UN chief urges businesses to prioritise sustainability ahead of World Environment Day

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres (Reuters filepix)

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres (Reuters filepix)

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NEW YORK (June 5): United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Saturday (June 4) urged businesses worldwide to prioritise sustainability ahead of World Environment Day, which falls on June 5 annually.

"We are asking too much of our planet to maintain ways of life that are unsustainable," and this hurts not only Earth but also its inhabitants, the UN chief said.

"Businesses need to put sustainability at the heart of their decision-making for the sake of humanity and their own bottom line. A healthy planet is the backbone of nearly every industry on Earth," he added.

"This planet is our only home," the top UN official said, warning the planet "cannot keep up with our demands." It is of utmost importance to safeguard the "health of the planet, including its atmosphere, ecosystems and finite resources," Guterres emphasised, said Xinhua.

"We are far from succeeding. We can no longer ignore the alarm bells that ring louder every day," warned the top UN official.

More than three billion people are affected by degraded ecosystems. Pollution causes some nine million premature deaths each year, and more than one million plant and animal species risk extinction, many within decades, according to the UN chief.

And by 2050, more than 200 million people risk displacement through climate disruption each year, he added.

"Close to half of humanity is already in the climate danger zone, 15 times more likely to die from climate impacts such as extreme heat, floods and drought," he said, adding that there is "a 50:50 chance" that global temperatures will breach the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next five years.

Guterres urged governments to prioritise climate action and environmental protection through policy decisions that promote sustainable progress.

The secretary-general also outlined recommendations to activate renewable energy everywhere by making renewable technologies and raw materials available to all, cutting red-tapism, shifting subsidies and tripling investment.

Guterres reiterated the UN commitment to lead cooperative global efforts, "because the only way forward is to work with nature, not against it".

World Environment Day is the UN's principal vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of the environment. This year's theme is "Only One Earth".