UNEP's GEO-5 To Address Global Environmental Challenges and Solutions
This year has seen the world struggle with a range of environmental and humanitarian challenges, including floods in Pakistan, landslides in China, wildfires in Russia and an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. How to respond to these kinds of disasters - many of which transcend national boundaries - is the focus of the Environmental Outlook-5 (GEO-5), the flagship publication of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
GEO-5, which is due to come out in 2012 with the recommendations of the world's leading scientists, environmental experts and key policymakers, will highlight how countries can respond on a policy level, giving key recommendations in line with global environmental trends.
Earlier this month UNEP concluded a series of regional consultations in Africa, Asia-Pacific, North America, West Asia, Latin America and Europe. The outcomes of these consultations show consistent themes and concerns across the regions on the need for environmental governance, sustainable water-use plans and the need to protect biodiversity and support renewable energy.
Consultations in the Asia and Pacific region identified some effective policies for addressing environmental issues, including policies in watershed management; financial mechanisms, such as cap-and-trade systems, and crop insurance schemes in the agricultural sector. These discussions highlighted the importance of aligning developmental and environmental goals, noting that improved food security and sustainable development is crucial for preventing environmental degradation.
North America's regional consultations saw policy-makers identifying sustainable development and poverty eradication as top priorities with the goal of advancing the concept of a Green Economy that will support new technologies as well as introduce new jobs.
In Latin America and Africa, which have been experiencing drought, desertification and floods as a result of climate change, the consultations emphasized the need to minimize these effects (specifically natural disasters) as a key priority and called for the need for more conservation and sustainable use of coastal and marine ecosystems.
In Europe, air pollution and air quality emerged as top priorities, seeking solutions for successful policies which facilitate integration between air pollution and climate change policies. GEO-5 will also address chemical and waste management issues in Europe, issues of responsibility outside its borders, water contamination among others.
The last edition, the GEO-4 published in 2007, and entitled Our Common Future, focused on unresolved threats to the planet such as climate change and the rate of extinction of species. However, the upcoming report will differ significantly in that it will shift from assessing priority 'problems' towards assessing priority 'solutions'.
Ultimately, the GEO-5 consultations spotlighted environmental themes that will be used to identify tangible, region-specific action plans that can inform progressive and sustainable environmental governance and responsible decision-making from the policy level to the individual level.
How African countries can effectively combat desertification, given that it has been singled out as a regional concern, or how to solve issues surrounding the efficient use of fresh water resources, are just one of the many questions that will be answered in the GEO-5 in an attempt to bridge the gap between science and policy, and ensure that credible science informs environmental decision-making.
The next stage in the GEO-5 process will see a selection of world experts assess policy options that could help regions speed up the realization of these goals. UNEP has also selected chapter authors based on nominations received from governments and other stakeholder groups.
This article was originally posted on Sustainable Development Africa Platform