UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said more than 1 million of the planet’s estimated 8 million plants and animal species are at risk of extinction today.
“On this International Day of Forests let us plant the seeds for a sustainable future by committing to restore and conserve our forests for the benefit of people and the planet,” he said in a message marking the Day that falls on March 21.
The UN chief said humanity’s well-being is inextricably linked to the health of planet and forests play a crucial role.
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“Forests filter the air we breathe and the water we drink. They regulate our climate, absorbing one-third of the global greenhouse gases emitted each year,” he said.
Guterres said forests provide habitat to 80 per cent of all known terrestrial species, many of which are under threat.
Some 1.6 billion people depend directly on forests for food, shelter, energy, medicines and income, he mentioned.
“Despite all that they provide, forest loss continues at an alarming rate. We continue to lose 10 million hectares of forests, an area roughly the size of Iceland, every year,” said the UN chief.
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Guterres said deforestation also increases the risks of infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics.
This year marks the beginning of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which calls for action to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of forests and other ecosystems.
“If we fail to act now, we risk a point of no return. But it is not too late to undo some of the damage we have caused,” Guterres said.
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The crises our planet faces require urgent action by all — governments, international and civil society organizations, the private sector, local authorities and individuals, he said.
“Indigenous peoples are leading the way. They care for the Earth’s biodiversity and achieve conservation results with very few financial resources and little support,” said the UN chief.