UNEP informs that “we are losing and destroying the foundations of our survival at an alarming rate. Over 4.7 million hectares of forests – an area larger than Denmark – are lost every year. Over half of the world’s wetlands have disappeared in the last century. Ecosystem loss is depriving the world of carbon sinks, like forests and peatlands, at a time humanity can least afford it. Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown for three consecutive years and the planet is one pace for potentially catastrophic climate change. The emergence of COVID-19 has also shown just how disastrous the consequences of ecosystem loss can be. By shrinking the area of natural habitat for animals, we have created ideal conditions for pathogens – including coronaviruses – to spread.”
This year’s World Environment Day (5 June) calls for urgent action on ecosystem restoration and launches the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. The next ten years are crucial in preventing catastrophic climate change and biodiversity loss.
This is impacting the European region too. At IOM’s Regional Office for the European Economic Area (EEA), the European Union (EU) and NATO, we reflect on accomplishments to support ecosystem restoration.
Migrant children from the Greek Elaionas open accommodation site joined the “Save Your Hood” clean up drive and added their voices to the strong call for environmental protection. “We love this place! We wanted to make sure it would be clean for anyone to enjoy it. We respect the environment, we protect ourselves,” says Muskan Batool from Pakistan.
In a similar vien, the IOM team on Chios island, Greece, organized the “Plant a Seed” project, which aims to inspire children to achieve their dreams and realize their full potential, by fostering strong connections to nature and encouraging them to be the future caretakers of the planet.
Meanwhile in Andravida and Nea Kavala, Greece, IOM’s informal education teams are raising the next generation of gardners. Under the moto “We for a greener world”, migrant children are growing their own greener planet in the open accommodation facilities and making an impact. Through video sessions and outdoor activities, such as planting and watering herbs and flowers, migrant children are building strong foundations for an environmentally-conscious lifestyle.
Refugees under IOM Greece’s HELIOS project (Hellenic Integration Support for Beneficiaries of International Protection) joinedthe We4All initiative, and together with the Greek local population, planted trees, sending a strong message that environmental protection is a common goal.
Greening the Blue – IOM Offices Efforts
Adding to migrants’ actions, IOM offices in the Netherlands increased their efforts to Go Green by integrating the Sustainable Development Goals focusing on environmental sustainability in its operations and day-to-day activities. To this end, the IOM Goes Green Group created a ‘green wall’ in The Hague office, placed a recycling station in the office enabling the separation of different types of garbage, and the participated in the ‘The Beach Cleanup Tour’, a local garbage picking event. Finally, for Movements Operations in The Netherlands, the iconic IOM plastic bag was replaced by a compostable bag. The group is planning to further expand on these activities to gradually become more sustainable.
Walk the Talk – EU Policy
To keep the momentum going, IOM’s Regional Office for the European Economic Area (EEA), the European Union (EU) and NATO also hosted an EU Green Week event on 1 June to highlight the relationship between migration and air pollution in Europe.
Panellists from the European Commission (EC), the European Bank for Reconstruction, the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia, the University of Birmingham, and IOM’s Regional Office for the EEA, EU and NATO discussed how the EC, EU Member States and Governments in the Western Balkans, international financial institutions, and other partners could integrate migration considerations in the roll-out of clear air initiatives.
The conclusions of this discussion will be taken forward to the this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP26), 1-12 November 2021, to which IOM is contributing since 2007.
Small Steps for a Big Change
On World Environment Day, IOM renews our resolve in overcoming the environmental challenges facing the world today. Everyone in our societies - individuals, migrants and organizations - needs to work together for a healthy environment.
Often, individuals feel that their actions alone do not have an impact on the environment. Whether it is the decision to stop eating meat, going to vote or preferring to take a train instead of a plane. But nothing could be further from the truth.
IOM is participating in and encourages others - EU citizens, migrants, asylum seekers, IOM staff, EU officials - to join #GenerationRestoration for World Environment Day, by joining the UN’s Snap Challenge! The campaign aims to show that the contribution of each individual adds up to a significant positive impact on the environment and to motivate others to join a common action to restore the ecosystem.
Help IOM continue to provide assistance to migrants, refugees and host communities for a sustainable future, and increase their resilience to future disasters.