The 2011 Report—Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All—argues that environmental sustain-ability can be most fairly and effectively achieved by addressing health, education, income, and gender disparities together with the need for global action on energy production and ecosystem protection. The Report was launched in Copenhagen today by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark with Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, whose new government has pledged to reduce Denmark’s CO2 emissions by a dramatic 40 percent over the next 10 years.
As the world community prepares for the landmark UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, the Report argues that sustainability must be approached as a matter of basic social justice, for current and future generations alike.
“Sustainability is not exclusively or even primarily an environmental issue, as this Report so persuasively argues,” Helen Clark says in the foreword. “It is fundamentally about how we choose to live our lives, with an awareness that everything we do has consequences for the seven billions of us here today, as well as for the billions more who will follow, for centuries to come.”
UNDP has commissioned the editorially-independent Human Development Reports each year since 1990, when its Human Development Index (HDI), a composite measure of health, education and income, first challenged purely economic measures of national achievement and called for consistent global tracking of progress in overall living standards.
Between 1970 and 2010 the countries in the lowest 25 percent of the HDI rankings improved their overall HDI achievement by a remarkable 82 percent, twice the global average. If the pace of improvement over the past 40 years were to be continued for the next 40, the great majority of countries would achieve HDI levels by 2050 equal to or better than those now enjoyed only by the top 25 percent in today’s HDI rankings, the Report notes—an extraordinary achievement for human development globally in less than a century. Yet because of escalating environmental hazards, these positive development trends may instead be abruptly halted by mid-century, the Report contends, noting that people in the poorest countries are disproportionately at risk from climate-driven disasters such as drought and flooding and exposure to air and water pollution.