x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Earth, priority low

It is proving difficult for leaders to focus on the decades to come when they're not sure what to do about today and tomorrow.

The facts are disturbing, the need is undeniable and urgent, and the attention of the world's leaders has been diverted to more pressing concerns. That just about sums up Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, that has been convened in Rio de Janeiro to tackle the biggest environmental and humanitarian issues facing the Earth.

But key players in global politics - such as US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel - could not be bothered to attend. Distractions include the troubled euro-zone economy, divisions over the political unrest and bloodshed in the Middle East, and the US presidential campaign.

The summit's goals include the development of strategies to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty, reduce child mortality, improve access to education, and tackle carbon emissions and deforestation.

When one person in seven is malnourished, 20 per cent of mammals are in danger of extinction and 30 million hectares of forest are disappearing each year, there is clearly much we must do to ensure the future quality - and viability - of life on the planet we share.

These problems transcend borders, and so should their solutions. And yet it is proving difficult for leaders to focus on the decades to come when they're not sure what to do about today and tomorrow.