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Climate change undercutting work to end poverty, hunger: UN

July 11, 2019 00:00:00

UNITED NATIONS, July 10 (Agencies): Hunger is growing and the world is not on track to end extreme poverty by 2030 and meet other UN goals, mainly because progress is being undermined by the impact of climate change and increasing inequality, a UN report said on Tuesday.

The report on progress toward achieving the 17 UN goals notes achievements in some areas, including a 49per cent fall in child mortality between 2000 and 2017 as well as electricity now reaching nearly 90per cent of the world's population.

But Liu Zhenmin, the UN undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, said that despite some advances, "monumental challenges remain."

He said at a news conference the most urgent area for action is climate change, which "may impact the progress made over the last several decades" in reducing poverty and improving life for millions of people around the world.

According to the report, biodiversity loss is happening at an accelerated rate, and "the risk of species extinction has worsened by almost 10 per cent over the last 25 years." Global temperatures have risen, ocean acidity has increased 26per cent since pre-industrial times and "investment in fossil fuels continues to be higher than investment in climate activities," it said.

Liu said the report also shows "inequality is rising and too many people are left behind." He said that "is another big challenge for the world."

The first of the 17 goals adopted by world leaders in 2015 is to eliminate extreme poverty - people living on less than $1.90 a day - and the second goal is to end hunger, achieve food security and promote sustainable agriculture. According to the report, neither goal is likely to be achieved by 2030.

While the number of people living in extreme poverty declined to 8.6per cent of the world's population in 2018, the report said the pace is slowing and projections suggest that 6per cent of people will still be living in extreme poverty by 2030 if current trends continue.

Francesca Perucci, chief statistician in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said an estimated 736 million people still living in extreme poverty globally, including 413 million in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Extreme poverty today is concentrated and overwhelmingly affects rural populations," the report said. "Increasingly, it is exacerbated by violent conflicts and climate change."

While Liu said there has been "good progress" on 16 of the UN goals, he said that "there's been no good progress" on ending hunger, which he called "a tragedy for the international community." He said the most direct impact of climate change is on agricultural production, a key factor in increasing hunger.

According to the report, the number of people going hungry has increased since 2014. "An estimated 821 million people were undernourished in 2017," up from 784 million in 2015 and the same number as in 2010, it said.

The worst hit region is sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of undernourished people increased from 195 million in 2014 to 237 million in 2017, the report said.

On education, it warned that proficiency in reading and mathematics is "shockingly" low. "Globally, an estimated 617 million children and adolescents of primary and lower secondary school age - more than 55 percent of the global total - lacked minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics in 2015."

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