UN warns of climate change threat to human progress

The United Nations warned that a continued failure to tackle climate change was putting at risk decades of progress in improving the lives of the world’s poorest people.

In its annual flagship report on the state of the world, the UN said unsustainable patterns of consumption and production posed the biggest challenge to the anti-poverty drive.

“For human development to become truly sustainable, the close link between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions needs to be severed,” the UN said in its annual Human Development Report.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the report said the past two decades had seen “substantial progress” in human development despite the impact of the financial crisis, which had resulted in 34-million people losing their jobs and 64-million more people dropping below the $1,25 a day income poverty threshold.

“Most people are healthier, live longer, are more educated and have more access to goods and services. Even in countries facing adverse economic conditions, people’s health and education have greatly improved.”

Three main measures of well-being
The report assesses progress by using three main measures of well-being — income, life expectancy and education — to compile a human development index.

Since the early 1990s, the index has increased by 18%, with only the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe having lower human development than 20 years ago.

“There has been massive progress over time if you look beyond income to education and health,” said Jeni Klugman, director of the Human Development Report office. “On empowerment, it is a positive story as the number of people living in democracies is up. On the equality side the story is less good.” But Klugman warned of the dangers posed by climate change.

“There are risks and threats. Climate change is the big one and it could derail progress.”

The UN said it was striking that the top-10 list of fast improvers contained several countries not typically described as top performers, such as Morocco and Algeria.

Ethiopia came 11th, with Botswana, Benin and Bukina Faso in the top 25. — Guardian News & Media 2010

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Larry Elliott
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