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B - Environmental assessment

200. It was observed that the Earthwatch programme, which fitted the catalytic and global characteristics of UNEP particularly well, and appeared to be founded on a sound scientific-- basis, should be considered the primary sub-programme of UNEP. Two delegations stated that the quality of Earthwatch would be judged by the extent to which it produced environmental assessments of direct use for policy decisions on environmental management, while another noted that active participation and co-operation by member countries was essential for making Fdrthwatch programmes into realities. Two other delegations stressed the need to limit the magnitude of global programmes such as Earthwatch, GEMS and IRPTC-, in favour of regional and national projects, to which the Executive Director should attach greater importance, and emphasized in particular the need to implement Governing Council decision 7/3 of 3 May 1979.

201. General support was expressed for the recommendations of the Geneva meeting in November 1979 on environmental assessment, and the initial steps taken by the Executive Director for their implementation were welcomed. Several delegations agreed that it would be most effective for environmental assessments under Earthwatch to concentrate on a restricted number of problems, for example C021 the ozone layer, chemical wastes and soil loss. It was pointed out, however, that the priorities might vary from region to region.

202. A number of delegations expressed concern that not enough attention was being paid within Earthwatch to the effects of agricultural and, in the opinion of one delegation, forestry activities on the environment, while another emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of problems requiring environmental assessment, called for more exchange of information between research groups, and suggested that some UNEP sub-programmes could be caxried out by existing national groups of experts. Another asked what were the criteria for selecting the environmental problems to be given special attention in the detailed plan for environmental assessments, and what would be the budgetary implications of the assessments.

203. The secretariat stated that the subjects had been compiled after very preliminary discussions with agencies and Governments. They were chosen with reference to their urgency and the feasibility of producing assessments on them in a reasonable time-span. Additional consultations with the agencies for the in-depth review of Earthwatch and the deliberations of the ACC Working Group on Earthwatch should modify the list further, as well as deal with the question of financial implications. Partial financial implications were already known for the monitoring of long-range transport of pollutants, pollution in regional seas and tropical forest cover, and for the WHO International Programme on Chemical Safety.

204. The representative of the Commission of the European Communities (CEC) stated that CEC would continue to contribute substantially to the current UNEP work relating to the International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals (IRPTC) and INFOTERRA on the basis of its own current activities under the Environmental Chemicals Data and Information Network, and of the inventory of research projects containing 10,000 sources.

205. The Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity addressed the Committee briefly on a number of political issues and appealed to the delegations present to convey his views to the heads of their delegations.

1. Global Envirormiental Monitoring System (GEVIS)

206. A number of delegations expressed satisfaction with the progress of GEMS to date. Other delegations expressed concern about certain specific shortcomings. Two stressed that GEMS should continue to encourage national monitoring capabilities, while another stated that GF-.MS information should be made more readily available and understandable to non-technicians, and another expressed the hope that development towards an operational GEMS could be accelerated. Another delegation stressed the need for an over-all strategy for GEMS, to ensure the effective integration into it, as sub-components, of relevant programmes unde@.aken within the United Nations system, and effective participation in its regional and national activities.

207. One delegation expressed concern as to whether all GEMS activities were relevant to UNEP's assessment mission, and suggested that the projects included in the work plan for 1980-1981 be re-evaluated with respect to their importance and relevance to that mission: monitoring was a key component cf the assessment process, and should produce information leading to assessments of selected environmental issues for use by decision-makers. An "operational" GEMS should be taken to mean an aggregation of international monitoring activities, national sources and data, specifically designed to produce assessments on major environmental hazards. Funds and staff allowing, GEMS might develop and maintain a current listing of important monitoring activities throughout the world and a catalogue of products of such activities, thus affording a clear picture of the sectors into which money and effort were being directed and what activities were available for possible incorporation into the GEMS aggregation. The 1981-1982 GEMS evaluation meetings should determine not just whether the monitoring activities were correctly intercalibrated and organized, but also whether their products were contributing to assessments, useful to policy-makers, and widely available.

208. Several delegations commended the renewable resource monitoring activities, especially in the fields of tropical forests, desertification, soil degradation and rangelands. The plans for co-operation between GEMS and UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme in the monitoring of biosphere reserves were noted with satisfaction, and it was agreed that GEMS should continue to strengthen its joint activities with other agencies and with the scientific community.

209. One delegation expressed support for the pilot assessment studies of soil degradation, and urged that they be related to the recommendations of the meeting of the International Council of Scientific Unions/Scientific Committee for the Protection of the Enviro=ent (ICSU/SCOPE) held in June 1979. Another pointed out that satellite (Landsat) imagery could be of great use in land use planning, hydrology and range management; ways of improving access to it by developing countries should therefore be explored. Another delegation said that the incorporation of remote sensing technology in the renewable resource monitoring programme should be strengthened.

210. Many delegations expressed support for the current health-related monitoring activities, and urged that they be expanded, for example, by including carbon monoxide and air-borne lead in urban monitoring programmes, or by strengthening the monitoring of drinking water and food contaminants. One delegation described the recent expansion of the urban air and water quality network in its country.

211. Many delegations noted with satisfaction that the monitoring of, as well as efforts to control, the long-range transport of air pollutants, had been given new impetus by the convention and resolution on long-range transboundary air pollution adopted at the high-level meeting in the framework of the ECE (November 1979), and urged that UNEP continue to support these activities.

212. The representative of Kenya said that the feasibility study for the establishment of a station in the background air pollution monitoring network had been completed, and reiterated his Government's invitation to set up the station. The secretariat replied that the Kenya Government should initiate discussions with I,IMO regarding logistics and practical details. In response to a request by two delegations that UNEP should move into the field of integrated monitoring as soon as possible, the secretariat pointed out that discussions to that end were already well under way.

