Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Rescue Us from Our Environmental ‘Mess,’ Says UN Chief at Stockholm+50

Global wellbeing is at risk, and it’s in large part because we haven’t kept our promises on the environment, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
June 3, 2022
File photo. Credit: Wikimedia

Although there have been successes in protecting the planet since 1972, such as rescuing the ozone layer, there is an urgent need to spur urgent action for a healthy planet for the prosperity of all, warned UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the Stockholm+50 in Sweden.

Triple Planetary Crisis

“Lead us out of this mess,” he urged delegates at the summit convened by the UN General Assembly, in a call for action against a “triple planetary crisis” that’s been caused by the climate emergency – “that is killing and displacing ever more people each year” – biodiversity loss – which threatens “more than three billion people” – and pollution and waste, “that is costing some nine million lives a year”.

All nations should do more to protect the basic human right to a clean, healthy environment for everyone, he insisted, focusing in particular on “poor communities, women and girls, indigenous peoples and the generations to come”.

Part of the solution lies in dispensing with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a gauge of countries’ economic clout, the Secretary-General continued, describing it as an accounting system “that reward(s) pollution and waste”. “Let us not forget that when we destroy a forest, we are creating GDP. When we overfish, we are creating GDP. GDP is not a way to measure richness in the present situation in the world,” he added.

After calling on all nations to commit further to implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and following the 2015 Paris Agreement to tackle these threats, the Secretary-General also insisted that greater efforts were needed to bring emissions to net zero by 2050.

He called all countries to abandon fossil fuel subsidies and invest in renewable energy, urging developed nations to “at least double” their support to poorer countries so that they can adapt to a growing number of climate shocks.

Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability

In a related development at Stockholm on May 2, a UN-backed coalition of 1,000 stakeholders from more than 100 countries, launched their bid to use digital tools to accelerate environmentally and socially sustainable development.

The Coalition for Digital Environmental Sustainability (CODES) offers ways to embed sustainability in all aspects of digitalisation. This includes building globally inclusive processes to define standards and governance frameworks for digital sustainability, allocating resources and infrastructure, while also identifying opportunities to reduce potential harms or risks from digitalization, said the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Addressing the conference, UNEP chief Inger Andersen, said that 50 years on from the original conference in the Swedish capital devoted to the environment, a plethora of agreements are now in place, “covering every environmental challenge”. But the practical results had fallen well short so far, she warned, citing the inequity, injustice, and “distress signals” that abound, from the triple planetary crisis.

“If Indira Gandhi or Olof Palme were here today, what excuses would we offer up for our inadequate action? None that they would accept. They would tell us that further inaction is inexcusable,” she added.

Stockholm+50 is a chance for the world to commit, once and for all, to delivering these transformations”, she told delegates.