Friday, 20 May 2016

World's environment is deteriorating faster than previously thought, says UNEP

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned that the environment is deteriorating faster than previously thought, making it imperative that governments act now to reverse the worst trends.

This is contained in a report released by UNEP on Thursday on the state of the planet’s health.

The Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6), Regional Assessments is a compilation of six separate reports, provides highly detailed examinations of the environmental issues affecting each of the world’s six regions.

These are the Pan-European region, North America, Asia and the Pacific, West Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa,

Published ahead of the UN Environment Assembly, taking place in Nairobi, Kenya, from Monday to Friday, the regional assessments, involved 1,203 scientists, hundreds of scientific institutions and more than 160 governments.

It showed that the world shares a host of common environmental threats that are rapidly intensifying in many parts of the world.

It stated that across the planet, climate change, the loss of biodiversity, land degradation and water scarcity are growing problems that need to be urgently addressed if the world is to achieve the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the studies find.

According to the report, in Africa, the second largest continent in the world, land is the most prized asset for food production, nutritional health and economic development.

Worryingly, it added, about 500,000 square meters of land in Africa is being degraded due to soil erosion, salinization, pollution and deforestation.

This land degradation, UNEP said, could damage agricultural productivity, nutrition and human health.

UNEP, therefore recommended that improved gathering, processing and sharing of data and information to inform decision-making; enhance sustainable consumption and production to reduce environmental pressures by addressing drivers associated with manufacturing processes and consumer demand.

It also recommended investing in urban planning, such as through the better use of environmentally sound infrastructure and clean transport; reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and diversify energy sources, among others.

The assessment, finds that there is still time to tackle many of the worst impacts of environmental change, such as the damage to marine ecosystems and the rising level of air pollution, which has become one of the world's most widespread environmental health risks.

It added that as one of the first areas of the world to experience the impacts of climate change, the Arctic region serves as a barometer for change in the rest of the world.

Warming in the Arctic, UNEP said, has increased at twice the global average since 1980.

It also said that in 2015, the Asia-Pacific continued to be the world's most disaster prone region.

It showed that about 41 per cent of all natural disasters reported over the last two decades occurred in the Asia-Pacific region, which also accounted for 91 per cent of the world’s deaths attributable to natural disasters in the last century.

The main driver for accelerating domestic material consumption, it added, is the expanding middle class.

In the Latin American and Caribbean region, it added that most of the cities in the region for which data are available have concentrations of particulate matter (PM) above WHO guidelines.

The region’s urban population, it said, increased by more than 35 million people between 2010 and 2015, and is expected to climb to a total of 567 million persons by 2025.

UNEP said that no fewer than 100 million people already live in areas where they are at risk from air pollution.

Furthermore, it said in West Asia, continuous conflict and the mass displacement of people throughout the region are also triggering severe environmental impacts that are endangering the health of people.

It said that heavy metals from explosive munitions and radiation from missiles have leached into the environment.

The 2.97 million refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Iraq, it said are placing an immense environmental burden on the region, producing about 1,440 tonnes of waste per day in 2015, overwhelming governments and increasing the risk of disease outbreaks.