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310. June is “Environment Month”

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June 5 is "World Environment Day", designated by the United Nations in response to a proposal by Japan to commemorate the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972. Today, June 8, is "World Ocean Day", which was proposed by Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 8, 1992, and was recognized as an international day in 2009. In Japan, June is designated as "Environment Month" and events are held to raise awareness and recognize the importance of environmental conservation.

The theme for 2021 is "Ecosystem Restoration". In addition, the period from 2021 to 2030 has been designated as the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, and this year is the first year of the Decade. Humans are consuming 1.6 times more ecosystem services than the planet can sustainably reproduce, and environmental degradation is already affecting the lives of an estimated 32 million people, or 40% of the world's population. Every year, humanity loses ecosystem services equivalent to 10% of global economic output, and reversing this trend is critical.

The oceans have also played a role in mitigating the impact of climate change by absorbing an estimated 23% of the anthropogenic carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere each year. However, carbon dioxide reacts with seawater to create ocean acidification conditions, threatening fisheries and aquaculture and affecting food security. Ocean acidification and heat waves also have a negative impact on coral reefs, which are vital to marine ecosystems.

The current status of ecosystems is reiterated in the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (2019) published by the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Among the notable findings, assessments and illustrative actions reported are the following: 

・We facing a situation unprecedented in human history, where one million of the eight million plant and animal species could become extinct within a few decades from now.

・Species richness in major terrestrial habitats has declined by at least 20 percent on average since 1900. More than 40 percent of amphibians, about 33 percent of reef forming corals, more than a third of marine mammals, and a tentative estimate of about 10 percent of insects are threatened with extinction; at least 680 vertebrate species have been driven to extinction since the 16th century; and 9 percent of livestock breeds used for food production and agriculture will be extinct by 2016. At least 680 vertebrate species have been driven to extinction since the 16th century, and at least 1,000 breeds of livestock used in food production and agriculture are currently threatened with extinction.

・The decrease in biodiversity is attributed to human activities, and the most important factors are (1) changes in land and sea use, (2) direct exploitation of organisms, (3) climate change, (4) pollution, and (5) invasive alien species.

・Biodiversity degradation is slowing progress on 35 (80%) of the 44 SDG targets related to poverty, hunger, health, water, cities, climate, oceans and forests.

・The loss of ecosystem systems in the tropics, which boasts the largest biodiversity on the planet, is becoming a problem. For example, between 1980 and 2000, a total of 100 million hectares of tropical rainforest were lost, mainly due to the expansion of cattle ranches in Latin America (42 million hectares) and plantations in Southeast Asia (7.5 million hectares, 80% of which is palm oil)

・In order to achieve sustainability, we need to work across sectors such as agriculture, forestry, marine systems, freshwater systems, urban areas, energy, and finance, and take into account the trade-offs of food and energy production, infrastructure, freshwater and coastal management, and biodiversity conservation.

Reference
World Environment Day:
https://www.worldenvironmentday.global/
Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services:
https://www.ipbes.net/news/Media-Release-Global-Assessment

Contributors: IIYAMA Miyuki (Director, Information Program), KANAMORI Norihito (Information and Public Relations Office)