UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- Human development gains made over the last several decades stand to be lost if environmental and climate change factors are not addressed, a senior UN official said here Wednesday.
"The key finding of this report is that the very impressive long-term development progress that we've been able to document in low-income countries in recent decades may slow down or even may be reversed, unless we as a world community can come to terms with these central environmental challenges," William Orme, chief of communications and publishing in the Human Development Report office, said at a press conference here on the report released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Launched earlier on Wednesday in Copenhagen, Denmark, the annual report titled "Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All," said that environmental sustainability can be "fairly" reached if disparities in health, education, income and gender are addressed.
The Human Development Report (HDR) examined 187 countries in the UN's human development index, which is a composite set of measures of health, education and income.
"The countries that are most vulnerable to the impact of deteriorating environmental conditions are of course the poorest countries, which tend to be tropical, they tend to be arid, they tend to be rural, and they tend to be therefore most vulnerable to extreme weather events, droughts, typhoons and deteriorating productivity of their soil resources, forest resources and fisheries," Orme said.
The HDR noted that global action needs to be taken on energy production and ecosystem protection in order to prevent further environmental damage.
With the landmark UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+ 20) coming up in June 2012, the report said that sustainability must be approached as a matter of basic social justice. The conference will provide countries with the opportunity to renew political commitment to sustainability as well as examine progress made so far.
"Sustainability is not exclusively or even primarily an environmental issue, as this report so persuasively argues," Helen Clark, administrator of UNDP, said in the report's foreword. "It is fundamentally about how we choose to live our lives, with an awareness that everything we do has consequences for the seven billions of us here today, as well as for the billions more who will follow, for centuries to come."
According to the report, countries need not emit large amounts of CO2 in order to make human development progress.
"Growth driven by fossil fuel consumption is not a prerequisite for a better life in broader human development terms," said Clark. "Investments that improve equity -- in access, for example, to renewable energy, water and sanitation, and reproductive healthcare -- could advance both sustainability and human development."
The HDR also expressed support for an international currency trading tax or broader financial transaction levies in order to pay the costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as fight extreme poverty around the world. It estimated that a 0. 005 percent tax on foreign exchange trading alone could raise 40 billion U.S. dollars per year or more for these causes.