Invisible Dust

London | Wednesday 16 January
Pollution level: Moderate

WWF’s verdict on the environment


“Rubbish and pollution blight a canal on the outskirts of Beijing. The average Beijinger has a footprint three times the Chinese average, says WWF”. Caption from The Guardian. Image: Mark Ralston

Today is World Environment Day, but the latest WWF Living Planet Report doesn’t really call out for a celebration.

According to the document, biodiversity has declined globally by around 30% between 1970 and 2008 (by 60% in the Tropics). Meanwhile, our demand on natural resources has doubled since 1966 and projections state that, if we continue this way, by 2030 we will need the equivalent of two planets to meet our actual demands.

The report’s findings come just in time for the United Nation’s Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20. It shows that most of the issues on the report were already addressed in the original Earth Summit, in 1992, but actions taken since have not been satisfactory – if anything the situation has gotten worse. Carbon emissions responsible for global warming, for example, have increased 40% in the past 20 years, with two-thirds of that rise occurring in the past decade.

On a statement to The Guardian, WWF-UK’s chief executive, David Nussbaum said “We have taken some important steps forward: the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is an important step, a way in which the world is seeking to come to agreement about [cutting] greenhouse gases. The Convention on Biological Diversity is an important way of the world identifying steps that can be taken in protecting biodiversity. But the pace in both cases is rather glacial. And unfortunately our lifestyles and the consequences of those are having an impact more quickly than the acts we are taking to protect the planet.”

The Rio conference will focus on two main themes: a green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication; and the institutional framework for sustainable development. These will be broken down into seven critical issues: decent jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans and disaster readiness. According to the official website, the ultimate aims of the meeting are to find ways to reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet.

By the UN’s definition, sustainable development is one that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. As Nussbaum sees it, Rio+20 will be “an opportunity for the world to get serious about the need for development to become sustainable. Our report indicates that we haven’t yet done that since the last Rio summit”.

For the full Living Planet Report, a summary, or a special Rio+20 version, click here
For the Guardian article click here


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