[STATEMENT] World Environment Day

June 5, 2024

The environment has never been a hotter topic for Asia and the Pacific.

This year’s World Environment Day comes after record-breaking heat waves throughout Asia, a deadly combination of El Niño conditions and human-induced climate change1. Farmers and their families have gone hungry due to reduced or poor harvests, and students have been unable to take classes at their schools2. The extreme heat, which threatens to become a more normal occurrence as global temperatures rise, is proof of the need for drastic and sustained efforts to adapt to climate change and repair our relationship with the environment.

For World Environment Day, in line with the global theme of land restoration, halting desertification, and building drought resilience3, the Asia-Pacific Network of Environmental Defenders calls on everyone to do our part in protecting our landscapes and preventing the worsening of the climate crisis.

When it comes to biodiversity, the Asia-Pacific is extraordinarily rich. We have more global biodiversity hotspots and megadiverse countries than anywhere else in the world. However, over the past decade, rapid urbanization and the transformation of our lands into more “profitable” uses have endangered biodiversity and the services these rich landscapes offer us, which range from food, livelihood, clean air and water, to our general health, cultural life, and resilience against climate shocks4

We must be wary about mega-infrastructure or large-scale land conversion projects like coastal reclamation and mega-dams that are being undertaken or proposed in areas of high biodiversity, sometimes even in the name of “climate adaptation”. We want to prevent not just the environmental destruction and the loss of further biodiversity or benefits from the environment, but also the further dispossession of historically marginalized populations, particularly indigenous peoples, who are to thank for taking care of such landscapes for ages.

These stewards of our environment, who are too often nameless, are our environmental defenders. Across Asia, they have been mounting campaigns for the protection and restoration of our environments. After the Himalayas witnessed a series of disasters in 2023, affected local communities and civil society came together for the People for Himalaya campaign, demanding a moratorium on hydropower projects and other mega-infrastructure projects and the rights of communities to participate in decision-making behind such projects5. In the coastal towns near Jakarta, communities have been fighting against displacement and the negative impacts of reclamation and seawall projects on their livelihood of fishing and mussel farming.

This World Environment Day, let us learn what local environmental initiatives or campaigns we can raise awareness of, and support. It is only in standing with our environmental defenders that we can truly safeguard our environments for all present and future generations.

#WorldEnvironmentDay #GenerationRestoration #EnvironmentDay

[1] World Weather Attribution. (2024, May 14). Climate change made the deadly heatwaves that hit millions of highly vulnerable people across Asia more frequent and extreme. World Weather Attribution.  https://www.worldweatherattribution.org/climate-change-made-the-deadly-heatwaves-that-hit-millions-of-highly-vulnerable-people-across-asia-more-frequent-and-extreme/ ↩
[2] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (2024, May 17). Asia and the Pacific: Heatwaves in South and South-East Asia (April 2024) as of 17 May 2024 [Infographic]. Relief Web.   https://reliefweb.int/report/bangladesh/asia-and-pacific-heatwaves-south-and-south-east-asia-april-2024-17-may-2024 ↩
[3] United Nations. (2024). World Environment Day.   https://www.un.org/en/observances/environment-day ↩

[4] Karki, M., Gasparatos, A., Senaratna Sellamuttu, S., Kohsaka, R., Thaman, R., Leimona, B., … Lasmana, F. Chapter 1: Setting the scene. In IPBES (2018): The IPBES regional assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services for Asia and the Pacific. Karki, M., Senaratna Sellamuttu, S., Okayasu, S., Suzuki, W. (eds.). Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Bonn, Germany, pp.1-66.   https://www.cifor-icraf.org/publications/pdf_files/Books/CBaral1901.pdf ↩


[5] Perinchery, A. (2024, March 30). Sonam Wangchuk, Environmentalists Propose Alternative Development Model for the Himalayan Region. The Wire.    https://thewire.in/uncategorised/people-for-himalaya-campaign-calls-for-alternative-devlopment-model-to-free-region-of-disasters ↩