GRID Polar Division News

GEO Year Book 2007 Underlines environ­­mental risks and opportunities of globalization

Global Environment Outlook Year Book 2007 Launched at UNEP’s 24th Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum

Nairobi, 5 February 2007 --The fate of the world’s fisheries underlines the challenges facing governments in a globalized world a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says. 

GRID-Arendal's role: GRID-Arendal acted as regional coordinator for the Polar Regions and co-lead author (with Gateway Antarctica) for the polar section of the GEO Year Book 2007.

Related resources from GRID-Arendal:

Scientists estimate that rising demand for seafood and other marine produce will lead to a collapse of today’s commercial fish stocks by 2050-- unless better management is introduced.

Climate change may aggravate the situation by increasing the acidity of the oceans and seas and by bleaching coral reefs—important nurseries for fish.

One management technique for countering the collapse includes a dramatic expansion of the number of marine protected areas.

Experts have found that marine protected areas, which currently cover just 0.6 per cent of the world’s oceans, increase numbers of fish species by over a fifth and can boost catches in waters nearby.

GEO Yearbook 2007

Governments at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002 backed a plan to develop a network of marine reserves by 2012.

But the UNEP Global Environment Outlook (GEO) Year Book 2007 says the pace at which new marine reserves are being listed means the goal will be achieved three decades after the collapse of today’s commercial fisheries.

 “At the current rate of designation, the target will not be reached until 2085,” says the GEO Year Book.

The Year Book, the work of over 80 scientists and policy experts  from across the globe, has been written to inform the debate being held by environment ministers attending UNEP’s 24th Governing Council-Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi, Kenya this week.

Here the risks and the opportunities of globalization and booming trans-national trade are high on the agenda during the five day long gathering.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary and UNEP Executive Director, said:” Globalization is one of the defining issues of our time. Wealth is being generated on an unprecedented scale and millions are being lifted out of poverty. But a big question mark hangs over its future and its sustainability for current and future generations”.

“If rising living standards and inefficient methods of production and consumption intensify pressure on nature’s natural resources—from fish, freshwater and the atmosphere to forests and fragile lands—globalization could become a spectacular failure rather than a saviour,” he added.

“The question is not whether globalization is good or bad but whether we have in place the regulations, creative economic instruments, guidelines, rules and partnerships that ensure it delivers the widest possible benefits at the minimum price to the planet and thus to its people—in other words do we have the international environmental governance structures in place, firing on all cylinders, to match and guide the powerful engine of globalization. This is the question before us today and among the answers to a range of issues we seek from ministers attending this UNEP GC/GMEF in 2007,” said Mr Steiner.

The GEO Year Book outlines a range of options able to steer globalization onto a more intelligent, environmentally, economically responsible and sustainable course if more widely deployed and enthusiastically adopted.

The report acknowledges the importance of responsible business and the power of consumerism to direct globalization—factors that can play an increasingly significant role if governments heed calls by the private sector for 21st century regulation and consumers are fully and properly informed.

Certification
The GEO Year Book flags the challenge of forestry and the importance of certification. An estimated 10.5 million hectares- or three per cent- of ‘natural production forests-- in International Tropical Timber Organization member states are now covered under certification schemes.

These could be expanded to other natural resources and complimented by green procurement policies. Here governments need to set in place environmental standards right along the supply change says the GEO Year Book.

The Role of Financial Institutions
Environmental accountability is also emerging from lending institutions as a result of growing awareness among multinationals of the marketing advantages of adopting corporate social responsibility initiatives.

The GEO Year Book cites the case of soya production in Brazil. Here a recent loan of $30 million by the International Finance Corporation to Grupo Andre Maggi company—which finances 500 soy producers-- was predicated on higher environmental, agricultural and social standards.

Paying for Maintaining Ecosystems
Payment for ecosystem services offers another potentially fruitful path—one that gives greater value to the wider economic benefits of ecosystems and attempts to identify and compensate the communities and the countries responsible for maintaining them.

The GEO Year Book highlights the case of the Panama Canal, an economically important man-made waterway that moves an estimated 279 million metric tonnes of goods between the Atlantic and the Pacific.

The canal depends on water from reservoirs to lift boats up over the isthmus cordillera. “Over the last few decades deforestation around the high reservoirs has led to a number of problems for the Panama Canal System—especially a shortage of water in some seasons,” says the report.

A forestry re-insurance company is proposing a 25 year bond, paid for by ship owners, some of the profits from which will pay for re-afforestation of vulnerable water catchments.

Other Creative Market Mechanisms
The GEO Year Book also underlines how ‘pump priming’ and relatively small amounts of well targeted and creative financial support can radically propel markets onto a more sustainable track.

It cites the case of a three year old partnership between organizations like UNEP and two Indian banks aimed at promoting solar power on the Indian sub Continent.

By using the economic instrument of preferential interest rates, the partnership has led to the financing of over 17,000 solar home systems supplying clean energy to over 100,000 people.

A similar initiative is underway in Tunisia aimed at benefiting consumers and the international fight against climate change.

The GEO Year Book not only underscores existing challenges, that have become even more pressing through the effects of globalization, but also presents new and emerging challenges that result from rapid technological developments.

The New Opportunities and Risks of Technology—Nanotechnology
It cites the rise of nanotechnology—the engineering of surfaces and particles at sizes one billionth of a metre.

The technology, which currently accounts for around 0.1 per cent of the global manufacturing economy, is set to take 14 per cent-- or 2.6 trillion US dollars worth-- of the market by 2014.

Nanotechnologies applied to devices and techniques are being used as innovative and more effective forms of pollution monitors and as, for example, to window coatings that save energy by concentrating solar power on cool days.

Other products include more effective and targeted forms of pest contro and anti-pollution particles able to cleanse toxins from the air, land and water day in day out.

But the report warns: ”It is not clear whether current regulatory frameworks are adequate to deal with the special characteristics of nanotechnology. To date no government has developed a regulatory framework specific to nanotechnology. A balanced approach is required to maximize benefits while minimizing risks”.

Notes to Editors
The Global Environment Outlook (GEO) Year Book 2007 can be found at www.unep.org/geo/yearbook  

The site also carries information on previous Year Books.

The 2007 edition can be purchased at www.earthprint.com priced $20.00.

Documents, reports, issues on the 24th session of UNEP’s Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum are available at http://www.unep.org/gc/gc24/

For More Information Please Contact Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, on Tel: 254 20 7623084, Mobile: +254 733 632755, E-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org

Monday 05 Feb 2007