UNDP report takes into account carbon footprint, says fossil fuel dependency impacts assessment of human progress

Dependence on fossil fuels has an impact on the assessment of human progress, according to a report published Tuesday by the United Nations Development Programme that takes carbon footprints into account for the first time. The report presents world leaders with a choice: take "bold steps to reduce the immense pressure that is being exerted on the environment and the natural world," or risk stalling humanity's progress, said a UNDP statement summarizing the findings. The evaluation of countries' standard of living, progress in health and education, are modified by including criteria on carbon dioxide emissions and carbon footprints, the UN agency said.

Carbon dioxide remains in the air for centuries so falls in emissions do not immediately impact climate and would need to be sustained over a period to eventually do so.

As a result, some 50 countries have left the group of nations with high human development, reflecting their dependence on fossil fuels and their carbon footprint.

At the same time, countries such as Costa Rica, Moldova and Panama have moved up at least 30 places, according to the report. This is proof that "lighter pressure on the planet is possible," the UNDP said.

"By tackling inequality, capitalizing on innovation and working with nature, human development could take a transformational step forward to support societies and the planet together," said Pedro Conceicao, a UNDP director and the principal author of the report.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner noted that "humans wield more power over the planet than ever before.

"In the wake of COVID-19, record-breaking temperatures and spiralling inequality, it is time to use that power to redefine what we mean by progress, where our carbon and consumption footprints are no longer hidden," he said.

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