The Age of Humans. Humans have fundamentally changed the planetary systems needed for survival of life on Earth. Photo credit: IOM PNG


Resident Representative, Dirk Wagener's message on the 2020 Human Development Report


The 2020 UNDP Human Development Report suggests we need a fundamental transformation to develop without further damaging the planet. What does this mean for Papua New Guinea?


Logging impacts the global climate, local ecosystems and quality of human life. It threatens the livelihood of millions of people. Green-house gas emissions in one country can contribute to wildfires a hemisphere away. Plastic dropped on a city street threatens sea life on a distant shore.

These are snapshots of the new geological age we are living in – the Anthropocene, or the Age of Humans – whereby humans have fundamentally changed the planetary systems needed for survival of life on Earth. The devastation caused by COVID-19 is the latest warning humanity has reached a dead end.

However, despite its titanic impact on human development, the pandemic and planetary crisis can be an opportunity to choose a different route, one where the power humans wield is used to regenerate, not destroy, to live in harmony within planetary boundaries rather than looting the planet’s resources fundamental to our livelihoods. 

The latest UNDP Human Development Report - The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene - argues we need a fundamental transformation in the next frontier of human progress. This starts by rejecting the idea we must choose between growth and sustainability, because human development at the expense of the planet is not development at all.

To illustrate this, the report introduces a new lens to its Human Development Index, which for the last 30 years has measured countries’ health, education and standard of living.

By adding green-house gas emissions and our material footprint, the Planetary-pressures adjusted Human Development Index shows how development changes when you consider the wellbeing of people alongside our impact on the environment.

The results are stark: no country is achieving very high human development without straining planetary systems. It is up to all countries, rich and poor, to rethink their development trajectory and to question their consumption and production patterns which remain deeply unsustainable especially for countries that have otherwise achieved high levels of human development. This requires going beyond discrete solutions to individual problems. Instead, we must focus on transformations in how we live, work, eat, and consume energy, all of which present incredible opportunities for Papua New Guinea to ensure no one is left behind as it looks to ‘build forward better’ from the impacts of the social-economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Papua New Guinea is well placed to lead the world in this new paradigm. Papua New Guinea has shown the world the benefits of working with Nature. It has led global initiatives to protect forests and biodiversity. It ratified the Paris Agreement and was the first country in the world to submit its Nationally Determined Contributions under this Agreement. Once again, with the assistance of UNDP, it will be among the first countries in the world to submit its revised contributions ahead of the 2021 Glasgow Climate Conference. It has also adopted a comprehensive Climate Change roadmap that will guide all sectors to achieve the ambitious climate targets by 2030.

UNDP will continue to support Papua New Guinea protect its forests and marine biodiversity while working to lower greenhouse gas emissions - and build the resilience of its people to the growing impacts of climate change, which threaten the many dimensions of human security. UNDP also supports the country in developing sustainable financing models for conservation that are so urgently needed to balance livelihoods with environmental protection.

However, the main barriers to necessary transformations are inequalities. The strains on our planet reinforce the strain facing many of our societies. Inequalities among people are a cause and a consequence of the pressures we are placing on the planet. They are major obstacles standing in the way of solutions.

As we come to the end of the year, it must be understood that the COVID-19 pandemic is a warning sign of what is to come. It is time to consider what the story of this new frontier will be. We are the first generation of the Anthropocene - the choices made today will decide the future for generations to come. These are choices Papua New Guinea, like all countries, will face too.

Link to the 2020 Human Development Report

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Papua New Guinea 
Go to UNDP Global