Riyadh: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) celebrated World Environment Day 2024 under the theme "Our land. Our future." Over 150 nations participated in the celebration, highlighting the vital importance of land as a fundamental pillar of life on Earth.

During his speech, the Minister of Environment, Water, and Agriculture, Eng. Abdulrahman Abdulmohsen AlFadley, emphasized Saudi Arabia's significant efforts to preserve land and reduce degradation both regionally and globally. The Middle East Green Initiative aims to enhance cooperation to mitigate land degradation while fostering vegetation cover, biodiversity, food and water security, and adapting to climate change to enhance quality of life. On the global stage, during Saudi Arabia's G20 Presidency in 2020, the Coral Research & Development Accelerator Platform and the G20 Land Initiative were launched. Additionally, the recent announcement of the Global Water Organization underscores efforts to enhance international water conservation and sustainability. AlFadley mentioned that national initiatives like the Saudi Green Initiative and the National Environment Strategy aim to increase vegetation cover and achieve land degradation neutrality by 2030.

AlFadley also highlighted that in December, Saudi Arabia will host the sixteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP16) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Saudi Arabia will seek to leverage this event to bring significant shifts in this international convention and bolster global action to combat land degradation and the impacts of drought, which affects over three billion people worldwide. Additionally, he announced projects for the environmental sector in Saudi Arabia, such as the Environmental Grants & Incentives Program and the National Academy of the Environment.

In her address, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Ms. Inger Andersen, stated that land degradation around the world is harming livelihoods and food security. She emphasized the importance of land restoration, combating desertification, and building resilience to drought as major strategies to address these issues and tackle the planet's most pressing crises: climate change, nature and land loss, and pollution and waste.

Andersen added that celebrating World Environment Day is an important event to intensify efforts and bring about positive change to address the challenges of water scarcity and the loss of arable land due to unsustainable human activities and climate change, which impacts human health and quality of life. She stressed that confronting these challenges requires collective responsibility and regional and international cooperation to enhance strategies to combat desertification and implement sustainable agricultural systems globally.

This year's World Environment Day was marked by over 4,000 environmental activities worldwide. World Environment Day on June 5 is one of the biggest international days for the environment. Led by UNEP and held annually since 1973, the event has grown to be the largest global platform for environmental outreach, with millions of people from across the world engaging to protect the planet.