Natural Resources and the Environment

boat made of recycled plastic

For much of the last three weeks, the Flipflopi, a dhow made from recycled plastic, including a helping of old sandals, has been calling into ports across Lake Victoria. The crew of the 10-metre-long vessel is on a mission to raise awareness about a tide of plastic choking Africa’s biggest lake – and to demonstrate that trash can be turned into treasure. A recent report by UNEP and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that 27 per cent of plastic waste in Kenya is collected and, of that, only 7 per cent is recycled in the country. The problem is global. Humanity’s penchant for producing cheap plastic products, using them, and then throwing them away, has created a global pollution crisis that is threatening the natural world and human livelihood.

Man carrying plastic water containers.

Global trade in plastics tops a whopping $1 trillion each year, or 5% of total merchandise trade. This is 40% higher than previous estimates and involves virtually all nations. The fresh insights into the massive extent of plastics in world trade have emerged from a new UNCTAD research paper, “Global trade in plastics: insights from the first life-cycle trade database.” The study is the first attempt to map and quantify global trade flows across the entire life cycle of plastics – from raw inputs to final products and waste.

Illustration of smoking chimneys with a letter x superimposed over a red background

Top international energy and climate leaders from countries representing the vast majority of global GDP, energy use and greenhouse gas emissions are taking part in the IEA-COP26 Net Zero Summit.  The Summit will be a critical opportunity to take stock of the growing list of commitments from countries and companies to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement. It also seeks to accelerate the momentum behind clean energy and to examine how countries can work together more effectively to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in line with shared international goals. Watch it live!

Illustration of an oil well surrounded by plastic.

Every year, the toxic trail of economic growth – pollution and waste – results in the premature deaths of millions of people while doing untold damage to the planet. Plastic poses a big problem from source extraction to waste. Not only to the environment, but also to human beings and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Would you like to know how? Find out with this animation! UNEP supports strong laws and institutions for a healthy planet and healthy people.

Two women in indigenous dress kneel on the ground to plant a seedling.

With rampant destruction of forests, it is not bold to say that the lungs of the Earth are sick. In Guatemala, members of the Utz Che' Community Forestry Association are part of the solution. As the forest provides livelihoods for villagers, Utz Che' communities plant trees to improve their lives. Nearly 2,500 hectares of land are marked for reforestation and more than 30,000 trees have been planted. In 2020, Utz Che' was awarded UNDP’s Equator Prize for its community-led conservation work through nature-based solutions.

Poster depicting hands holding trees with a heart-shape tops.

Our lives are linked to forests in so many ways: when we drink a glass of water, write in a notebook, take medicine for a fever or build a house. Forests produce goods and services, fostering economic activity that creates jobs and improves lives. Therefore, they also play a crucial role in poverty alleviation and in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year International Day of Forest (21 March) focuses on how restoration and sustainable management of forests help address the climate change and biodiversity crises.

Since the beginning of time, we have treated nature as a free and endless provider of services. We hike in forests, swim in oceans and use its resources without a second thought. But even if we don’t pay for these goods and services, their value is far from zero.

At the UN Environment Assembly leadership dialogue ministers and other high-level representatives are invited to announce concrete actions by their respective governments or organizations that will promote the environmental dimension of sustainable development

A woman inside a volcano crater with monitoring equipment.

UNEP calls for nominees for the Champions of the Earth award – the UN’s highest honour for individuals and organizations that are safeguarding our environment and transforming societies.

winners of the 2020 Young Champions of the Earth prize

An engineer who turns plastic rubbish into paving stones. An activist who is fighting to save endangered salmon. And an inventor who developed a machine capable of pulling water out of the air. These are just some of the winners of the 2020 Young Champions of the Earth prize. They are Nzambi Matee (Kenya), Xiaoyuan Ren (China), Vidyut Mohan (India), Lefteris Arapakis (Greece), Max Hidalgo Quinto (Peru), Niria Alicia Garcia (United States of America) and Fatemah Alzelzela (Kuwait).

Illustration of interconnected environments.

The UNEP 2020 Greening the Blue report provides a snapshot of the UN System’s environmental impacts throughout 2019 and the activities underway to reduce them.

A man holds up a drone.

In the last couple of years, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) – or drones, have really take off. From enhancing video coverage of events to taking stock of the aftermath of natural disasters, they now have a key role to play in many different contexts. The possibilities with UAV technology are far-reaching, and FAO is harnessing this potential to monitor the use of natural resources and increase sustainability. UAVs save time, are cost efficient and provide up-to-date data and images in high resolution for many different purposes. They’re also easy to use, making them the perfect tool.

Kids watering rows or seedlings.

Imataca is an extensive and hugely diverse, tropical humid forest located the southeast of Venezuela. The Kariña live in small groups of extended families at the heart of the forest reserve. The Kariña women, in coordination with the Venezuelan government and FAO, created a company to revitalise areas degraded by mining. The project, which also aims to increase gender equality in the forestry sector, supports the Kariña women in actively leading the development of their territories and the conservation of the area’s biodiversity.

An old car by the side of the road in Ethiopia.

A groundbreaking UNEP report, warns that millions of used cars, vans and minibuses shipped from Europe, the United States of America and Japan to the developing world are polluting and unsafe.