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UNEP Chief says major attitude change needed to save environment

Nairobi 27 January 1997 - Human use and pollution of water, soils, forests, fisheries and urban air is depleting these renewable resources faster than they can naturally recover, according to the new Global Environment Outlook (GEO-1) released by UNEP today.

"If we allow these trends to continue, we will ultimately run out of the essential ingredients for life on this planet. We may not know when, but it is clear we are on an unsustainable trajectory," said UNEP Executive Director, Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, at the launch of the report in Nairobi, Kenya.

Among its findings, the GEO-1 cites greenhouse gas emissions as still being far in excess of internationally agreed targets, biological diversity as still vanishing at alarming rates, and hazardous chemicals continuing to contaminate the environment and damage human health. An estimated one quarter of the world's population will suffer from chronic water shortages in the beginning of the next century says the report.

The GEO-1 is the first in a series of reports on the global environment that will be published by UNEP on a biennial basis. But, more than simply another downbeat catalogue of the world's environmental woes, the GEO-1 breaks new ground in attempting to analyze the effectiveness of what is being done to address environmental issues.

The report differs significantly from the approach taken by other assessments, which have come out recently. It approaches environmental problems from a regional perspective.

In preparing the report, UNEP identified 20 internationally renowned environmental institutions as GEO collaborating centres, and instituted a mechanism for regional consultations, four scientific working groups and United Nations agency participation through the United Nations system-wide Earthwatch. In all, some 500 experts were involved in a worldwide drafting and consultative process to produce the GEO-1 report.

The report concludes that "From a global perspective, the environment has continued to degrade during the last decade, and significant environmental problems remain deeply embedded in the socio-economic fabric of nations in all regions."

"It is entirely within human knowledge and ability to solve even the worst environmental problems. But, it is simply the will to act and the funds to do the job that are both vastly insufficient to the task," said Ms. Dowdeswell.

More details


For further information, please contact:

Veerle Vandeweerd
Chief, State of the Environment Reporting
Division of Environment Information and Assessment
UNEP, P.O. Box 30552
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 254-2-62-3527
Fax: 254-2-62-3943/4

Tore J. Brevik, Chief
or Robert Bisset, Information Officer
Information and Public Affairs
UNEP, P.O. Box 30552
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 254-2-62-3084
Fax: 254-2-62-3692
E Mail:

Note to journalists: In Nairobi, GEO-1 will be launched by Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of UNEP, at 1.30pm in Conference Room 7, UNEP headquarters. For accreditation to the UNEP Governing Council meeting, contact the press desk on arrival, or Anila Shah in Room S-223, tel 62-3089.

Global Environment Outlook is co-published with Oxford University Press.
To order a copy, contact:
Oxford University Press, Order Department, 2001 Evans Road, Cary, NC 27513, USA.

Tel: +1 800 451 7566, Fax: +1 919 677 1303, Email: Hardback: US$ 39.95 (plus mailing costs)
Paperback: US$ 24.95 (plus mailing costs)
Where GEO-1 can be accessed on the Internet:


UNEP News Release 1997/3

Monday 27 Jan 1997
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