A new report commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) highlights how humans have massively altered global cycling of nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients. While this had huge benefits for world food and energy production, it has also created a web of water and air pollution that is damaging human health, causing toxic algal blooms, killing fish, threatening sensitive ecosystems and contributing to climate change.
The report – entitled ‘Our Nutrient World’ – highlights the problems of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution and proposes a goal for future intergovernmental agreement to improve nutrient efficiency by 20%, saving 20 million tonnes of nitrogen per year by the year 2020: ‘20:20 for 2020’.
Counting the nitrogen savings, implementation cost and the environmental and health benefits they estimate that such a goal would provide a net saving of £108 billion pounds per year.
The report’s authors came to the SMC to present their work.
Prof Mark Sutton, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) UK, Lead author of the report and chair of the International Nitrogen Initiative
Dr Bruna Grizzetti, Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) in Paris, France, contributor to the report and expert on nutrient pollution
Prof Oene Oenema, Professor of nutrient management and soil fertility at Wageningen University, The Netherlands, contributor to the report and co-chair of the Task Force on Reactive Nitrogen of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe