Sunday, 5 February 2012

UN report on Sustainability

A final draft of Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A future worth choosing, a report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Global Sustainability has been released.

First, statistics
20 per cent of the world’s population lack access to electricity
Water and sanitation
884 million people lack access to clean water
2.6 billion people are without access to basic sanitation [more than 1 in 3 people]
Some excerpts of interest:
As the global population grows from 7 billion to almost 9 billion by 2040, and the number of middle-class consumers increases by 3 billion over the next 20 years, the demand for resources will rise exponentially. By 2030, the world will need at least 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy and 30 per cent more water — all at a time when environmental boundaries are throwing up new limits to supply. This is true not least for climate change, which affects all aspects of human and planetary health.
It is critical that we embrace a new nexus between food, water and energy rather than treating them in different “silos”. All three need to be fully integrated, not treated separately if we are to deal with the global food security crisis. It is time to embrace a second green revolution — an “ever-green revolution” — that doubles yields but builds on sustainability principles;
Will this mark the start of an 'ever-green' movement? It's a US election year, I wager we'll hear this word a few times during 2012.
...the conjunction of a growing “global middle class” with unsustainable patterns of consumption threatens to push us inexorably towards the limits of natural resources and planetary life support systems — from food, water and energy resources to global systems such as the oceans, the climate and the nitrogen cycle. Without major changes, the planet’s capacity to support and sustain us will continue to degrade, with the potential for sudden shifts as key thresholds and tipping points are passed, and as social pressures for fairness increase.
Importantly, sustainable development is not a synonym for “environmental protection”. Instead, sustainable development is fundamentally about recognizing, understanding and acting on interconnections — above all those between the economy, society and the natural environment. Sustainable development is about seeing the whole picture — such as the critical links between food, water, land and energy. And it is about ensuring that our actions today are consistent with where we want to go tomorrow.
Similarly, resource scarcity — especially of energy, food, land, forests and water — has established itself firmly on Governments’ radar, and relates directly to the problem of unsustainable production and consumption patterns. Concerns about scarcity may recede at times if prices fall temporarily, but the underlying fundamentals — of rising demand for resources of all kinds, unsustainable use levels of both finite and renewable resources and inadequate (albeit growing) investment in systems for sustainable resource use — make it likely that scarcity and concerns over resource sustainability will once again move up the policy agenda before long.
There is an entire section on energy. The use of nuclear energy is not mentioned. No major complaints; I acknowledge the political reality in the wake of the accident in Japan. Many organizations worldwide are working to restore confidence in nuclear energy. A daunting task in a dire context.

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