By Thiwari Werayasobprasong
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration begins on World Environment Day 2021 with the theme of ‘Reimagine – Recreate – Restore,’ launched virtually from AIT Entrepreneurship Center.
World Environment Day (WED) has been celebrated annually on June 5th since 1974. It is a global platform to promote awareness and action for the environment by inspiring positive changes.
The United Nations (UN) Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is launched this year on WED 2021 to promote and align restoration efforts globally. To achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the year 2030, the ecosystem degradation must be reversed, and the ecosystem restoration must begin at the global scale – now.
“This World Environment Day also marks official start of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – a ten-year concerted effort to prevent or to reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide. This decade could not be timelier. Science tells us the next 10 years will be the most important to prevent the catastrophe of climate change and extinction of up to a million species,” said Dechen Tsering of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) in her opening remarks.
Celebrating World Environmental Day 2021, hosted at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) and moderated by Dr. Benno Boer, UNESCO Programme Specialist, the virtual event began with opening remarks by Dr. Eden Woon, the President of AIT; Dechen Tsering, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, UNEP; Takayuki Hagiwara, FAO-RAP; H.E. Pirkka Tapiola, Ambassador of the European Union to the Kingdom of Thailand; Shigeru Aoyagi, UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Director; Dindo Campilan, Director of Asia Regional Director and Oceania Hub, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); Rawin Raviwongse, President of National Science Museum Thailand (NSM); and H.E. Varawut Silpa-archa, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Thailand.
Urging the participants to join the effort, the Thai Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, H.E. Varawut Silpa-archa said, “As the World Environment Day this year focuses on the Ecosystem Restoration and its theme is Reimagine – Recreate – Restore, I would like to invite everyone to reimagine that after Covid-19, we would be able to recreate a world of clean air and water with vibrant forests and healthy ocean again. That’s a difficult task, I thus would like to urge all of us to join our hands together to turn this pandemic crisis into an inspiration for action to restore our ecosystem.”
To do so requires collaboration across sectors. The Asian Institute of Technology stands ready to contribute to the effort, joining global forces.
“I feel confident in saying that Ecosystem Restoration is really in AIT’s DNA. But given the enormity of the challenges, facing our planet, AIT sees the need for deeper collaboration with likeminded partners to address the need for sustainable development and environmental restoration,” said President Eden Woon of AIT.
The European Union Ambassador, H.E. Pirkka Tapiola, also stressed the importance of partnership in restoring the ecosystem through the European Green Deal.
“The Green Deal is our new growth strategy, it is Europe’s growth strategy, it serves our roadmap. It is there to support a transition to a climate neutral and more sustainable economy. The European Green Deal is not only focused on Europe, it has an important external dimension as well, we are committed to supporting our partners around the globe,” said the European Union Ambassador.
The celebration continued with thematic sessions, starting with a song to raise awareness on Climate Change, called ‘Summertime Here All Year,” composed specifically for the event by a well-known French singer-song writer Charlie Winston, with a music video full of important facts illustrated by the UNESCO.
The song was followed by presentations on “Restoring coastal and marine habitats following the largest oil spill in the history,” by Dr. Friedhelm Krupp of Senkenberg Research Institute, Germany; “Mangrove Restoration: Thailand Case Studies,” by Sirirporn Sriaram, Acting Head of Office of IUCN Thailand Programme; “The Largest Cleanup in History,” by Ben Hargraves, Business Development of The Ocean Cleanup; “Cleaning up canals in Bangkok” by James Scott, Executive Director of TerraCycle, Thailand; and “Role of Science Education towards Ecosystem Restoration” by Gayatri Raghwa, Executive Director of Wildecolgue. The celebrations ended with poems read by two up-and-coming artists Andrew Amatavivadhana and Guy Andrews.Full event can be viewed online at https://fb.watch/5WAT97fY_6/
Ecosystem restoration can take many forms: Growing trees, greening cities, rewilding gardens, changing diets or cleaning up rivers and coasts. This is the generation that can make peace with nature — according to information available on UNEP World Environment Day 2021 webpage.