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World Environment Day: let’s protect our forests and #BeatAirPollution

Forests are key in the battle against climate breakdown
"Trees are unique in their capacity to lock up carbon, and it is crucial to protect the tropical rainforests that have a huge carbon uptake and storage potential"

Did you know 92 per cent of people worldwide do not breathe clean air, and that air pollution costs the global economy US$5 trillion every year in welfare costs? Also, are you familiar with the impact of ground-level ozone pollution on staple crop yields? These facts, and many others, are at the heart of discussions during World Environment Day 2019, which is being marked today by communities and organisations across the globe.

Professor Maria Nijnik, a natural resource, ecological and climate change economist based within the Institute’s Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences group, was invited to contribute an essay to a publication aimed at school pupils participating in the World Summit of Students for Climate (WSSC), which is gathering students and teachers from nearly 80 countries in Finland between 29th May and World Environment Day 2019, 5th June.

One of the main topics of the summit is the importance of increasing forest cover globally and all schools are invited to plant trees every year until 2025, with the goal of tying 3 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2025. The summit is endorsed by the president of the Republic of Finland, Mr Sauli Niinistö.

Professor Nijnik’s essay focuses on how trees and forests capture carbon from the air and can help mitigate the current climate emergency. “Trees are unique in their capacity to lock up carbon, and it is crucial to protect the tropical rainforests that have a huge carbon uptake and storage potential. Preventing forest loss and expanding tree cover are ways of tackling climate change,” she says in the article.

The WSSC is organised by ENO Schoolnet, in co-operation with the cities of Helsinki and Joensuu and the Finnish ministries of Environment, Forestry and Agriculture, Education and Foreign Affairs. The first part of the event took place in Eastern Finland (Liperi and Joensuu, 29 May – 2 June), while the second part is happening in Helsinki.Printed and electronic versions of the booklet are made available for the delegates, together with other materials during the workshops. For more information on the WSSC visit the event's website.

Celebrated every year on 5th June, World Environment Day is the United Nations’ biggest annual event for positive environmental action to encourage worldwide awareness of the need to protect our planet. Since the first World Environment Day in 1974, the event has grown to become a global platform for positive public outreach on the environment in over 100 countries. This year the event focuses on air pollution and everyone is encouraged to take part in the conversation via Twitter by using #BeatAirPollution.

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Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.