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UN: Global human health in grave danger, if urgent action is not taken

UN: Global human health in grave danger, if urgent action is not taken

  • Antimicrobial resistance could become one of the leading causes of death in 2050 due to water contamination.
  • The authors assure that the world has at its disposal the science, technology and finances necessary to avoid greater risks.
  • If 2% of GDP is allocated to green investments, it will reduce the climate impact and the loss of ecosystems, while maintaining the projected economic growth.

Nairobi, Kenya, March 13, 2019 - Human health will be increasingly threatened if the world does not take urgent measures to stop and repair the serious damage caused to the environment, the UN warned today when publishing the most exhaustive and rigorous assessment of the global environmental state.

UN Environment's flagship report, produced over the past five years by a team of 250 scientists and experts from more than 70 countries, indicates that either we will dramatically increase environmental protections or there could be millions of premature deaths by mid-century in cities and regions of Asia. , Middle East and Africa.

The sixth edition of the report Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6), warns that antimicrobial resistance will become one of the leading causes of death by 2050 due to contamination of freshwater bodies, and that endocrine disruptors will affect male fertility and female, as well as child neurological development.

But the world has at its disposal the science, technology and finance necessary to move towards sustainable development, although it still lacks greater support from public, business and political leaders who cling to obsolete models of production and development, the report indicates.

GEO-6 was published in Nairobi, Kenya, where the world's environment ministers participate in the Fourth United Nations Environment Assembly, the highest global forum for environmental decision-making. The negotiations are expected to address critical issues such as stopping food waste, promoting electric mobility, and tackling the crisis of plastic pollution in our oceans, among other pressing challenges. The Assembly closes on Friday, March 15.

“The scientific information is clear. Human health and prosperity are directly related to the state of the environment, "said Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment. “This report builds a perspective on humanity: we are at a crossroads. Do we continue on our current path, which will lead us to a bleak future, or do we choose the path of sustainable development? That is the choice that our political leaders must make, now ”.

Innovative policy options

The projection of a healthy future, with healthy people, is based on replacing the development model of "grow up now, clean up later" by an economic model "zero waste" by the year 2050.

According to the report, if countries allocate the equivalent of 2% of GDP to green investments, they would produce long-term growth as high as currently projected, but with less impact on climate change, water scarcity and loss of ecosystems. .

Today the world notIt is on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 or 2050. Urgent action is required, as any delay in climate action will increase the cost of meeting the Paris Agreement goals or reverse the progress made so far.

The report advises adopting less meat-intensive diets and reducing food waste. If we do not take actions, it will be necessary to increase food production by 50% to satisfy the demand of between 9,000 and 10,000 million inhabitants of the planet in 2050. According to the publication, 33% of the world's food is wasted and 56% of this waste is generated in industrialized countries.

Today's unprecedented urbanization may present an opportunity to increase citizens' well-being, while reducing their environmental footprint, if better governance practices, land use planning and green infrastructure are adopted. Additionally, strategic investment in rural areas would reduce the pressures that motivate migration.

The report also calls for action to stem the flow of 8 million tons of plastic waste reaching the oceans each year. While this issue has received increased attention in recent years, there is still no global agreement to address it.

The authors report advances in the collection of environmental statistics, particularly in the field of geospatial data, and highlight that there is great potential to boost knowledge through big data (big data) and the strengthening of cooperation between public and private partners for data collection.

According to the authors, policy interventions that address entire systems - such as energy, food, and waste - rather than specific problems - such as water pollution - can be much more effective.

For example, a stable climate and clean air are interconnected outcomes; Climate mitigation measures to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement would cost about $ 22 trillion, but reducing air pollution would bring cumulative health benefits of up to $ 54 trillion.

“The report shows that policies and technologies already exist to design new development pathways that avoid risk, and produce health and prosperity for all people,” said Joyeeta Gupta and Paul Ekins, co-chairs of the GEO-6 process. “What is currently lacking is the will to implement policies and technologies at sufficient speed and scale. The fourth UN Environment Assembly should be the opportunity for policy makers to face the challenges and seize the opportunities for a better future for humanity, ”they added.

Download the full report (in English).

Download the summary for policymakers (in Spanish).

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