It warned that cities and regions in Asia, middle-east and Africa could see millions of premature deaths by mid-century if the nations fail to drastically scale up environmental protection measures and noted that water pollution alone will become the number one cause of death in the world by 2050.
NEW DELHI: Flagging the deadly impact of air and water pollution that annually claims at least nine million lives globally, a new UN report on Wednesday called for urgent action to save humanity from the disastrous consequences of environmental degradation.
It warned that cities and regions in Asia, middle-east and Africa could see millions of premature deaths by mid-century if the nations fail to drastically scale up environmental protection measures and noted that water pollution alone will become the number one cause of death in the world by 2050. It highlighted that the fresh water system will see anti-microbial resistance due to pollutants, saying it will not only cause human deaths but also disrupt endocrine, impacting male and female fertility, as well as child neuro-development.
The report, produced by 250 scientists and experts from more than 70 countries including India, was released on the sidelines of the ongoing UN Environment Assembly at Nairobi in Kenya.
Besides sharing its findings on impact of air and water pollution, the report, sixth Global Environmental Outlook, also presented shocking figures of edible food wastage with rich nations being the biggest culprits while the poor ones struggled to feed their growing population.
At present, one-third of global edible food is wasted and 56% of such waste happens in industrialised countries, said the report, noting that “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”.
Highlighting how meat production currently uses 77% of farm land for feed and consumes lot of fresh water, the UN report advised “less meat intensive diets”.
“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 UN body had come out with its first Global Environment Outlook (GEO) in 1997. The sixth one has been released while top government representatives from across the globe are participating in the UN Environment Assembly which is the world’s highest level of environmental forum.
“What is currently lacking is the political will to implement policies and technologies at a sufficient speed and scale,” said Joyeeta Gupta and Paul Ekins, co-chairs of the sixth GEO process.
Noting that the world is, at present, not on track to meet the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030 or 2050, it said, “Urgent action is required nowas any delay in climate action increases the cost of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement (keeping global average temperature rise within 2 degree celsius by 2100), or reversing our progress and at some point, will make them impossible.”