The world can no longer afford to ignore the environmental cost of economic growth and must redefine the very concept of national wealth, a UN panel of heads of state and environment ministers said Monday.
The panel challenged leaders to recognise that "current global development is unsustainable."
"We need to chart a new, more sustainable course for the future, one that strengthens equality and economic growth while protecting our planet," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in Addis Ababa to mark the release of the panel's report, which outlines more than 50 policy recommendations.
By 2030, the report warned, the planet will need at least 50 percent more food, 45 percent more energy and 30 percent more water.
These needs are emerging "at a time when environmental boundaries are throwing up new limits to supply," it said.
Continuing along the same path as today risks "irreversible damage to both ecosystems and human communities."
Entitled "Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing," the 100-page report seeks to shape in broad strokes the agenda for the Rio+20 summit this summer.
The June 20-22 event in Rio de Janeiro takes place 20 years after the landmark 1992 Earth Summit that set down the UN conventions for protecting biodiversity and tackling global warming.
Led by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma, the 22-member panel said a new blueprint for growth and low-carbon prosperity must be "mainstreamed" into economic policy as quickly as possible.
Social and environmental costs must be factored into how the world prices and measures economic activity, and into a revised measure of wealth that goes beyond the narrow calculus of gross domestic product (GDP), it said.
"Our report makes clear that sustainable development is more important than ever given the multiple crises now enveloping the world," Zuma said in a statement.
The report called for:
-- a new nexus between food, water and energy. "All three need to be fully integrated, not treated separately, if we are to deal with the global food security crisis";
-- a stronger interface between science and policy. "We must define what scientists refer to as planetary boundaries" beyond which human activity could wreck the planet;
-- reducing social exclusion and closing the widening gap of social inequality.
European Union Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard, one of the report's authors, said it should be a "wake up" call for action.
"Government support for fossil fuel industry is about seven times more than for renewable energy," she said in a statement.
"We simply can't continue as if business as usual was the cheapest solution. It is not."
Hedegaard said the Rio+20 summit was an opportunity to "kick off this global transition towards a sustainable growth model for the 21st century."
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