The world can secure a sustainable future and prevent future pandemics by transforming its relationship with nature and tackling the climate, biodiversity and pollution crises, according to UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
In its report, “Making Peace With Nature” , the authors assess the links between multiple environmental and development challenges. They explain how how advances in science and policy making decisions can lead to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and a carbon neutral world by 2050.
UN Secretary General António Guterres pointed out that making peace with nature was the defining task of the coming decades. He said that the world should seize the opportunity presented by COVID-19 pandemic to accelerate change. “Our central objective is to build a global coalition for carbon neutrality. If adopted by every country, city, financial institution and company around the world, the drive to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 can still avert the worst impacts of climate change,” the UN Chief said. .
The UNEP report states that pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change add to self-inflicted planetary crises. These are closely related, and put the well-being of present and future generations at unacceptable risk, the report said.
It said that the coordinated action by the people, governments and businesses can help in preventing and reversing the worst impacts of environmental decline. They can transform key systems including energy, water and food so that the use of land and oceans becomes sustainable.
Meanwhile, UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said the report highlighted the importance of changing mindsets and values. The report also adds to finding political and technical solutions for the ensuing crises.
The report finds that human prosperity and well-being depend on the careful use of the finite space and remaining resources of the earth, It also depends on the protection and restoration of its life-supporting systems and capacity to absorb waste. The UNEP warns that the present social, financial and economic systems do not provide the essential benefits from nature. They do not provide incentives to manage ecosystems and natural capital wisely and maintain the value, the UNEP added. Though the global economy grew five fold over last 50 years, it largely depended on extraction of natural resources and energy. The population has also increased. It said that piecemeal and uncoordinated action on climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss has not helped to prevent environmental decline.
limit environmental damage
The world is missing the Paris Agreement target to keep warming well below two degree Celsius, the report said. The report maintained that the goals for protection of life on Earth and for halting degradation of land and oceans were not fully met. It said that deforestation and overfishing continued, and a million species of animals and plants threatened with extinction.
Environmental decline eroding progress towards SDG
The poor and the vulnerable bear the major burden of environmental falls. The report finds that wealthy countries export some of the impacts of their consumption and production to poorer nations through trade and waste disposal. It says that environmental change undermined progress on ending poverty and hunger and providing clean water and sanitation. It also had negative impact on reducing inequalities and promoting sustainable economic growth. Most of the diseases worldwide stems from environment-related risks including animal borne diseases like Covid 19, climate change and exposure to pollution.
Climate change, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity must be addressed together to maximize the benefits and minimize trade-offs. The UNEP in the report notes that ambitious national climate commitments will only help in meeting Paris Agreement targets. Rapid transformations in areas including energy systems, agriculture, land use, urban development, forest protection, infrastructure and lifestyles also is of importance, the report said.
Transformed economic and financial systems
The UNEP report states that the governments should incorporate full natural capital accounting into decision-making and incentivize businesses to do the same. The governments should include natural capital in measures of economic performance. They should put a price on carbon and phase out harmful subsidies. They should also redirect annual subsidies to fossil fuels, non-sustainable agriculture/fishing, mining, nonrenewable energy and transportation. The report finds that developing countries need more support to address environmental challenges.
The UNEP stresses in the report that everyone has a part to play in the transformation to a sustainable future.