Skip to content

Earth Day 2024 is more important than ever before

April 22 is Earth Day. While the opposing political factions at home and abroad continue to debate the semantics of “climate change” as opposed to “global warming,” the need to take climate action has remained as urgent as ever.


Urgent need to take climate action

April 22 is Earth Day. While the opposing political factions at home and abroad continue to debate the semantics of “climate change” as opposed to “global warming,” the need to take climate action has remained as urgent as ever.
By the end of 2024, global CO2 emissions will have to drop by 7.6 per cent and continue to fall by 7.6 per cent each year for the planet to keep global heating under 1.5oC, according to the most recent United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report.
Earth day 2024 is not just the 54th anniversary of Earth Day, but also the anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement (2016) to take climate action.
“Earth is issuing a distress call. The latest State of the Global climate reports a planet on the brink,” said United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. “Last year saw record heat, record sea levels and record ocean surface temperatures. Glaciers likely lost more ice than ever before.”
Guterres said some of the data are not just chart-topping…”they’re chart-busting.”
“Changes are speeding up,” he said. “Sea level rises are accelerating–threatening coastal communities. Last September, Antarctic sea ice was 1 million square kilometers smaller than the previous record for the time of year. That’s an area almost 25 times the size of Switzerland.”
The first Earth Day took place in 1970. Outraged by oil spills, smog, and polluted oceans and waterways, 20 million people took to the streets, protesting what they recognized as an environmental crisis. It was the planet’s largest civic event at the time and compelled governments to take concrete actions, including passing environmental laws and establishing environmental agencies. In addition to these practical outcomes, the event demonstrated just how much can be achieved when people come together and demand action.
The day continues to hold great significance. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution formally recognizing the day as International Mother Earth Day. On Earth Day 2016, the United Nations formally adopted the Paris Agreement, articulating the commitment of nations to limit global temperature rise to less than 2°C over pre-industrial levels; and to strengthen the ability of countries to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.
Marking its 50-year-plus anniversary, and selecting “Planet vs. Plastics” as its theme, Earth Day 2024 is poised to be a historic event. Earth Day 2024 calls for 24 hours of actions, big and small, for people and the planet. On this 50th anniversary, civil society organizers hope to fill the world’s digital landscape with global conversations, positive acts, performances, webinars and events supporting urgent action on climate change.
As the world continues its recovery from the pandemic, UNEP and other parts of the United Nations system see this as an opportunity to call attention to the need to “build back better.” The risks faced by ignoring the threats of environmental destruction must be understood and addressed with protections and policies. April 22 is a timely reminder to embrace the opportunities of the natural world for green jobs, sustainable economic stimulus, for urgently taking action to protect ourselves against unsurvivable global heating and for securing healthy, dignified futures.
On April 22, join for live streamed discussions, events and actions you can take from wherever you are. Explore the many virtual Earth Day events via this directory to online events across global time zones. There are new tools for volunteering and advocacy and opportunities to participate as citizen scientists–using the Earth Month EcoChallenge 2024 app to measure data such as air quality and plastic pollution, right where you are. There are challenges for daily action; graphics for sharing on social media; tips for making your own Earth Day window sign; and a place to tell others about your own personal “act of green.”
Just like on the first Earth Day, 50 years ago, it is time to demonstrate solidarity, take action and send a clear message to world leaders to act on climate change, halt biodiversity and habitat loss, and make certain environmental protection is a fundamental foundation of building back better.
Looking ahead to the next 50 years–and in the lead up to World Environment Day on June 5–UNEP will be sharing information on actions that can be taken to protect biodiversity, to contribute to reforestation efforts of degraded landscapes and to commit to the overall sustainable management of natural resources.
“There is still time to throw out a lifeline to our people and planet,” Guterres said, “but leaders must step up in act now. This is the fight of our lives. Let’s unite at the frontline of climate action and build a better future together.”