15% of deaths across Mediterranean region due to environmental factors: UNEP

Mediterranean is one of the world’s most coveted tourism destinations (Source: @UNEP)

New Delhi (NVI): Around 15 per cent of deaths in the Mediterranean region are accountable to preventable environmental factors, including biodiversity and climate change, according to a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

The new report by UNEP’s State of the Environment and Development in the Mediterranean (SoED) showed that more than 2,28,000 people died prematurely in 2016 from exposure to air pollution in the region.

The environmental damage in the Mediterranean basin are caused by rising inequality, biodiversity loss, the growing impact of climate change and unrelenting pressure on natural resources, as per the report said.

The UNEP highlights that unless urgent and resolute action is taken to halt current trends, environmental degradation could have serious and lasting consequences for human health and livelihoods in the region.

Moreover, with hundreds of millions of visitors each year, the Mediterranean is one of the world’s most coveted tourism destinations and busiest shipping routes.

Every day it is polluted by an estimated 730 tonnes of plastic waste, which threatens biodiversity along with the more than 1,000 non-indigenous species that live below the water. Furthermore, the overall region is warming 20 per cent faster than the global average, the report said.

“By shedding light on the mistakes of the past, the report’s findings can guide a green renaissance in the Mediterranean,” said Gaetano Leone, Coordinator of the UNEP/MAP-Barcelona Convention Secretariat.

He added, “Embarking on greener development paths now can halt the environmental degradation trends and salvage hard-won achievements in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Meanwhile, the report also indicates that the region, which is home to more than 512 million people, is not on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030.

Whereas, in order to induce transformative change that tackle the drivers of environmental degradation the report identifies several actions including phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies and incentivizing sustainable options.

The UNEP asked all sectors of Mediterranean economies to prioritize development, not just those directly concerning the environment, and implement degradation preventation measures, noting that they cost less, and lead to better environmental and social outcomes than clean-up and curative action

Also, harnessing nature-based solutions is recommended to build resilience, which requires action and investment.

The enforcement of provisions in national legislation to allow for accountability and legal action, and strengthening the legal and administrative mechanisms involved in enforcement including those undertaken by the Mediterranean countries under the Barcelona Convention and its Protocols, the report said.

“The future of the Mediterranean is on the line. In the past few months, the world has been wondering what the world will be like in the future,” said Francois Guerquin, Director of Plan Bleu.

“This is the third issue of the SoED report since 2005 and very little has changed since. If we want to protect the Mediterranean for present and future generations, we can no longer afford piecemeal steps. We must embark on drastic changes in our relationship with nature,” Guerquin added.

-RJV