World leaders on Saturday called for a united response to the simmering impacts of climate change in an attempt to reverse the harm that has already befallen the planet.
On the occasion of World Environment Day, they underlined that the next 10 years will be crucial in controlling the damage caused by climate change.
A major event was held for the first time in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, marking the day in partnership with the UN Environment Program (UNEP).
Its theme was ecosystem restoration and resetting the relationship with nature.
The event also marked the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, which aims to prevent, halt, and reverse ecosystems' degradation on 'every continent and in every ocean.'
On the first day of week-long World Environment Day celebrations, Prime Minister Imran Khan planted a sampling at Islamabad's Margalla Hills to mark the planting of 1 billion trees across the country.
The milestone is part of Khan's ambitious '10 Billion Tree Tsunami' project, which aims to restore the country's fast-depleting forest cover.
Pakistan is among the countries worst affected by climate change, having been regularly hit by devastating floods in recent years, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying swathes of agricultural land.
- Khan urges support for vulnerable countries
Addressing the ceremony, Khan called on the developed world to support those countries vulnerable to climate change.
He observed that the international community as a whole has realized the adverse impacts of climate and ecosystem changes, which is a good sign.
However, he warned, if 'serious and immediate' steps are not taken to counter these issues, the world would pay a 'heavy price.'
'It is a chance for the world to correct its course in terms of its treatment of nature,' Khan said.
He said Pakistan has done more than any other country in the world to combat rising emissions in comparison to its economic means, while regretting that the world's richest nations have not done enough to tackle the growing problem.
'We are responsible for less than one percent of global carbon emissions. Despite this, we decided to do whatever we can to fight global warming.'
Pakistan, he added, has developed 15 protected areas across the country as models for conserving over 7,300 square kilometers of land, which will create over 5,500 green jobs.
Khan said his government is involving the local communities in its fight against climate change challenges by providing them employment in environmental projects.
- Guterres called for global response
In his message, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a global response to mitigate the daunting challenges posed by climate change across the world.
'We have to control the damage that we have done to nature. The next 10 years is our last chance to contain the catastrophe,' he said, referring to the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021–2030.
The UN chief warned that the rising climate and ecosystem changes could also trigger a global water crisis in years to come.
Chinese President Xi Jinping in his message called for an 'efficient' course of action from the international community to protect the environment for sustainable development of humanity as a whole.
Biodiversity and ecosystems are essential for mankind's survival and prosperity, he noted, adding that Beijing was committed to 'defending' and 'improving' global environmental governance.
China for its part, he went on to say, stands with the international community within the UN framework for a 'green and beautiful world.'
Hailing Islamabad's environmental initiatives, Xi said Pakistan and China would continue to cooperate with each other to tackle the climate change challenges.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also called for stepped-up efforts to counter the impacts of climate change.
Failure to seriously tackle climate change would be very costly for humanity, he observed.
UNEP Executive Director Inger Anderson and President of the World Economic Forum Borge Brende also spoke on the occasion.
By Aamir Latif in Karachi, Pakistan