UN Report: Human health in dire straits if urgent actions are not made to protect the environment
The UN has published an assessment on the state of the environment. Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6) offers a rigorous analysis of our prospects for a healthy future and warning that ecological damage to the planet is becoming so dire that millions of lives will soon be at risk unless urgent action is taken.
According to the sixth Global Environmental Outlook, the world has the science, technology and finance it needs to move towards a more sustainable development pathway, although sufficient support is still missing from the public, business and political leaders who are clinging to outdated production and development models.
The projection of a future healthy planet with healthy people is based on a new way of thinking where the ‘grow now, clean up after’ model is changed to a near-zero-waste economy by 2050. According to the Outlook, green investment of 2 per cent of countries’ GDP would deliver long-term growth as high as we presently projected but with fewer impacts from climate change, water scarcity and loss of ecosystems.
At present the world is not on track to meet the SDGs by 2030 or 2050. Urgent action is required now as any delay in climate action increases the cost of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, or reversing our progress and at some point, will make them impossible.
The report advises adopting less-meat intensive diets, and reducing food waste in both developed and developing countries, would reduce the need to increase food production by 50% to feed the projected 9-10 billion people on the planet in 2050. At present, 33 per cent of global edible food is wasted, and 56 per cent of waste happens in industrialized countries, the report states.
While urbanization is happening at an unprecedented level globally, the report says it can present an opportunity to increase citizens’ well-being while decreasing their environmental footprint through improved governance, land-use planning and green infrastructure. Furthermore, strategic investment in rural areas would reduce pressure for people to migrate.
Policy interventions that address entire systems – such as energy, food, and waste – rather than individual issues, such as water pollution, can be much more effective, according to the authors. For example, a stable climate and clean air are interlinked; the climate mitigation actions for achieving the Paris Agreement targets would cost about US$ 22 trillion, but the combined health benefits from reduced air pollution could amount to an additional US$ 54 trillion.
You can download the report here