Time is running out to achieve sustainable development, UN warns

17 November 2004

Warning that time is running out in the race for sustainable development – vital in the war on growing poverty, hunger, disease and ecological degradation – the United Nations environmental agency is hosting regional meetings and producing a set of indicators to bring about concrete improvements at the ground level.

“We need to do the job faster because people’s lives and the health of the planet are at stake,” the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Klaus Toepfer, told environment ministers and over 200 senior decision-makers from 60 countries brought together by his agency this week in Monterrey, Mexico.

“Let us not forget the goal – the ultimate focus of these efforts is at the poor – those who do not have access to basic services, such as clean water, food, and energy, and who are exposed to health risks due to improper waste management,” he said. “For others, there is the need to consume differently – with less environmental and social impact on the world. We need to create the 'space' for a better quality of life for all.”

Mr. Toepfer called for rich and middle-class consumers to lead their lives in a way that uses fewer resources and causes less pollution and social damage.

The recommendations of the seminar, which brought together donor organizations and banks, business, government and ground level implementing groups such as Cleaner Production Centres, will shape UNEP’s work in the sustainable consumption and production area.

In another initiative half way around the world in Bangkok, Thailand, UNEP today released a set of indicators for the Asia-Pacific region to help guided needed action.

“We are on a unsustainable development path and time is running out for a well planned transition to policies that will ensure long-term well-being,” the agency’s Deputy Executive Director, Shafqat Kakakhel, said at the launch of the indicators, published in simple, graphical form to allow policy-makers to use benchmarks and assess trends in 30 different economic, social and environmental areas.

Overall, they show progress in economic performance, poverty reduction and human health, but declines in the quality of land, air, water and biodiversity resources, with the threats to future food security and economic and social development that these pose.

 

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