U.N.'s Achim Steiner speaks about climate change, COVID-19 with Reuters

Steiner spoke during a virtual Reuters Newsmaker event


Environmental action has been too slow, U.N. official and environmental expert Achim Steiner said on Thursday, but transformation is possible.

"We have choices as no generation before us has had. We have more technology, we have more science, we have more wealth in the world that we can deploy," Steiner said.

Steiner spoke during a virtual Reuters Newsmaker event to mark Earth Day on Thursday.

Since 2017, Steiner has led the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), which works in around 170 countries to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and encourage sustainable practices.

During the pandemic, the organization sounded the alarm that rising unemployment, school closures and health risks are taking the largest toll on the poorest and most vulnerable populations. It also urged developing nations to explore universal basic income to reduce the pandemic's worst effects. 

The organization has also pushed to create new development models that combat climate change. In December, the organization urged stronger action on the environment in its annual development report and added new climate change-related measures to its index.

Reuters Editor-at-Large Axel Threlfall and Reuters Climate Change Editor Katy Daigle led the conversation.

Steiner is also the vice chair of the U.N. Sustainable Development Group, which brings multiple U.N. entities together to support sustainable world progress. Previously, Steiner spent a decade as the executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme.

(Reporting by Andrea Januta in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker) ((Andrea.Januta@thomsonreuters.com;))

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