UN Report on Environmental Change Marks Resource Erosion

by Matt Ball on November 1, 2011

China's Pearl River Delta illustrates the growth of 'mega-regions', with a tripling of population since the early 1990s.

The UN Environment Programme Report, “Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment,” was released today, with details of the environmental changes that have taken place on our planet over the past 20 years. The report coincides with the planet reaching the 7 billion population mark this year, and is aimed to mark twenty years since the first Rio summit and in preparation for the Rio+20 meeting in Brazil in June.

The report outlines the buildup of greenhouse gases, the erosion of biodiversity and a 40 percent increase in the use of natural resources, which is faster than population growth. On the positive side, there are details on dramatic turnarounds that can take place when the world decides to act, with the banning of ozone-damaging chemical as an example of halting a decline (although recovery is some time away).

The report contains detailed sections on population impacts, climate change, energy, resource efficiency, forests, food security and land use, drinking water, waste and pollution, industry and transport, agriculture, natural hazards, fisheries, energy and technology and innovation.

The epilogue of the report promotes a need for improved monitoring and environmental data collection in order to improve decision making.

“Careful stewardship of the planet’s natural resources is required to ensure the health of our environment. As we continue the drive for more efficient resource use, it is now widely recognised that natural resource consumption must be decoupled from economic growth, that consumption should conform to, or be led by, the principles of sustainability, and that new paradigms and solutions should be applied for progress towards a Green Economy.”

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio in June provides a focal point for dealing with global change, redressing the deteriorating environment, and reducing negative impact on the poorest and most vulnerable global citizens. This report does a good job of setting up the global issues that will be addressed at this meeting. Our global connectedness through the revolutionising mobile phone and Internet usage is seen as a bright spot for better global discourse and action to right our course.

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