* World not seen coping with demands of rising population
* "New political economy" needed
By Nina Chestney
LONDON, Jan 30 The world is running out of
time to make sure there is enough food, water and energy to meet
the needs of a rapidly growing population and to avoid sending
up to 3 billion people into poverty, a U.N. report warned on
As the world's population looks set to grow to nearly 9
billion by 2040 from 7 billion now, and the number of
middle-class consumers increases by 3 billion over the next 20
years, the demand for resources will rise exponentially.
Even by 2030, the world will need at least 50 percent more
food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water,
according to U.N. estimates, at a time when a changing
environment is creating new limits to supply.
And if the world fails to tackle these problems, it risks
condemning up to 3 billion people into poverty, the report said.
Efforts towards sustainable development are neither fast
enough nor deep enough, as well as suffering from a lack of
political will, the United Nations' high-level panel on global
"The current global development model is unsustainable. To
achieve sustainability, a transformation of the global economy
is required," the report said.
"Tinkering on the margins will not do the job. The current
global economic crisis ... offers an opportunity for significant
Although the number of people living in absolute poverty has
been reduced to 27 percent of world population from 46 percent
in 1990 and the global economy has grown 75 percent since 1992,
improved lifestyles and changing consumer habits have put
natural resources under increasing strain.
There are 20 million more undernourished people now than in
2000; 5.2 million hectares of forest are lost per year - an area
the size of Costa Rica; 85 percent of all fish stocks are
over-exploited or depleted; and carbon dioxide emissions have
risen 38 percent between 1990 and 2009, which heightens the risk
of sea level rise and more extreme weather.
The panel, which made 56 recommendations for sustainable
development to be included in economic policy as quickly as
possible, said a "new political economy" was needed.
"Let's use the upcoming Rio+20 summit to kick off this
global transition towards a sustainable growth model for the
21st century that the world so badly needs," EU Climate
Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in response to the report,
referring to a U.N. sustainable development summit this June in
Among the panel's recommendations, it urged governments to
agree on a set of sustainable development goals which would
complement the eight Millennium Development Goals to 2015 and
create a framework for action after 2015.
They should work with international organisations to create
an "evergreen revolution", which would at least double
productivity while reducing resource use and avoiding further
biodiversity losses, the report said.
Water and marine ecosystems should be managed more
efficiently and there should be universal access to affordable
sustainable energy by 2030.
To make the economy more sustainable, carbon and natural
resource pricing should be established through taxation,
regulation or emissions trading schemes by 2020 and fossil fuel
subsidies should also be phased out by that time.
National fiscal and credit systems should be reformed to
provide long-term incentives for sustainable practices as well
as disincentives for unsustainable ones.
Sovereign wealth and public pension funds, as well as
development banks and export credit agencies should apply
sustainable development criteria to their investment decisions,
and governments or stock market watchdogs should revise
regulations to encourage their use.
Governments and scientists should also strengthen the
relationship between policy and science by regularly examining
the science behind environmental thresholds or "tipping points"
and the United Nations should consider naming a chief scientific
adviser or board to advise the organisation, the report said.
The report is available at www.un.org/gsp/
(Reporting by Nina Chestney)