Natural Resources and the Environment

UNEP reports on Madrid’s drive to connect a series of existing woodlands, creating a 75km-long green belt around the city. Once complete, the forest will cover 35,000ha. It will help the city improve its air quality, counter climate change, and create a wealth of recreational opportunities for residents.

landscape with human figures planting trees drawn over it

There has never been a more urgent need to revive damaged ecosystems than now. Ecosystems support all life on Earth. The healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet - and its people. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. It can help to end poverty, combat climate change and prevent a mass extinction. It will only succeed if everyone plays a part.

baby turtle resting on the sand and a blurry human silhouette in the background

From forests to peatlands to coasts, we all depend on healthy ecosystems for our survival. But their degradation is already affecting the well-being of 40% of the world’s population. This World Environment Day 2021 (June 5) calls for urgent action to revive and heal our damaged ecosystems. Join the “Reimagine. Recreate. Restore” campaign led by the UN Environment Programme and welcome the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a 10-year global rallying cry to make peace with nature, end poverty, combat climate change and prevent a mass extinction.

A farmer dries coffee beans.

During an UNCTAD and CBD meeting, biodiversity experts expressed trade must be sustainable throughout the value chain to play a leading role in the battle against biodiversity loss.

A small boat passing along mangroves

Financial backing from the GEF, FAO, UNEP and other international conservation partners has been set out to protect and restore mangrove species and safeguard the livelihoods of fish dependent communities in and around the Siné Saloum Delta. The programme, called the Coastal Fisheries Initiative, invests in restoring degraded mangroves so that they can retain their important role in balancing ecosystems. The Initiative is regenerating land and replanting large areas of mangroves, while also working with communities to rethink how they utilise and conserve them.

tree branches

It is crucial that we invest on a large scale in nature-based solutions that help our planet recover, while creating jobs. The UN’s report State of Finance for Nature: Tripling investments in nature-based solutions by 2030 analyses global investment flows into nature-based solutions and identifies future investments to meet biodiversity, climate and land restoration targets. The report is being launched at the World Economic Forum event, Climate Breakthroughs: The Road to COP26 and Beyond, which aims to accelerate the global transition to a zero-carbon economy. 

A group of people walk through a frosty mountain landscape.

IFAD has invested US$1.6 million to work with community groups as they restore and conserve nearly 15,000 hectares of native forest, grasslands, and high Andean wetland habitats. Their actions will include reforestation with native species, fencing and sustainable use of grasslands, and installation of barriers throughout the wetlands. Through Compensation for Ecosystem Services systems, downstream users of ecosystem services remunerate the upstream rural populations who maintain them.

Illustration of a stretched-out hand with the globe on it

UNEP’s Protected Planet Report 2020 finds that the international community has made major progress towards protected and conserved area coverage but has fallen short on the quality of these areas.

Photo gallery: The Earth from space with the sun rising behind it/ Woman’s hand holding a small tree cutting/Kangaroo with her cub looking from the distance of a burnt-out forest

Mother Earth is clearly urging a call to action. Nature is suffering. Oceans are filling with plastic and turning more acidic. Extreme heat, wildfires, floods, and hurricanes have affected millions of people. We continue to face COVID -19, a worldwide health pandemic linked to the health of our ecosystem. For International Mother Earth Day (22 April), let's be reminded that we need a shift to a more sustainable economy that works for both people and the planet. Let’s promote harmony with nature.

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.