Millions will die worldwide by 2050 unless environmental protections are rapidly introduced by governments and businesses worldwide, a new UN report shows.

Hundreds of scientists and experts – from more than 70 countries – contributed to the The sixth Global Environmental Outlook, which was released today. It highlights the deadly links between health and climate inaction, revealing that without a transformation in habits and strategies there could be millions of pre-mature deaths in Asia, the Middle East and Africa by the middle of the century. It also points to increased pollutants in freshwater systems leading to ‘microbial resistance become a major cause of death by 2050’.

“The science is clear. The health and prosperity of humanity is directly tied with the state of our environment,” said Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment. “This report is an outlook for humanity. We are at a crossroads. Do we continue on our current path, which will lead to a bleak future for humankind, or do we pivot to a more sustainable development pathway? That is the choice our political leaders must make, now.”

The truth is, that while there has been an upturn in engagement among governments, businesses and citizens on the need for policies that support the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – the blueprint for a sustainable future – the conversion into impactful actions is currently way to slow for them to be achieved by 2030. Far more investment is required, and the benefits are clear. It would cost US$ 22 trillion in climate mitigation actions to realise the Paris Agreement targets, which would generate US$54 trillion from the resultant health benefits and improved air quality.

“The report shows that policies and technologies already exist to fashion new development pathways that will lead to health and prosperity for all people,” said Joyeeta Gupta and Paul Ekins, co-chairs of the GEO-6 process. “What is currently lacking is the political will to implement policies and technologies at a sufficient speed and scale.”

Make your voice heard by demanding your elected representatives act to secure a sustainable future for our world. Read more on this from our Expert Analyst, Dr Rocio Ortego, who wrote about the health implications of the climate crisis, and the work Médecins Sans Frontières, known in English as Doctors Without Borders, are doing in this area in a recent edition.