World Environment Day celebrations at the United Nations in Vienna inspired by music and a collective effort to protect the planet and promote the Sustainable Development Goals

VIENNA, 7 June 2019 - The live performance of the World Environment Day theme song 'We are walking on" was the highlight of an event to mark World Environment Day 2019 at the United Nations in the Vienna organized by the UN Environment Vienna Office - Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention in cooperation with the UNESCO Club Vienna and the United Nations Information Service.

Deputy Director-General of the UN Office at Vienna (UNOV) Dennis Thatchaichawalit welcomed the guests on behalf of the Director-General, Yury Fedotov. He mentioned the recent meeting between youth climate advocate Greta Thunberg and UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the Vienna International Centre (VIC) where they were both calling upon world leaders to step up their efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

Harald Egerer, Head of the UN Environment Vienna Office - Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention thanked all the partners of the event and introduced the live music performance as a special feature of the event.

The song produced by special guest and Los Angeles-based Grammy award winner, music producer, songwriter and Goodwill Ambassador of the City of Kitakyushu (Japan) Sadaharu Yagi, was co-written with Italian music artist and guitarist Federico Ferrandina, Italian-Canadian lyricist and playwright Clea Scala and Berlin-based Italian singer Azzurra. The song, which is a message of hope, is dedicated to the protection of Earth and the environment and aims to raise awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals.

Referring to this year's World Environment Day theme "Beat Air pollution" the Goodwill Ambassador, Sadaharu Yagi, remembered the situation in his hometown Kitakyushu, Japan: "It [Kitakyushu] was a leading industrial centre, specializing in the production of iron and steel. In the 1960s, the city faced huge environmental problems, having the worst air pollution in the country. It did, however, turn what seemed to be a desperate situation around. The government, private companies and citizens worked together and now I am proud to say that today the city has the some of the lowest air pollution levels in the nation."

In 1990, Kitakyushu received the 'Global 500 Award' - an award by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to recognize environmental achievements of individuals and organizations around the world. The city was furthermore selected as an official Sustainable Development Goals Future City by the Japanese Government for its commitment to sustainable development.

"Growing up I realized how important it was to protect the environment and how this can only occur when there is a collective effort to turn things around. I also fell in love with music, which I recognized as a powerful unifying force; one that crosses all boundaries," Sadaharu Yagi said.

The performance of the 2019 World Environment Day theme song was part of a global launch by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The song emphasizes our pressing need to embrace a sustainable life if we are to ensure that the world will not become a victim of our greed and carelessness. "The message of "We are walking on" is rooted in a commitment to bettering ourselves as humans, and to greater tolerance - a sense that we are all one. Until we truly understand and embrace this idea, we will be doing our planet, and ourselves, more harm than good," Sadaharu Yagi emphasizes.

Singer Azzurra said that: "Music can help healing, breaking down barriers and borders, educating, promoting and protecting human rights.'' 

"It's a huge honour to shape a musical horizon for the Sustainable Development Goals. I personally hope that music and other languages will help us to create a new mythology for a better world and find a new idea to surpass the contradictory concept of development. We are walking on to imagine and create a better and happier way to share our life with the planet," music artist and guitarist Federico Ferrandina said.

Young climate and environment activists all around the world are demanding action to stem the fast-paced destruction of Earth and the environment. Nathan Spees, Programme Coordinator of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Austria and his young team members from the Generation Earth Network came directly from a clean-up at the River Danube to the event. They jointly called for more direct involvement of young people in the policy-making process, and increased efforts by all adults to combat the climate crisis and join the fight for a sustainable future.

Under the theme of "Youth engagement towards the SDGs and the environment #IChooseAction", the Presidents of AIESEC Austria 2018-2020 Caroline Wenninger and Eduardo Alvarez presented their organizations project to send young adults on sustainable exchange activities all over the world.

Jorge Rios, Chief, Global Programme to Combat Wildlife and Forest Crime and Sustainable Livelihoods Unit, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) spoke about UNODC's work to address the many challenges that our ecosystems and our biodiversity face today, such as the overexploitation of marine resources, the dumping of waste, fisheries crime, and the trafficking of wildlife. "The number of elephants that are killed each day could fit in the Rotunda," he said.

Alois Mhlanga, Chief, Climate Technology and Innovation Division, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), referred to UNIDO's work to combat indoor air pollution in developing countries. Forty per cent of the global population do not have access to clean fuels and technologies for daily cooking and rely on basic solid fuels such as wood, crop residues, animal waste, charcoal and kerosene for their everyday cooking energy needs. This is a daily health hazard causing a host of debilitating conditions ranging from acute respiratory infections to long-term heart and lung diseases, he said.

The event concluded with the screening of the accompanying music video to "We are walking on" which was directed by Los Angeles-based award-winning film director Puja Maewal. She wanted to showcase "the beauty of nature through landscape and wildlife shots'' and is "ultimately hoping to raise awareness about preserving the planet's natural beauty". 

The event was moderated by Martin Nesirky, Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna.