People From Around the World Unite to Combat Climate Change on World Environment Day

People around the world will unite for the planet on 5 June for World Environment Day 2009, with a strong call for environmental action just six months before the crucial United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen.

This year's theme is 'Your Planet needs You! Unite to combat climate change' - a topic that reflects everyone's individual responsibility to protect the planet, as well as the urgency for nations to agree on a new climate change deal in December.

World Environment Day is truly a People's Day: it is the chance for everyone, young and old, with their community or with close friends, to show that they care for the planet.

This year's host is Mexico, reflecting the country's growing role in the fight against climate change - with its increasingly strong participation in global carbon markets, its massive tree planting campaigns and its natural resource management.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: "On this World Environment Day. I encourage all people to take concrete steps toward making the planet greener and cleaner. Switch off the lights. Take public transportation. Recycle. Plant a tree. Clean up your local park. Hold corporations responsible for their environmental practices. And urge your government representatives to Seal the Deal in Copenhagen."

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, said: "I am delighted that Mexico and its people will be the 2009 global hosts of the annual United nations celebrations on 5 June under the theme 'Your Planet Needs You! Unite to Combat Climate Change'. Mexico is among a group of nations showing real leadership on the challenges of our age - from climate change to bringing environmental goods and services into the mainstream of national and international economics."

World Environment Day is a truly global event, and as such it will be celebrated on every continent - from remote villages to sprawling capitals. Here are some of the highlights of this year's celebration.

Celebrations in Mexico
Mexico, the host country, will organize a series of events in Quintana Roo, in the Yucatan Province. Highlights include a conference on the Green Economy with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mexico's Environment Secretary Juan Elvira Quesada, and Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

There will also be photo exhibits, an art competition, a Maya 'Healing the Earth' ceremony, and a Symphonic Visual Concert entitled 'The Shield of Nature' by the Philharmonic Choir and World Heritage Orchestra.

'HOME' movie premieres around the world
The global premiere of the new film 'HOME', by world-renowned photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, will be one of the major worldwide events taking place for World Environment Day, with more than 100 locations around the world. Screenings - including star-studded premieres at the Eiffel Tower and in New York City's Central Park - will be free of charge, and the film will also be available for free download on YouTube.

Using the stunning aerial footage that is Arthus-Bertrand's trademark, the film - shot in more than 50 countries - makes an urgent appeal for our planet in peril and all its treasures, arguing that we have barely ten years left to reverse its destruction.

Climate Heroes
Another highlight of this year's WED is the launch of the Climate Heroes project. This UNEP initiative supports individuals who are undertaking exceptional personal feats, high-profile expeditions, and other acts of environmental activism to demonstrate their commitment and to raise awareness for the simple idea that 'Your Planet Needs You'.

The Climate Heroes include

  • Roz Savage, who is rowing across the Pacific Ocean to inspire people to take action on CO2 levels by walking more and driving less;
  • Charles and Sho Scott of Ride Japan, a father-and-son team cycling through Japan to raise environmental awareness;
  • David de Rothschild, who is building a boat out of recycled plastic to cross the Pacific and visit the Pacific Garbage Patch and raise awareness of the gigantic problem of waste and overconsumption;
  • And Project Kaisei, a team of innovators who are studying how to capture waste in the ocean, detoxify it, and recycle it into diesel fuel.

More Climate Heroes will come on board in the next few months.

North American celebrations in Omaha

Omaha (Nebraska) has been selected as North America's host city for WED 2009, in a reflection of the city's commitment to environmental and sustainability issues. During the period between Earth Day on 22 April and World Environment Day on 5 June, events throughout the community have been highlighting resources, initiatives and methods that promote low carbon economies and lifestyles, such as improved energy efficiency, alternative energy sources, forest conservation and eco-friendly consumption.

The city will also hold its own premiere of the film 'HOME', and youth events will include an award ceremony for the North American winners of the International Children's Painting Competition and an interactive environmental workshop for Omaha students.

Around the world
Thousands of other activities will take place around the world for WED - here is just a taste of some of the initiatives:

  • Tree plantings around the world: WED 2009 will see a wave of tree planting around the planet as part of UNEP's Billion Tree Campaign, which aims to see 7 billion trees planted by the end of 2009. New partners who have recently come on board include the Scout Movement and the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Tree plantings will range from the massive to the local, with 20,000 mangroves to be planted in Keddah (Malaysia) as well as small-scale plantings by communities around the world, from Sierra Leone to India.
  • Twitter campaign: UNEP will plant one tree for every person who follows its new Twitter page by 5 June.
  • Youth video conference: A videolink will unite youth across three continents - in Nairobi, New York, Panama and Vienna - to discuss their role in promoting awareness and actions on climate change.
  • Russia: UNEP will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the organizers of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, whereby UNEP will advise the Olympic organizers in their efforts to green the Games - including issues like sustainable transport, renewable energy, ecosystems management, and green procurement among others.
  • Afghanistan: A neighbourhood clean-up will take place in Kabul on World Environment Day, along with a series of awareness-raising campaigns through schools and mosques
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: In Sarajevo, the 'Run to the Hills' 10-km race will take runners from around Europe up the beautiful forested paths of the Olympic Mountains.
  • Nepal: An 'Ecofootball' match entitled 'GOAL-against Climate Change' will bring together celebrities, politicians and environmentalists, with the aim of raising awareness on climate change and the need for a united response.
  • Brazil: An online campaign will call online volunteers to produce, translate and disseminate information and advice on environmentally-friendly lifestyles.
  • Kenya: A seafront clean-up will be organized on the island of Lamu with schoolchildren, students, community and government representatives
  • Belgium: The EchoFestival in Brussels's Royal Park will include a picnic, exhibits, a concert and a fair for a "shared eco-cultural experience".
  • Republic of Korea: 30,000 children will take part in a painting competition on the environment.

World Environment Day 2009 comes just under 190 days before the UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen. As millions of people around the world prepare to celebrate the event, and in the spirit of the WED slogan 'Unite to combat climate change', the UN has launched the Seal the Deal campaign to call for world leaders to agree on a climate change deal that will protect people and the planet.

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