UNEP Report Card Gives Environmental Progress a Failing Grade

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A recent United Nations Environmental Program report discussing progress made on 90 of the most important global environmental goals shows that only 4 of these have achieved any form of significant progress, highlighting the significant roadblock that appears to be the transition from targets to tangible change.  

It doesn't take a genius to realize that 4.4% is no passing grade...  and although mom might not be there to give us a slap on the wrist, Mother Nature sure is not happy—and it's beginning to show. 

Amongst the goals, the reduction of impact of extreme natural events fares amongst the worst, with the number of flood disasters increasing by 230% since the 1980s. Other notable flops included conservation of wetlands and protection of groundwater reserves, yet the most recessive results were reserved for our world's oceans. Most notably, extreme exploitation of fish stocks and depletion of coral reefs have reached ominous tipping points for the biodiversity and productivity of our planet.    

Of the remaining goals, an overwhelming amount indicated little to no progress or a data gap significant enough to yield inconclusive results—indicating that more than half of the targets may have actually worsened.

The report notes that the greatest success has been made on issues containing measurable targets which encouraging data collection using standardized global standards rather than nation-specific standards that can make it difficult to compare global data. 

Perhaps then, the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, being held in Rio De Janeiro this month, could not come at a better time. As its 7 pillars, it has focused on finding specific global sustainable solutions for the world oceans, dealing with natural disasters, managing water resources and food supplies, planning sustainable urban development and meeting global energy challenges, all the while creating new jobs through sustainable activities.  

 No doubt, new goals will be made, further progress reports will be released, yet the urgency of these issues looms, making many wonder if the world can afford to allow business-as-usual for much longer.

Manuel Arias