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Energy and Agriculture Top Resource Panel's Priority List for Sustainable 21st Century

Fossil fuel use and feeding world cause greatest environmental impacts. Fiscal incentives, including taxes, and higher investment in innovation needed to "decouple" economic growth from damage.

Brussels, 2 June 2010 - How the world is fed and fueled will in large part define development in the 21st century as one that is increasingly sustainable or a dead end for billions of people. A new and hard-hitting report concludes that dramatically reforming, re-thinking and redesigning two sectors-energy and agriculture-could generate significant environmental, social and economic returns. Current patterns of production and consumption of both fossil fuels and food are draining freshwater supplies; triggering losses of economically-important ecosystems such as forests; intensifying disease and death rates and raising levels of pollution to unsustainable levels. 

The report, prepared by the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management, says decoupling the environmental impacts of these two broad sectors from economic growth, can start at the level of the household. Sustainability goals can begin through dramatic improvements in household patterns of energy and food use including heating and cooling systems, gadgets and appliances and the way people travel.

Perhaps controversially, it also calls for a significant shift in diets away from animal based proteins towards more vegetable-based foods in order to dramatically reduce pressures on the environment. 

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which hosts the Panel, said: "Decoupling growth from environmental degradation is the number one challenge facing governments in a world of rising numbers of people, rising incomes, rising consumption demands and the persistent challenge of poverty alleviation-thus setting priorities would seem prudent and sensible in order to fast track a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy." 

Source: United Nations Environment Programme