Belgrade, 5 June 2020 – Millions of plant and animal species are threatened with extinction, largely due to loss of natural habitat, whereas only a quarter of the planet remains intact for the species which inhabit it. Due to the razing of forests and destruction of natural habitats, pathogens have been displaced from animals as their natural hosts and crossed to - humans. This is why the theme of this year’s World Environment Day is It’s time for Nature!
The current COVID-19 pandemic shows that the planet’s health is linked to our health. “We need to invest more and faster in managing natural resources differently. During COVID lockdown, we have seen amazing drops in air and water pollution, carbon emission around the world, in a record time. This temporary respite shows that we can revert trends towards a positive transformation. Technological solutions exist for more nature-based economy. New jobs can be created. We need to push fundamental shifts in global energy production, in our consumption patterns, in agriculture, in transport, in investment models. It is possible, it is feasible. This is a shared responsibility between political leaders, business leaders, and all citizens. Each of us, now,“ says Francoise Jacob, UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia.
According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems are undermining progress towards 80% of the assessed targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and land. Services provided by biodiversity are worth an estimated USD 125-140 trillion per year, more than one and a half times the size of global GDP. The foods we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink come from nature. As we head towards a population of 10 billion people on this planet, we must embrace the opportunities and value of the natural environment and not work against it.
The Republic of Serbia represents one of six centers of European biodiversity, as it is the habitat of 43.3% of all European species. In accordance with its obligations under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, ratified in 2002, the Republic of Serbia has committed to put 17% of its territory under protection. In this regard, certain progress has been made in recent years - in 2017, Bačko Podunavlje Biosphere Reserve was included in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves. National Park Djerdap is the first site in Serbia to be nominated for UNESCO Global Geoparks. It is necessary to further improve sustainable management of natural resources, as well as the establishment of ecological networks such as NATURA 2000.
Ecosystem restoration is equally important. The UN General Assembly has recently declared 2021-2030 the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, which offers an unparalleled opportunity to scale up restoration efforts, while at the same time creating jobs and combating climate change within the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
With the aim of making the voice of young people heard and including their opinions and views on important environmental issues in program and strategic solutions, UNICEF and UNEP invited young people in Serbia to share their experiences and concerns through the U-Report platform administered by UNICEF.
Almost half of the young people who took part in the survey agree that individuals play the most important role in environmental protection, whereas one third of them voiced the belief that the primary responsibility lies with the government. In the respondents’ opinion, young people need to be better informed about pollution, as well as the issues of deforestation and destruction of natural habitats of plants and animals.
The vast majority, as much as 94%, agree that nature conservation should be a priority even at the cost of slower economic development. When it comes to measures that should be taken for the preservation of natural resources, 22% of young people believe that nature could heal itself in the right conditions, 21% consider that production and consumption should be more responsible, 20% would advocate a more effective implementation of legal regulations, and 18% greater use of renewable energy sources.