Overconsumption

Overconsumption is at the root of the triple planetary emergency of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

In these perilous times for the planet, we need all hands on deck.

I know that sometimes the enormous scale of a challenge might be reason enough to throw up one’s hands in resignation.

And there isn’t a larger challenge in our world today than the climate crisis.

But this Lifestyles for the Environment initiative is designed to highlight an essential and hopeful truth: All of us, individuals and communities, can — and must — be part of the solution of protecting our planet and our collective future.

After all, overconsumption is at the root of the triple planetary emergency of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

We are using the equivalent of 1.6 Earths to maintain our lifestyles.

And that great excess is compounded by great inequality.

The combined greenhouse gas emissions of the richest one percent are more than twice the poorest 50 percent.

So, we need to urgently transform our economic systems to make them friendly to the planet — and to make them equitable, so all can have equal opportunity to thrive in developed and developing countries.

Each one of us will have to learn to live sustainably and reduce our environmental footprint.

By saving energy and reducing pollution and waste.

By using less plastic.

By taking advantage of clean cooking technologies.

By eating more sustainably and not throwing away food.

By using renewable energy.

By making our money count as consumers by supporting sustainable products.

And we also need to be speaking up and demanding that leaders support clean, green lifestyles and ambitious climate action.

In three weeks, world leaders will meet in Egypt for the next United Nations climate change conference — COP-27.

COP 27 represents a key political opportunity to rebuild trust and accelerate action across all the pillars of the Paris Agreement.

A quantum leap in support to adaptation in developing countries and measurable progress and serious progress in loss and damage are essential conditions to reestablish trust between developing and developed countries around the world.

We have no time to lose.

We are in imminent danger of failing to meet the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Our global goal has to be net zero emissions by 2050.

And to achieve this, we must collectively halve global emissions from 2010 levels by 2030.

And as the LIFE initiative highlights, every citizen has a role to play — and that includes everyone, everywhere, using their voice to urge their leaders to take much-needed ambitious climate action.

As the Prime minister of Mauritius has recalled, Mahatma Gandhi reminded us that: “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

That perfectly captures the situation we face now.

Unfortunately, for the time being, greed is prevailing over need. And we need to reverse this trend.

The planet is able to support each and every one of us — but we must treat its resources with wisdom and respect.

So today, let us pledge to alter our economies and our lifestyles so we are able to share Earth’s resources fairly and take only what we need.

***

Excerpts from the Secretary-General’s remarks at the launch of Lifestyles for the Environment Initiative on 20 October 2022.


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