UNDP asks how to balance human development with the planet in Anthropocene, at Korea launch of latest Human Development Report

Posted January 25, 2021

View the launch recording

As people and planet enter an entirely new geological epoch - the Anthropocene, or the Age of Humans – it is time for all countries, rich and poor, to redesign their paths for human progress, by fully accounting for the dangerous pressures we put on the planet. To illustrate the point, the 30th anniversary edition of the Human Development Report, ‘The Next Frontier: Human Development in the Anthropocene’, introduces an experimental new lens to its annual Human Development Index (HDI): The Planetary Pressures-Adjusted Human Development Index (PHDI). The PHDI takes the original HDI and adjusts it according to how much ecological pressure each nation is placing on the planet. The result is a less rosy but clearer-eyed cost-benefit analysis of human progress. It shows that no country in the world has achieved the magic combination of high human development and low planetary pressure – yet.

These are the key messages of the latest Human Development Report, launched in Korea on 19 January by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Seoul Policy Centre in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, Korea University, and UNDP’s Human Development Report Office, following the global release of the Report in December last year in Sweden. 

Published annually since 1990, the Human Development Report (available at http://hdr.undp.org/en) is an independent publication commissioned by UNDP to assess trends, raise awareness about human development around the world and prompt policy dialogue to promote sustainable human development.

As mentioned in the report, the Korean government is making a strong push for the vision of achieving a carbon neutral society by 2050, by shifting to renewable energy, creating a low-carbon industry ecosystem and investing in innovative green technologies,” said Mr. Cho Yeong-moo, Director-General for Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The first part of the launch event featured a special presentation by Mr. Pedro Conceição, Director of the Human Development Report Office, and lead author of the Report. “We should aim for high human development and low planetary pressure, which no country has ever achieved in our history. However, we have a choice and there are three mechanisms for change: social norms to determine acceptable societies, incentives and regulations on carbon emissions, and lastly, nature-based solutions to promote both environment protection and human wellbeing,” explained Mr. Conceição.

“This year’s report not only helps us reimagine the meaning of human development itself but also shows us potential ways forward in this new age of the Anthropocene,” said Stephan Klingebiel, Director of USPC. 

The ensuing panel discussion presented different perspectives on how humans can be a force shaping the future of the planet and how to mitigate adversities. The heads and representatives of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), Climate Change Center (CCC), Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to Korea, Korea University, and Green Environment Youth Korea (GEYK) provided diverse perspectives on the challenges and opportunities for achieving sustainable green growth and promoting human development, and presented suggestions for making progress on these agendas. 

“HDR 2020 has made another big progress,” noted Professor Sung-han Kim, Dean of the Graduate School of International Studies at Korea University. “We must choose bold new paths striving to continue human development while easing planetary pressures. The next frontier for human development will require working with and not against nature, while transforming social norms, values, and government and financial incentives.”

The launch event brought together around 200 participants from government, academia, research institutions, NGOs, international organizations, private sector and university students.

View the launch recording