U.S. Leadership Critical in Global Effort to Realize Opportunities in Combating Degradation of Environment Outlined in “Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report”

Washington, D.C.

March 30, 2005


Megan Rabbitt

The expertise and technological capabilities of the United States can make significant contributions toward realizing the opportunities that come in arresting the pace of environmental degradation worldwide, said former Senator Timothy E. Wirth, who is President of the United Nations Foundation.

“The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is an exhaustive, landmark report surveying how humans have changed the ecosystems more rapidly and more extensively over the last 50 years than during any other period,” Wirth said. “Future demands on our planet’s ecosystems cannot be sustained without devastating, irreversible damage on the ability to sustain life on earth. Our future is absolutely dependent on our success in reversing the degradation of our ecosystems while satisfying growing demand for food, fresh water, energy, and other resources.

“The report makes clear that it is still possible to ease the strains on our planet by making significant changes in policies, institutions, behavior, technology, and knowledge. U.S. leadership is critical in providing much-needed expertise, technological capabilities, and ingenuity to restore eco systems.

“We can take steps at home to reduce our nation’s adverse impact on the global environment. We can encourage businesses to realize the opportunities to save ecosystems. We can work with the United Nations and others to develop an effective set of responses to ensure sustainable management of ecosystems. We can provide capital and share our knowledge, thereby addressing two key barriers to reversing ecosystem degradation.

“Climate change is a primary example of a problem that should be viewed as an opportunity to transform our energy sector and our economy, to provide access to energy for the world’s poor, and to slow the rate of carbon into the atmosphere – while developing a strong job base at home.

“A staggering $16 trillion will be needed in world energy investments, for example, over the next 25 years. This may be the largest job creation opportunity for the United States in the 21st century. Let us realize these opportunities by addressing head on the challenges today’s report outlines.”

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report, funded partly by the United Nations Foundation, was designed by a partnership of U.N. agencies, international scientific organizations, and development agencies, with guidance from private and public sectors.

The report warns that the ongoing degradation of 15 of the 24 ecosystems it examined will increase the likelihood for potentially abrupt changes, including the emergence of new diseases, inadequate safe drinking-water supplies, the collapse of fisheries, and dramatic shifts in regional climate.

The report calls for responses that would influence the level of production and consumption of ecosystem goods services, including changes in institutional and environmental governance frameworks, the implementation of economic and financial incentives to protect the environment, the creation of new technologies, and improvements in knowledge.


The UN Foundation was created in 1998 with businessman and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support United Nations’ causes. The UN Foundation promotes a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world through the support of the UN. Through its grant making and by building new and innovative public-private partnerships, the UN Foundation acts to meet the most pressing health, humanitarian, socioeconomic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century. (www.unfoundation.org)

The UN Foundation also supports UN Dispatch (www.undispatch.com), a blog intended to promote thoughtful and balanced discussion about the United Nations, and to provide an outlet for important, and often overlooked, news and views on the UN