Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

2 Jun 2015

Gains and losses for environmental sustainability

Posted by Michael Keating

The world has made some progress on environmental sustainability mainly between 1990 and 2010, but there were also important losses. A new report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development gives a snapshot of how we are doing on Millennium Development Goal 7, Ensuring Environmental Sustainability. This is one of eight international development goals established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000. The report covers a large number of developing countries and some developed nations. It notes that there were many data gaps, making it difficult to give a comprehensive picture.

Among the positive findings:

  • There was an important increase in access to safe driving water, particularly in China, India and the broader Eastern and Southern Asia region, but there was a decline in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Only 50 per cent of the world has access to proper sanitation.
  • Almost 98 per cent of substances contributing to the destruction of the ozone layer have been phased out of production and use. Developed countries almost completely eliminated ozone-depleting substances, while developing countries made an 86 per cent reduction.

On the debit side:

  • Forest area decreased from 32 per cent to 31 per cent globally between 1990 and 2010, with reduced forest quality. There were significant declines in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Southeastern Asia and Oceania.
  • Global CO2 emissions grew from 21,550 to 31,387 million tonnes a year. From 1990-2010, developing nations increased their annual per capita emissions from 1.66 to 3.16 tonnes.
  • Of 600 monitored marine fish stocks in 2009, 29 per cent were considered exploited beyond safe biological limits. (Only about 10 per cent of commercially valuable marine fisheries are monitored, mostly on an irregular basis.)
  • About 30 per cent of the world experiences water stress due to shortages of fresh water.

And in a mixed finding, terrestrial and marine protected areas increased from 8.3 to 14 per cent between 1990 and 2012, mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, there was an increase in the number of species forecast to become extinct in the near future, particularly in northern Africa, West Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.

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