Thursday, June 7, 2012

UN Environmental Program update - by Lauren Campbell Kong

 The UN is asking nations to intensify efforts toward fighting climate change and other environmental problems. After recently publishing the most comprehensive environmental assessment of the past five years, the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) states “The world continues to speed down an unsustainable path.” This no doubt will be the main discussion surrounding the UNEP conference in Rio de Janeiro in two weeks, where world leaders will participate in open dialogue about environmental problems. 

In a report released by the UNEP, a lack of action could have serious adverse effects on human health, agricultural yields, and coastlines; all of which could cost tens of billions of dollars if not addressed.
The report stated that forty of the environmental goals showed ‘some’ progress, including reduced deforestation rates, phasing out harmful substances that affect the ozone layer, and boosted research to reduce marine pollution. 

However, there has been little to no progress made on 24 of the 90 goals and there are actually 8 categories that are worse than what was reported in the 2008 review; 14 goals could not be measured due to insufficient data.

The UNEP climate change goals must be met, if not exceeded. Future predictions made by the UNEP include, coastal adaption to rising sea levels, possible lower agricultural yields due to air pollution, and the need for a new water infrastructure in order to provide water for the growing population; the estimated cost for these things is in excess of 120 billion dollars. 

Another area in need of attention is the use of resources. UNEP, in 2008, stated humans were using 40 percent more resources than the planet could replenish but, in the new report, that number jumped to 50 percent. Our resources are not the only worry surrounding climate change, with about 20 percent of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish under the threat of extinction, conserving biodiversity has never been more important.

These are the topics that must reach into our political system to begin seeing some significant change. The UNEP conference in Rio is a great opportunity for top political bodies to begin discussing what steps must be taken to help combat climate change. The small steps can be covered by you and I, however, the larger steps must also be addressed. The need to set industry standards to help protect the environment and the animals that live in it, must be met, and urgently. 

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