions include impacts like hydrological imbalances that adversely affect land resource productions systems (UNCCD, 1994; Article 1). Put into other words, drought is a climatic phenomenon that can occur almost anywhere in the world when there is a significant decrease in water availability (atmospheric, surface, soil, or groundwater) over a period of weeks to years. Climate change is increasing the frequency and/or magnitudes of droughts in many regions of the world (IPCC, 2021).

Droughts are among the greatest threats to sustainable development, especially in developing countries, but increasingly so in developed nations too. In fact, forecasts estimate that by 2050 droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population.

The number and duration of droughts has increased by 29 percent since 2000, as compared to the two previous decades (WMO 2021). When more than 2.3 billion people already face water stress, this is a huge problem.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification’s 2022 report Droughts in Numbers finds that the African continent has been the most impacted by droughts in the past century, with over 300 episodes and bearing an important death and economic toll around the world. Projections indicate that by 2050, droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population, and an estimated 4.8-5.7 billion people will live in areas that are water-scarce for at least one month each year, up from 3.6 billion today. Up to 216 million people could be forced to migrate by 2050, largely due to drought in combination with other factors including water scarcity, declining crop productivity, sea-level rise, and overpopulation.

Land Degradation and Restoration:

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) defines land degradation as “the many human-caused processes that drive the decline or loss in biodiversity, ecosystem functions or ecosystem services in any terrestrial and associated aquatic ecosystems”, and restoration as “any intentional activity that initiates or accelerates the recovery of an ecosystem from a degraded state”. Land degradation affects ecosystem functions worldwide disrupts rainfall patterns, exacerbates extreme weather like droughts or floods, and drives further climate change and it relates to instability, which drives poverty, conflict, and migration. ​

On the other hand, land restoration is the ecological process of restoring a natural and safe landscape for humans, wildlife, and plant communities (UNCCD). Through land restoration, it is possible to reinstate the land’s function to store carbon, to prevent droughts and floods and increase soil productivity. ​ Land restoration can bring economic benefits amounting to USD 30 for every dollar invested in restoration (UNEP, 2021).

Restoration boosts livelihoods, lowers poverty and builds resilience to extreme weather.

Restoration increases carbon storage and slows climate change. Restoring just 15 per cent of land and halting further conversation could avoid up to 60 per cent of expected species extinctions.

“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry”. ~~~~~~~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

(Sources: UNEP and UN Geneva



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