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World facing critical choices on environment

World facing critical choices on environment
LONDON - The world is at an environmental crossroads where the choice between greed and humanity will decide the fate of millions of people for decades to come, the United Nations Environment Programme said yesterday.
\"Fundamental changes are possible and required,\" UNEP executive director Klaus Toepfer told a news conference presenting the third Global Environment Outlook report. \"It would be a disaster to sit back and ignore the picture painted.\" The GEO-3 report, designed to kick world leaders into action ahead of the Johannesburg earth summit in late August, sees a bleak outlook for the future unless radical action is taken now. \"The choices made today are critical for the forests, oceans, rivers, mountains, wildlife and other life support systems upon which current and future generations depend,\" it said. The report painted four possible scenarios ranging from the greed-driven \"markets first\" future to the caring and sharing \"sustainability first\" approach. Under the first, three percent of the earth\'s surface disappears under concrete by 2032, more than half the population is living with drought, 70 percent of the remaining land and animals are under threat and 16 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide is being belched into the air each year from fossil fuels. Under the latter scenario, cities and highways eat up less land, drought is kept at bay by better water management, the pressure on land and animals stabilises and global carbon dioxide emissions stabilise at just half the greed policy route. EXTINCT SPECIES In the decade since the first world earth summit in Rio de Janeiro 58 species of fish, one mammal and one bird species have become extinct and a remaining quarter of the world\'s mammals and one in eight of its birds are on the critical list. Life-giving forests are being ripped apart, fertile land is disappearing under concrete or into the sea and waterways are drying up or dying of pollution. Dire poverty, hunger and sickness are rampant across the planet and the globalisation of trade is carrying with it pollution on a global scale. The world\'s seas, already under attack from litter and poisons, are also being plundered by man to the extent that nearly one-third of the world\'s stock of fish is now ranked as depleted, overexploited or recovering, the report said. But Toepfer, a former German environment minister, stressed that while the picture was bleak it was not beyond redemption. \"This is an eye opener. The figures are not a nightmare prognosis for the sake of making a nightmare prognosis,\" he said, calling on the World Summit on Sustainable Development - dubbed the second world earth summit - to take urgent steps. \"Decisive action can achieve positive results. Our moto for Johannesburg is planet, people, prosperity,\" he said, urging the meeting to set clear, achievable and effective targets to tackle poverty and deprivation without destroying the environment. \"We need a concrete action plan...concrete projects...and above all a clear political declaration,\" Toepfer said. \"That is the most important of all.\" \"We now have hundreds of declarations, agreements, guidelines and legally-binding treaties. Let us now find the political courage and the innovative financing needed to implement these deals,\" he added. Story by Jeremy Lovell REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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