World Environment Day (WED) is an annual event that aims to be the biggest and most widely-celebrated global day for environmental action, with activities taking place all year round and culminating on the 5th of June. The celebration involves over 112 countries and brings together people from all walks of life to ensure a cleaner, greener and brighter outlook for themselves and future generations. WED celebration began in 1972 and has grown to become the one of the main vehicles through which the United Nations (UN) stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action. The 2011 theme for World Environment Day was “Forests: Nature at Your Service”.
Edna Molewa, the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, led World Environment Day celebrations by making a call to all South Africans to “Save Tomorrow, Today.” Molewa elaborated that this is a call to action and that every citizen had a responsibility to act now and conserve our environment through actions as simple as saving electricity, saving water and planting a tree.
Molewa emphasised that climate change is a reality and its impacts are the number one threat to South Africa’s long term sustainable development, economic growth and quality of life. Molewa stressed that we all have a role to play in ensuring that we address the challenges posed to us by climate change.
On World Environment Day, WWF-SA urged South Africans to step up and be an example to the world ahead of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change to be held in Durban at the end of the year.
“In light of World Environment Day today, we are urging government to make the biggest contribution to the wellbeing of our planet that they possibly can by setting a firm example as the COP president,” explains Tasneem Essop, Head of Climate Strategy and Advocacy for WWF International.
“This year sees us, as a nation, in a very unique position. As the hosts of COP17, we have an inordinate responsibility to not only ensure the implementation of the Cancun Accord, but also to build upon these commitments.” said Essop, “The most immediate step we can take is to ‘walk the talk’ ourselves. We urgently need to commit to actions that will reduce our carbon emissions.”
The commitment with which government views climate change can be illustrated by the Climate Change Response Policy which is nearing completion, and the Climate Change White Paper that will be presented to cabinet for approval later this year. This policy outlines our vision for an effective climate change response and our transition to a climate resilient and low-carbon economy and society.
Essop adds that South Africa needs to establish an adaptation plan. Such a plan would comprise strategies to manage the effects of climate change, including changing weather patterns, severe weather events, food security and water scarcity, that existing average global temperature increases have locked us into.
“We must not forget the personal responsibility each of us holds,” cautions Dr Morné du Plessis, CEO of WWF-SA. “As individuals it’s up to us to hold government and business accountable and we can only do that with integrity if we are keeping our own environmental footprints as low as possible.”
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organisations, with almost 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
Ultimately, their aim is to inspire all South Africans to live in harmony with nature for the well-being of our country and its people.
Go to www.wwf.org.za for more information.