A United Nations report with the help of 250 scientists from 70 countries, have warned of impending crises from polluted freshwater systems which will see anti-microbial resistance become the number one cause of death by 2050.
The report was released on Wednesday during UN Environment Assembly the world’s highest-level environmental forum.
The report – sixth edition of ‘Global Environment Outlook ’ warns that if environment protections are not scaled up drastically, cities in Asia, the Middle East and Africa could see millions of premature deaths by 2050. Moreover, freshwater pollution that has endocrine disruptors (chemicals that interfere with hormone system) will impact male and female fertility, and child neurodevelopment.
Drawing a link between the state of environment and the human health, the report warns that damage is so dire that people’s health will be increasingly threatened unless urgent action is taken.
“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 progress and at some point, will make them impossible,” states the report.
“The health and prosperity of humanity is directly tied with the state of environment. We need to look at three systems – food, energy and waste and how we can transform them into healthy fortunes. This report is an outlook for humanity. We are at a crossroads. Do we continue on our current path, which will lead to a bleak future for humankind, or do we pivot to a more sustainable development pathway? That is the choice our political leaders must make, now,” said Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of UN Environment.
“The damage is now much more evident and need for action is stronger now. What is currently lacking is the political will to implement policies and technologies at a sufficient speed and scale. For example, 8 million tons of plastic pollution is going into oceans each year. While the issue has received increased attention in recent years, there is still no global agreement to tackle marine litter. We have given various recommendations in the report to tackle the situation. We need to work immediately as the time is running out,” said Joyeeta Gupta and Paul Ekins, two scientists and co-chairs of the sixth edition of the Global Environment Outlook process.
Scientists said that a stable climate and clean air are interlinked. “The 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. 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,” said Gupta, who was one of the panelists at the launch of the report.
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 per cent to feed the projected 9-10 billion people on the planet in 2050. Also, it recommends urgent policy interventions to address entire systems, including such as energy, food, and waste, rather than individual issues – such as water pollution.
The report is the most comprehensive and rigorous assessment on the state of the environment completed by the UN in the last five years.