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By Dr. Shoa Asfaha

Disastrous environmental trends from climate change to air and ocean pollution, from loss of biodiversity to overuse of natural resources (such as forests, land, water) are putting Sustainable Development in jeopardy. It is about time to reverse this trend. While economic growth has lifted billions of people out of poverty in different corners of the earth, we are also witnessing unprecedented environmental impacts. Some of the environmental problems are caused by under-development, others as a result of industrialization and technological development which did not take into account seriously sustainability of environmental systems and climate change.

In 1972 the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm established the insight that long-term human development depends on our relationship with nature and highlighted the importance of integrating environmental issues into economic and social planning and decision-making. There has been some progress and commitment to environmental issues and climate change for example, towards the objectives of the Paris Climate Change Agreement COP21 from countries, cities, states, regions, businesses, and civil society. However, there are still huge environmental concerns for communities around the world to address.

The growth model and the rapid urbanization and industrialization based on extractive industries such as unsustainable industrial timber logging, mining, oil, and industrial agriculture have been depleting the world’s natural resources, such as forests and hence increasing greenhouse gases, loss of biodiversity, pollution, and sharply increasing climate change. Other major environmental concerns, such as water scarcity as well as flooding, air and ocean pollution, and soil erosion and degradation which are all related to climate change, have also been affecting human well-being and their livelihoods as well as ecological balances.

One of the greatest environmental concerns of our time has become air pollution. According to UN-WHO, as the world gets hotter and more crowded, our engines continue to pump out dirty emissions, and half the world has no access to clean fuels or technologies (e.g. stoves, lamps), the very air we breathe is growing dangerously polluted: nine out of ten people now breathe polluted air, which kills 7 million people every year (i.e. 4.2 m outdoor air pollution and 3.8m household air pollution). Since the emergence of COVID-19, scientists in the US who have been researching have suggested air pollution has significantly worsened the COVID-19 outbreak and led to more deaths than if pollution-free skies were the norm. They suggested that air pollution particles may be acting as vehicles for viral transmission.

To conclude, it has become clear to world communities, economic growth that do not take into account the safeguarding of our ecosystem and the health systems are endangering our lives and the planet, and awareness on these issues are building momentum. Governments at a global and national level need to take greater responsibility in investing to strengthen health systems and combat climate change while they are building their economies. Sustainable growth and development depend on how we interact with nature and protect our planet for our well-being(health, social, and economic) and for future generations.

– Dr. Shoa Asfaha
Head of Environment and Climate Change
IPE Global

IPE Triple Line has been working on ‘Environment and Climate Change’ (one of its sector areas) in partnership with governments, private sector, donors, civil society organizations and communities globally to contribute to the reduction of deforestation and sustainable management of natural resources.

Its work has been through supporting its partners in defining policies and strategies on how resources should be exploited, used and the benefits be distributed, and providing technical assistance in the use of sustainable forms of energy (low carbon) instead of fossil fuels; in climate-resilient infrastructure designs; and climate-smart agriculture in order to reduce the increasing pressure on land, water, forests and generally ecosystems, and hence contributing to sustainable development.

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