Climate change and conflict are forcing growing numbers of people to go hungry, flee their homes and lose critical access to water, the United Nations said on Wednesday in a look at progress in its global development goals.
Member nations of the U.N. adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 in a concerted effort to conquer poverty, inequality and other international woes by a 2030 deadline.
Progress has been hampered by climate change-related extreme weather and by violence and war, said Francesca Perucci, assistant director of the Statistics Division at the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA).
"For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016, mainly due to conflict, drought and disasters linked to climate change," she said.
Economic losses in 2017 came to more than $300 billion, among the highest in recent years due to three major hurricanes that hit the United States and countries in the Caribbean, the U.N. assessment said.
"With climate change ... we notice there's a lot of significant economic losses and (that) probably will increase in coming years," said Yongyi Min, chief of the SDG monitoring section at UN DESA, at the news conference.
More than 2 billion people are affected by water stress, when demand for water outweighs availability or supplies are of poor quality, she said.
"This number will increase with population growth and the effects of climate change," Min said.
"With just 12 years left to the 2030 deadline, we must inject a sense of urgency," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a foreword to the assessment report.
Outside assessments have also cited nationalism, protectionism and a need for more funding.
The cost of implementing the SDGs has been estimated at $3 trillion a year.
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