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The Global Environment Outlook: Environment for Development (GEO4) UNEP

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) issued the report – The Global Environment Outlook: Environment for Development (GEO4) in 2007, this report underlines the choices available across the range of environmental, social and economic areas.

The Global Environment Outlook: Environment for Development (GEO4) report places sustainable development at the core of its assessment and is in the line of reports going back to “Our Common Future”, published in 1987 by the WCED, The World Commission on Environment and Development.  This is a comprehensive and lengthy report, 572 pages, full of maps, charts and information, an authoritative and invaluable resource for researchers.

The report says that “changing drivers, such as population growth, economic activities and consumption patterns, have placed increasing pressure on the environment”, it adds that, “environmental degradation also threatens all aspects of human well-being.”

The report says – “Despite changes in environmental governance, and greater understanding of the links between environment and development, real progress towards sustainable development has been slow. Many governments continue to create policies concerned with environmental, economic and
social matters as single issues. There is a continued failure to link environment and development in decision making (Dernbach 2002). As a result, development strategies often ignore the need to maintain the very ecosystem services on which long-term development goals depend.”

The report adds, “A notable example, made apparent in the aftermath of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, is the failure of some government agencies to see the link between destruction of coastal wetlands and the increased vulnerability of coastal communities to storms (Travis 2005, Fischetti 2005). For many, acknowledging that environmental change could endanger future human well-being is inconvenient, as it requires an uncomfortable level of change to individual and working lives (Gore 2006).” The authors also note that, “International negotiations on solutions to global environmental problems have frequently stalled over questions of equity (Brown 1999). For instance, in the case of climate change, international negotiations have slowed down over the question on how to share responsibilities and burden among nations, given different historic and current levels of national emissions.”

The report concludes:

“Adopting the future policy framework outlined in this report is an opportunity for renewal in the way individuals think about the environment and its impact on their well-being, in the way  national decisionmakers treat the environmental dimensions of their portfolios, in the way financial resources are mobilized for environmental problems, and in the way the global community organizes itself in the UN system and specialized agencies. Hard to manage, persistent environmental problems will demand complex solutions, and it can be expected that the solutions chosen will, in turn, create new and possibly even more complex problems in their wake. However, the costs of inaction in many of the environmental problems with proven solutions have already become evident. The costs of inaction in dealing with the emerging set of persistent environmental problems are far greater – directly impinging on the future ability of ecosystems to support people.”

In other words if we continue with our present policies people will die.

© Andrew Palmer 2008

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