Ms. Sara Sekkenes, UN Resident Coordinator to Lao PDR
Excellency Mr. Khamphan Sidthidampha, Governor of Vientiane Province,
Excellency Mme Bounkham Vorachit, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment,
Honorary Consul of Sweden, Mr. Peter Fogde,
Distinguished Government representatives and development partners,
Today, we celebrate the international World Environment Day, a Day that -- by the year, is becoming more and more critical for the environment, as we approach 2030 and the many commitments made by world leaders to ensure a sustainable development for all, where societies live in peace and within planetary boundaries.
The theme of this year is ‘Only One Earth’ focusing on living sustainably, in harmony with nature, by bringing transformative change – through policies and our personal choices – towards cleaner, greener lifestyles.
World Environment Day is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and environmental action, by everyone, for everyone.
Held annually since 1974, the Day has also become a vital platform for promoting progress on the environmental dimensions of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at the helm, over 150 countries participate in the Day each year.
Today is a good opportunity for us to look at the current state of play and think of what we can do to make a better environment for all.
It is high time – WE ARE IN EMERGENCY MODE.
Driven by human activity and unsustainable consumption and production patterns, our world is facing three major environmental crises: on climate change, on the loss of natureandbiodiversity and with increased levels of pollution and waste.
Of the 7 million people who die annually because of air pollution, a disproportionate number are children and the elderly, and most of those affected are in the developing world.
In 2020, climate shocks forced 30 million people to flee their homes. It is estimated that by 2050, the number of people displaced by environmental crisis could be as high as 200 million. – that is 30 times the population of Laos!!! –
Tackling these crises is critical to saving lives and improving the future of billions of people.
Lao PDR has sustained impressive growth over a long period of time, which helped the country reduce poverty, increase access to infrastructure, and pave the way towards graduation from Least Developed Country status.
However, with intensive natural resource extraction at the core of economic development, environmental degradation now risks the sustainability of this growth and environmental safeguards are needed to avoid over-exploitation.
Lao PDR is in the top 10 countries experiencing forest loss, including both primary forests and degraded forests, and one major driver of this is the expansion of uncontrolled and unsustainable cash-crop cultivation.
The United Nations is working with the Government to improve the efficiency of land use and agricultural practices, and at the same time, to increase agriculture yields per hectare and by so, decrease the threat of deforestation.
Freshwater biotopes, rivers, and their natural flora and fauna are also under threat and the Mekong River basin which harbors globally important wetlands such as the Ramsar sites, is experiencing significant loss in biodiversity due to overcultivation and drainage.
Improving the planning and implementation of lowland developments, fishery practices, and increasing natural fishery yields are other important steps for food security and livelihoods, while putting in place environmental safeguards that help preserve biodiversity.
In closing, I would like to re-emphasize the commitment of the UN Country Team to work in joint force with the Government of Lao PDR and its people for a sustainable development for all.
To move this work forward over the next 5 years, the pillar on environment, climate change and resilience is one of the four strategic areas of work agreed under our new Lao PDR – UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, bringing together the collective efforts of 25 UN agencies in support of environment-friendly development activities in Lao PDR.
We have Only One Earth. There is no Planet B. Together we not only can but must protect it!