UN report calls for changes in diet, fuel use
More vegetarianism and less energy use called for
The International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management says billions of people have to take action in order to reverse some of the damaging trends harming the environment and depleting resources.
"Decoupling growth from environmental degradation is the No. 1 challenge facing governments in a world of rising numbers of people, rising incomes, rising consumption demands and the persistent challenge of poverty alleviation," said Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general and executive director of the UN Environment Program.
Unsafe drinking water, carbon fuels, climate change and air pollution are among the factors most influencing human health.
In industrialized nations, the report says, housing, travel, food and the use of household appliances account for 70 per cent of environmental impacts.
The report concludes that choices made at the household level have a significant effect on the world's sustainability.
"Two broad areas are currently having a disproportionately high impact on people and the planet's life-support systems," said Steiner. "These are energy in the form of fossil fuels and agriculture, especially the raising of livestock for meat and dairy products."
Report calls for less meat, dairy
The report calls for a significant shift in diets away from animal-based proteins toward more vegetable-based foods.
The panel also noted that there needs to be a dramatic improvement in how energy is used in the home — particularly for heating, cooling and electronic gadgets — and for travel.
"Incremental efficiency gains in, for example, motor cars or home heating systems have provided some improvements, but faced with the scale of the challenge, far more transformational measures need to be taken," said Ashok Khosla, co-chair of the panel and president of the World Conservation Union.
"Currently, we are fiddling, or fiddling around the edges, as Rome burns."
The report was prepared by 27 high-level experts who were tasked with looking at how economic growth is linked to environmental degradation.
"This report drives home the message that there is no time like the present to switch to a resource-efficient economy," said Janez Potocnik, the European Commission's commissioner for the environment.