Global Environment Outlook report

Context: 

  • Recently Global Environment Outlook report has been released. The report is the sixth and is the UN’s most comprehensive report on the state of the global environment since the fifth edition in 2012.

About the report:

  • The GEO is often referred to as UN Environment’s flagship environmental assessment.
  • The first publication was in 1997 and was originally requested by Member States.
  • It is a flagship report because it fulfills the core functions of the organization, which date back to the UN General Assembly resolution that established the UNEP in 1972.

Key findings:

Pollution related risks:

  • A quarter of all premature deaths and diseases worldwide are due to manmade pollution and environmental damage.
  • Deadly emissions, chemicals polluting drinking water, and the accelerating destruction of ecosystems crucial to the livelihoods of billions of people are driving a worldwide epidemic that hampers the global economy.
  • There is a growing chasm between rich and poor countries as rampant overconsumption, pollution and food waste in the developed world leads to hunger, poverty and disease elsewhere.

Impact:

  • As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise amid a preponderance of droughts, floods and super storms made worse by climbing sea levels, there is a growing political consensus that climate change poses a future risk to billions.
  • But the health impacts of pollution, deforestation and the mechanised food-chain are less well understood. Nor is there any international agreement for the environment close to covering what the 2015 Paris accord does for climate.
  • Poor environmental conditions “cause approximately 25% of global disease and mortality” — around 9 million deaths in 2015 alone.
  • Lacking access to clean drinking supplies, 1.4 million people die each year from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea and parasites linked to pathogen-riddled water and poor sanitation.
  • Chemicals pumped into the seas cause “potentially multi-generational” adverse health effects, and land degradation through mega-farming and deforestation occurs in areas of Earth home to 3.2 billion people.
  • Species extinction rates also continue to increase at a pace that could compromise Earth’s ability to meet human needs, the report says.

Need of the hour:

  • The report called for a root-and-branch detoxifying of human behaviour while insisting that the situation is not unassailable. Food waste for instance, which accounts for 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions, could be slashed. The world currently throws away a third of all food produced. In richer nations, 56% goes to waste.
  • It also called for a rapid drawdown in greenhouse gas emissions and pesticide use to improve air and water quality.

Source: UN Environment