Hungarian President János Áder addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, warning of further crises to come unless humanity radically changes the way it influences the environment.
In his video message, Áder noted this was the first time the General Assembly had not met in person.
Áder noted the damage the novel coronavirus epidemic has wreaked on the world. He said the health crisis, which upended the rules of family life, work and living in a community, had swiftly turned into a socioeconomic crisis.
Many consider the coronavirus pandemic a prototype for crises typical of the Anthropocene, the epoch when humans have the greatest impact on the planet, Áder said.
Unless humans radically change their lifestyles, they will have to face new crises after Covid, and perhaps much more severe ones, Áder said. The question is whether humanity can learn from the crisis and act in areas where the danger is known to be imminent, he said. Putting action off would only increase the risks and costs, he added.
As yet, there is no final cure or vaccine against the coronavirus, he noted. There are, however, other fields “where we have known what to do for years,” he said, citing water management as an example.
Áder noted that the UN had discussed the water crisis “unfolding before our eyes” on many occasions. Most of the UN’s sustainability goals cannot be achieved without a sound water management policy, he added.
Currently, one-seventh of the Earth’s population have no access to clean drinking water, he said. Until that situation is remedied, productivity will continue to suffer in developing countries, and half of hospital beds in the world will be occupied by people suffering from diseases connected with contaminated water, he said.
Further, sustainable water management is key to the safe production of food, he said. Energy resources will also have to be transformed, as they currently use enough water to serve 1 billion people while increasing carbon dioxide emissions, he added.
Áder said the solution lies in a circular economy in which discarded glass, metal and plastic are considered recyclable material rather than waste.
Áder noted that Hungary has in recent years organised three Water Summits in Budapest. “Hungary stands for action rather than futile meetings,” he said. Therefore, is will host a sustainability expo at the end of next year, he said. The expo will look into issues around water management, food production, transport, energy and waste management, and education, he said.
Featured photo by Zoltán Máthé/MTI