The report lays out a stark choice for world leaders - take bold steps to reduce the immense pressure that is being exerted on the environment and the natural world, or humanity’s progress will stall.
“Humans wield more power over the planet than ever before. In the wake of COVID-19, record-breaking temperatures and spiraling 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,” said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator.
The report argues that as people and planet enter an entirely new geological epoch, the Anthropocene or the Age of Humans, it is time for all countries to redesign their paths to progress by fully accounting for the dangerous pressures humans put on the planet, and dismantle the gross imbalances of power and opportunity that prevent change.
To illustrate the point, the 30th anniversary edition of the Human Development Report, The Next Frontier: Human Development and the Anthropocene, introduces an experimental new lens to its annual Human Development Index (HDI).
By adjusting the HDI, which measures a nation’s health, education, and standards of living, to include two more elements: a country’s carbon dioxide emissions and its material footprint, the index shows how the global development landscape would change if both the wellbeing of people and also the planet were central to defining humanity’s progress.
With the resulting Planetary-Pressures Adjusted HDI – or PHDI - a new global picture emerges, painting a less rosy but clearer assessment of human progress. For example, more than 50 countries drop out of the very high human development group, reflecting their dependence on fossil fuels and material footprint.
Focusing on The Gambia’s progress, the country’s HDI value for 2019 of 0.496, puts the country in the low human development category- positioning it at 172 out of 188 countries and territories. Between 1990 and 2019, Gambia’s HDI value increased from 0.349 to 0.496, an increase of 42.1 percent.
“Between 1990 and 2019, Gambia’s life expectancy at birth increased by 9.8 years, mean years of schooling increased by 2.7 years and expected years of schooling increased by 4.8 years. The Gambia’s GNI per capita decreased by about 4.0 percent between 1990 and 2019.”
The next frontier for human development will require working with and not against nature, while transforming social norms, values, and government and financial incentives, the report argues.