Goal of the Month – Environment Outlook

There has never been a more urgent need to protect and repair the environment. Without accelerated efforts to safeguard the health of our planet’s atmosphere, biodiversity and finite resources, there will be no sustainable future. The June edition of Goal of the Month editorial looks at how the United Nations is working to address global environmental challenges related to environment and in particular, Sustainable Development Goals 12 (responsible consumption and production), 14 (life below water) and 15 (life on land). 

While the importance of action of individuals cannot be overemphasized to fight such global challenges as climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, governments, parliaments, businesses, banks, investors and other stakeholders with influence have a crucial role to play in addressing the triple planetary crisis and drive a transition to a circular economy at scale.    

Where are we?

In recent years, the United Nations has made important headways on the environmental front:  

  • This month, on 19-20 June, delegates will convene at UN Headquarters in New York to adopt a historic new treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.  
  • At the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in December 2022, governments reached a landmark agreement — the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework — to address biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems and protect indigenous rights, including by putting 30 per cent of the planet and 30 per cent of degraded ecosystems under protection by 2030. 
  • In 2021, countries adopted the Glasgow Climate Pact, aiming to turn the 2020s into a decade of climate action and support. They reaffirmed their duty to fulfil the pledge of providing $100 billion annually to developing countries. And they collectively agreed to work to reduce the gap in emission reduction plans to limit the rise in the global average temperature to 1.5 degrees. For the first time, countries were called upon to phase down unabated coal power and inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels. 

The UN General Assembly:  

  • Adopted a historic resolution in July 2022, declaring access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right. 


In Focus

With 2023 marking the midpoint of SDG implementation, it is time for urgent action.  The Secretary-General’s report (special edition) on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, released in late April, calls for a commitment from all countries to end the war on nature, urging them to support the Acceleration Agenda for climate action and deliver on the new global biodiversity framework.   

The upcoming High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (10-19 July) will conduct an in-depth review of Goals 6 (clean water and sanitation), 7 (affordable and clean energy), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and 17 (partnerships), which are all important to implementing the 2030 Agenda’s environmental dimension.  

The Political Forum will then feed into the SDG Summit, the Climate Ambition Summit and the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development, as world leaders gather at UN Headquarters in New York during the General Assembly high-level week in September to turn the tide and kick-start a new drive for SDG achievement. 

What to Watch For

World Bicycle Day draws attention to the benefits of using the bicycle — a simple, affordable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transportation. Using bicycles contributes to cleaner air and less congestion and makes education, health care and other social services more accessible to the most vulnerable populations. 

Established in 2018, the Day encourages people and stakeholders to advance the use of bicycles to foster sustainable development; strengthen education, including physical education, for children and young people; promote health; prevent disease; and facilitate social inclusion and a culture of peace. Learn more about World Bicycle Day here. 

Every year, over 400 million tons of plastic is produced worldwide – one third of which is used just once. Every day, the equivalent of over 2000 garbage trucks full of plastic is dumped into our oceans, rivers, and lakes. World Environment Day 2023 is a reminder that ending plastic pollution needs everyone. While consumer pressure plays a vital role, real action must also come from companies, investors, policymakers, and governments. Last year, the global community began negotiating a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution. This is a promising first step, but we need all hands-on deck. A new report by the UN Environment Programme shows that we can reduce plastic pollution by 80 per cent by 2040 – if we act now to reuse, recycle, reorient, and diversify away from plastics.   

The ocean is the foundation of life. It supplies the air we breathe and food we eat. It regulates our climate and weather. The ocean is our planet’s greatest reservoir of biodiversity. Its resources sustain communities, prosperity and human health around the world.  Under the theme, “Planet Ocean: tides are changing”, World Oceans Day 2023 offers an opportunity for the UN to join forces with decision-makers, indigenous leaders, scientists, private sector executives, civil society, celebrities, and youth activist to put the ocean first. In his message on the Day, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned: “Humanity counts on the ocean… But right now, humanity is its worst enemy,” urging collective commitment to realize the great promise of such initiatives as the adoption of an ambitious global target to conserve and manage 30 per cent of land and marine and coastal areas by 2030, as well as a landmark agreement on fisheries subsidies.  

