An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

On behalf of the United States, I thank our gracious host and co-presidents Sweden and Kenya.

We gather in Stockholm in the shadow of the evil still unfolding in Ukraine and inspired by the steadfast courage and resolve of the Ukrainian people.

We will remain united in our defense of peace, of freedom, of democracy, of sovereignty, and international law.

Today, we celebrate the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment.

But I ask you — what if that meeting had never taken place? What if? What would our world look like today, if the leaders in 1972 had NOT created UNEP? Had not galvanized a global movement to save the planet?

What happened here 50 years ago was revolutionary. Unprecedented. Visionary. It was hard. It broke through all the pressure to develop, extract, and exploit the natural world.

We must remember what happened, and yet we are again at a crossroads. One road leads to more of the same – more pollution, rising temperatures, and greater loss of biodiversity.

The other road leads to a better future where we live sustainably with nature.

If we continue to live as we do now, what will we leave to future generations?

We cannot leave them a world drowning in plastic. We can choose a different path if together we develop a global agreement that takes an ambitious, innovative, and country-driven approach to address the full life cycle of plastic.

We cannot leave them a world with barren oceans. We can choose a different path if together we agree to protect new areas of the ocean, address IUU fishing, and end harmful subsidies.

We cannot leave them a world devoid of nature and biodiversity. We can choose a different path if together we adopt a global goal of conserving 30 percent of the planet by 2030. The United States will do our part. President Biden has pledged to conserve at least 30 percent of domestic land and waters by 2030, and to encourage other countries to do the same.

We cannot leave them a world that is too warm to sustain life as we know it. We are not moving fast enough to hold the rise in global temperature within the 1.5-degree limit. But we have the solutions within our grasp – clean energy, more biodiversity to hold carbon, and support for the women, youth, and marginalized communities that have been the hardest hit.

So as we mark progress of the last 50 years, I ask you all, what if WE DON’T meet this moment? We know more than they did about the consequences future generations will face if we don’t act now.

Let’s be inspired by those who came together before us, by the voices that called for bolder action then, and by the ones that do so now. Future generations — our children and grandchildren — are counting on us. We cannot let them down.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future