What Is World Environment Day?

Celebrated worldwide, World Environment Day brings attention to critical issues

Group of happy environmentalists walking with potted plant and wheelbarrow in park
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The United Nations General Assembly established World Environment Day in 1972 to commemorate the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.

On the same day, the General Assembly created the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which is now the United Nations’ principal agency for environmental action. UNEP is responsible, along with the World Meteorological Organization, for starting the IPCC, the international agency responsible for monitoring climate change.

The Purpose of World Environment Day

Since then, World Environment Day has been celebrated every year on June 5. It has become one of the United Nations’ primary ways to raise global awareness of environmental issues and to help stimulate political attention, public action, and personal commitment to environmental preservation.

The agenda for World Environment Day is to:

  • Give a human face to environmental issues.
  • Empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development.

  • Promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues.
  • Advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

Each year, the UNEP chooses a new theme and host country for World Environment Day. Recent themes and country include wildlife (Angola) in 2016, consumption (Italy, 2015), climate change and sea level rise (Barbados, 2014), environmentally sound food choices (Mongolia, 2013), and the green economy (Brazil, 2012).

Think Globally, Act Locally on World Environment Day

The United Nations describes World Environment Day as “a people’s event.” While the UNEP addresses environmental issues on a global scale, on World Environment Day the UN encourages people worldwide to think and act locally to improve environmental conditions in their own communities.

World Environment Day keeps track of these local activities; 2861 were registered in 2015, involving 1.26 million people. 

How to Celebrate World Environment Day

On World Environment Day, all sorts of activities take place in countries and communities around the world—from parades, street rallies and concerts to tree planting, recycling and community clean-up campaigns—all designed to bring attention to a wide range of environmental issues and to help people learn how they can get involved and make a difference.

If your hometown doesn’t have any activities planned to officially celebrate World Environment Day, make time to do something on your own. Plant a tree, clean up a section of road near your home, pledge to recycle more this year, learn more about the theme issue for World Environment Day this year, or follow some of the tips in these articles:


Edited by Frederic Beaudry