Poverty inseparable from environmental sustainability

[Source: Desert News
] Member states of the United Nations unanimously agreed to a new poverty agenda last week, one that sets a 15-year time frame for a full eradication of extreme poverty.

The previous poverty agenda — set in 2000 and expiring this year — was successful in halving the number of people in extreme poverty from 1990 to 2010. It fell short on many of its other targets, such as child mortality and literacy.

While the new agenda could have merely been an updated rubric, it instead changes the lens of world action to focus on environmental sustainability.

More than half of the 17 listed goals in the new framework, known as Agenda 2030, require environmentally sustainable solutions to the problems it aims to combat. One goal is wholly dedicated to combatting climate change. Furthermore, the U.N. says environmental destruction is putting more people at risk for poverty in the long term.

Food security is a major concern as increasing desertification reduces the amount of arable land. Access to fresh water could be even harder to come by as droughts become more common and sea water intrudes on coastal aquifers, according to the World Bank.

Pope Francis has also prioritized sustainability as a key talking point this year, and his second encyclical sent out to church leaders dealt exclusively with environmental concerns.

In his Friday speech to the U.N., Pope Francis praised Agenda 2030 and urged world leaders to protect the “right of the environment.” He argues that God gives people no entitlement to destroy the Earth and that the poor suffer the most from environmental destruction, going as far to say the plight of the poor has become part of the world’s “culture of waste.”

“(Humanity) possesses a body shaped by physical, chemical and biological elements, and can only survive and develop if the ecological environment is favourable,” the pope said. “Any harm done to the environment, therefore, is harm done to humanity.”

Although member states have agreed to cut carbon emissions to advance the new agenda, The Associated Press reports these pledges are unlikely to effectively combat climate change to the degree the U.N. hopes.

According to the AP, the new agreements don’t prevent a global temperature increase of 4 degrees Fahrenheit, a change likely to cause “irreversible impacts on the climate system, including flooding of coastal cities and island nations, disruptions to agriculture and drinking water, and the spread of diseases and the extinction of species.”

Political realities may also prevent further action. Developing countries, particularly India, have asserted that rich countries need to carry the burden of reducing carbon emissions. Yet in the U.S. — the second-largest polluter — less than 50 percent of the population considers climate change to be a significant threat, according to the Pew Research Center.

Source: Desert News
September 29, 2015