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Poorer Countries “More Sustainability Focused”

Someone standing in a dried up river in northern Kenya

Developing countries devote proportionately more research effort to sustainability than rich countries, a Unesco study found.

The report, published every five years, tracks the results of scientific research.

“We want to know which development path countries are following and the challenges they face,” explained Dr Susan Schneegans of Unesco.

The report also tracks progress in achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals.

By analyzing the research from each country, it assesses the progress made towards these goals. They were set by the UN in 2015 to ensure that all countries work together to protect human health, fight poverty and protect the planet.

In a large, global study, the authors examined 56 subjects which they categorized as “sustainability research”. These included research on green alternatives to plastic, developing crops to withstand our changing climate, clean water and renewable energy technologies.

Poorer Countries “More Sustainability Focused”


Proportionately, developing countries published the most on these topics.

Developing economies tend to be most dependent on natural resources and are hit hard by climate change. So, as Dr Schneegans explained, “it’s more about survival for them.”

Plastic debris floating in the ocean has been the fastest growing topic in research results – from 46 publications in 2011 to 853 in 2019.

Prevention of pandemics

More generally, spending on science worldwide increased by nearly 20% between 2014 and 2018. The United States and China account for almost two-thirds of this increase, while four out of five countries invest even less. 1% of their gross domestic product in science. research.

Unesco calls on countries to invest more in research, which, according to Dr Scheeggans, has become even more urgent in the face of the Covid pandemic.

“We really need to think more about prevention,” she told BBC News. “During the pandemic, our emphasis was on finding a cure, but it would be much better to have prevented the pandemic in the first place.

“The pandemic, its economic impacts, the ecology – they’re all linked. So every time we cut down part of a rainforest, we risk unleashing new animal diseases.

“We should really learn the lesson, invest in research on sustainable development and learn how to preserve our environment. “

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