A landmark UN report has delivered a shattering synopsis of the three intertwined emergencies facing humanity—the climate crisis, a devastated natural world, and catastrophic air and water pollution—along with an authoritative and detailed blueprint for how to fix a “broken planet.”
At the launch of his organization’s “Making Peace with Nature” report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared that “humanity is waging war on nature”—a war he called “senseless and suicidal,” writes The Guardian. “Making peace with nature, securing its health, and building on the critical and undervalued benefits that it provides are key to a prosperous and sustainable future for all,” he said.
Since 1970, the world’s economy has seen five-fold growth, largely driven by fossil companies. But the economic benefits—which have come at enormous cost to the natural world—have not been shared equally.
Report co-author Ivar Baste of the Norwegian Environment Agency noted that humans use “three-quarters of the land” on the planet, and two-thirds of ocean resources. “We are completely dominating the Earth,” he said.
And the environment is buckling under the strain, writes The Guardian. “The world remains on track for catastrophic warming of 3°C above pre-industrial levels, a million species face extinction, and 90% of people live with dirty air.”
The UN report shows that actually making peace with nature will require a fundamental transformation in how we value our relationship with it. One major recommendation is for countries to replace GDP as the key indicator of well-being with an economic measure that takes the full worth of the natural world into account.
Baste’s fellow report author, renowned atmospheric scientist Sir Robert Watson, also urged the world to eliminate the annual US$5 to $7 trillion in “perverse subsidies” to harmful industries and practices, and to use that money instead to fund low-carbon technologies and systems that could serve to heal and protect climate and environment.
Financial institutions will play a “huge” role as well, Watson noted. He urged the world’s banks to stop funding fossil fuel extraction, deforestation, and large-scale monoculture agriculture.
As for the private sector, “proactive companies see that if they can be sustainable, they can be first movers and make a profit,” said Watson. “Regulation will almost certainly be needed for those companies that don’t care.”
The UN report also elaborated on the role that individual citizens around the world can and must play in making their own peace with nature—from embracing a plant-based diet to conserving energy and water.
Noting that the UN will be hosting the world at two critical summits this year (a conference on the biodiversity crisis in Kunming, China, in May and COP 26 in Glasgow in November), Watson said he would be “very disappointed” if goals and targets are all that’s discussed.
“They’ve got to talk about actions—that’s really what’s crucial,” he said.
The new UN report is all about taking action, Guterres said. “It makes clear our war on nature has left the planet broken. But it also guides us to a safer place by providing a peace plan and a postwar rebuilding program.”