As national representatives gathered to pen to paper on the Paris Agreement to fight climate change, Earth Day was on Friday celebrated in Geneva with a medley of activities and statements cheering on the signatory countries.
The Paris climate deal was signed by 171 countries in New York and is the first ever universal and legally-binding accord to limit and deal with the harmful impacts of climate change. Earth Day has existed internationally since 2009 and been celebrated in the United States since 1970.
In Geneva, celebrations kicked off with an exhibition of paintings by Bolivian artist Mamani Mamani held at the Palais des Nations. The paintings of suns, indigenous mothers and other images in vibrant colours draw from Mamani Mamani’s Aymaran heritage and remind us to remain in harmony with the Earth.
Throughout the day, a range of activities were also organised by the City of Geneva celebrating our planet.
During his speech at the 'Genève fête la Terre' celebration at in the city’s Pleinpalais, the Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe Jan Dusik said that in order to reach a global objective, “we must start from as close to citizens as possible”.
In line with this year’s Earth Day objective of planting 7.8 billion trees worldwide by 2021, Mr Dusik praised the City of Geneva for pledging to plant 260 in 2016 alone.
Indeed, Geneva is already a leader on green initiatives, said the city’s Mayor Esther Alder, while welcoming the “very encouraging signs” resulting from the Paris Agreement. Some 20% of Geneva’s communal space is taken up by parks, and the city has pledged to not use any chemicals to maintain these spaces by 2021, noted incoming Mayor Guillaume Barazzone for example.
Given that we risk leaving future generations with our mistakes that will be difficult to correct, Earth Day is about showing our love of nature, underlined the agro-ecologist and philosopher Pierre Rabhi.
The speeches were made as part of a festive atmosphere, where stands, composting activities and a concert were held. A conference also took place on access to water organised by the UN in Geneva and a talk with Mr Rabhi held at the Théâtre du Léman as part of the celebrations.
Photo and video messages were meanwhile issued by UNEP offices in Geneva supporting the signing of the Paris deal as part of the #Sign4climate initiative. You can watch Mr Dusik’s statement by clicking here.