Nothing normal about ongoing fires worldwide – UNEP Chief

UNITED NATIONS, July 28 – While wildfires are a normal and even essential process in nature, there is nothing normal or natural about the blazes presently raging across Europe, North America and other parts of the world, said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In a statement issued today, she said UNEP was deeply concerned with the loss of life and property, the impacts on human health, and the loss of nature.

“This includes damage to agricultural areas in a world already facing rising food costs and water scarcity. The long-term effects of widespread wildfires – including air pollution and biodiversity loss – are also deeply concerning.”

She expects the wildfires to only worsen the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste and called on quick action to stop them from getting worse.

“On humanity’s current course, global warming and land-use change are projected to increase extreme fires by up to 14 percent by 2030, 30 percent by end of 2050 and 50 percent by end of the century.

“We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by transiting to clean and efficient energy, transforming our economies to place healthy nature at the heart of decision-making, and so much more. But the sad truth is that we have already altered our climate. Even if we do meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, it will take decades for temperatures to drop. We need a new ‘Fire Ready Formula’ backed by public spending to minimize the risk of extreme wildfires.

“Such a formula demands that we invest more in risk reduction instead of reactive management. That we work with local communities and indigenous peoples to protect their lands and harness their knowledge. That we strengthen global commitments to slow and adapt to climate change. That we recognize the role of high-quality ecosystem restoration in minimizing the risk of wildfires.”

She also urged UN member states to take the necessary measures to extinguish the ongoing fires, prevent further ones, and protect and restore ecosystems, adding that all can do their part to reduce emissions, particularly big corporations, investors and the wealthy.