The number and duration of droughts has increased by 29 percent since 2000, as compared to the two previous decades (WMO 2021). When more than 2.3 billion people already face water stress, this is a huge problem. This year, under the theme “Her land. Her rights,” the International Day Against Desertification, and Drought emphasizes that investing in women’s equal access to land and associated assets is a direct investment in their future and the future of humanity.  It’s time for women and girls to be at the forefront of global land restoration and drought resilience efforts. The Day will be marked by the high-level event, “Her Land. Her Rights: Advancing Gender Equality and Land Restoration Goals” to be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 16 June 2023 at UN Headquarters in New York, organized jointly by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), UN Women, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR). 

The high-level event will be livestreamed online to audiences around the world via UN web TV and the UNCCD Facebook and UNCCD Twitter accounts. 

Learn how land plays a key role for the climate, as an essential carbon sink regulating the planet’s temperature: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/science/climate-issues/land 


SDG 7 Progress Report (6 June) 

The International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), World Bank, and World Health Organization (WHO), will release The  2023 edition of Tracking SDG 7: The Energy Progress Report, which highlights the urgent action that is needed to achieve SDG 7 on time. While some progress has been seen on specific elements of SDG 7, progress is still insufficient to reach the targets set forth for the SDGs. 

The full report will be available online here. The report will also be presented at a special launch event on 11 July at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development. 

More Coming Up

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities are responsible for the loss of 11–26 million tonnes of fish each year, which is estimated to have an economic value of $10–23 billion. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems, undermining regional and national efforts to manage fisheries sustainably and to conserve marine biodiversity. In December 2017, the UN General Assembly in its annual resolution on sustainable fisheries proclaimed 5 June as the “International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.”  Find digital assets from FAO here  

Adopted in 2019, World Food Safety Day is an opportunity to celebrate the many benefits and contributions of safe food. Food safety is not only crucial to food security, but also plays an important role in reducing foodborne diseases. This year’s slogan is “Food safety is everyone’s business”, to highlight how everyone – whether you oversee food safety systems, grow, process, transport, distribute, or eat food – plays a crucial role in keeping food safe.  

FAO and WHO will also be hosting a high-level hybrid event for World Food Safety Day on 7 June where participants can learn how food safety standards contribute to saving lives. The event will expand on this year’s theme for World Food Safety Day, “Food standards save lives”. Registration details can be found here 

Learn more about this year’s campaign and ways you can join the conservation here. 

The 16th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) will take place at UN Headquarters, New York,  from 13 to 15 June 2023. 

Theme and sub-themes of the Conference 

  • Overarching theme: Harmonizing national policies and strategies with the CRPD: achievements and challenges 
  • Sub theme 1: Ensuring equal access to and accessibility of sexual and reproductive health services for persons with disabilities
    Sub theme 2: Digital accessibility for persons with disabilities
    Sub theme 3: Reaching the under-represented groups of persons with disabilities

Provisional agenda and program  

Read an expert interview: June | 2023 | UN-DESA-VOICE 

World Gastronomy Day raises public awareness on gastronomy as a cultural expression related to the natural and cultural diversity of the world and its contribution to sustainable development. Organizations like UNESCO, FAO, and the UN General Assembly in collaboration with Member States and UN organizations, have worked to facilitate the observance of this day and highlight the importance of sustainable gastronomy.  

Learn more on World Gastronomy Day here and about food and climate change here. 

Check out fish cookbook from FAO. 

Your Guide on Climate Action: Food  

The International Day of the Tropics celebrates the extraordinary diversity of the tropics while highlighting unique challenges and opportunities nations of the Tropics face. It provides an opportunity to take stock of progress across the tropics, to acknowledge the diversity and potential of the region and the key role that countries in the tropics play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals 

Learn more about International Day of Tropics here