213. The representative of FAO said that FAO was actively participating in the GEMS resource monitoring programme. In the area of soils, it had developed jointly with UNEP, UNESCO and @IMO a methodology for assessing soil degradation, which should be tested and further developed through a network of national institutions. It had also developed jointly with UNEP methodologies for monitoring humid tropical forest cover through pilot projects in Africa, and intended, again jointly with UNEP, to initiate similar activities in Asia and the Pacific during 1980 and 1981 through a network of national institutions and within the framework of an umbrella FAO/UNDP regional project on forest inventory. A joint UNEP/FAO pilot project to develop the scientific base for the monitoring of grasslands had recently been initiated. FAO was also developing its data base on natural resources for food and agricultural production, particularly in the area of soils and forestry (with UNEP support), fisheries and agrometeorology, and had developed methods for crop forecasting, based on agrometeorological data for the Sahel and the humid tropics, which had been successfully applied in 16 countries in close collaboration with WMO. A specific methodology for the assessment of present and potential land use by agro-ecological zones was now complete for Africa, Latin America and the Near East, and would be ready for Asia and the Pacific region by the end of 1980.

214. A small joint FAO/UNEP project to develop methodologies for the monitoring of pesticide residues had been completed a year ago. FAO hoped UNEP would continue to play its catalytic role in that area, which was particularly important for developing countries, as well as in the areas of monitoring of food and feed contamination and mycotoxins.

215. The representative of UNESCO welcomed the attention now given to biosphere reserves as a tool in the implementation of GEMS, and called for the establishment of such reserves, with UNEP support, in areas where they were needed for monitoring purposes, including arid and semi-arid lands.

216. In reply to a query, the representative of WMO stated that the figures for W140 in the table on page 14 of UNEP/GC.8/5 reflected the sum of estimates provided in the W140/UNEP project documents in the area of monitoring. The figures for 1978 and 1979 included funds spent both nationally and through WMO in the development and deployment of the internationally developed upper-air observing systems deployed during the First Global Atmospheric Research Programme (GARP) Global Experiment (FGGE).

217. The representative of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) said that the eighth session of the Senior Advisers to ECE Governments on Environmental Problems (Geneva, February 1980) had considered organizational and procedural questions, especially those concerning the working relationship between the Senior Advisers and the newly established Interim Executive Body which would be responsible for interim implementation of the Convention on Transboundary Air Pollution pending its entry into force. The first meeting of the Body, scheduled for October 1980, would review policies and strategies for the abatement of air pollution caused by sulphur compounds on the basis of a comprehensive report to be prepared by the ECE secretariat.

2. Information exchange

(a) International Referral System (INFOTERRA)

218. Most delegations which commented on INFOTERRA expressed their satisfaction at the progress made in its activities, and said it should continue to develop its capacity to facilitate the exchange of environmental information. Several voiced their concern at the apparently low rate of use of INFOTERRA, and stressed the need for greater promotion of the System, more training of national focal point staff, closer contacts between them and the INFOTERRA Programme Activity Centre and a further increase in national and regional activities. Two delegations advocated the extension of I-IWOTERRA activities at the national level beyond pure referral, to providing substantive information in the form of data or extracts of key documents. One delegation urged that the network of national focal points be strengthened through commitment of resources by Governments to ensure fully operational and local points, and through better UNEP guidance to Governments on s the role and responsibilities of focal points. Another delegation said that INFOTERRA should assist in the establishment of focal points in developing countries, so that they could participate in the System, while another called on it to assist in the installation of data processing facilities.

219. One delegation suggested that the continuing evaluation of INFOTERRA might be premature. Another, however, welcomed it, and expressed the hope that it would include a close examination of the system's cost-effectiveness relative to other parts of the programme. Another delegation welcomed the results of the focal point management meeting (Moscow, 1 to 6 October 1979), particularly in so far as they related to the evaluation exercise. It was stressed that the method of evaluation must give emphasis to a qualitative assessment.

220. The secretariat said that, in terms of number of queries handled, INFOTERRA compared well with other referral systems which had been in existence for over a decade, and noted in addition that the services it provided could, by their very nature, not be expected to be fully visible. Because of the decentralized nature of the system, responsibility for improving awareness and reporting use

must necessarily rest with national focal points. The evaluation would, it was hoped, help ensure provision and continuity of the necessary resources for the INFOTERRA network as a whole.

(b) International Register of Potentially Toxic Chemicals (IRPTC)

221. Many delegations stressed the importance of IRPTC, commended the progress

made so far, and ex-pressed the hope that means would be provided to ensure that the Register soon became fully operational. One delegation stressed that data collection was a key activity. Several urged that IRPTC should concentrate on priority chemicals and requested more vigorous dissemination of available, evaluated data. Closer co-operation between IRPTC and INFOTERRA was urged.

222. A number of delegations commended IRPTC for the progress made in producing data profiles, and stressed the importance of wide dissemination of legal information on potentially toxic chemicals. Several delegations stressed that the success of IRPTC would depend on a global system of national correspondents and network partners; they urged Governments which had not already done so to nominate national correspondents, give their national correspondents full support, and take steps to ensure that they became active network partners in IRPTC.

223. Several delegations requested more training for national correspondents in regional workshops similar to that held for ESCAP, while one recommended the development of a manual for national correspondents to guide them in the execution of their tasks.

224. One delegation particularly commended the plans for IRPTC to serve as the data component for the International Programme on Chemical Safety. Another said that, to help developing countries cope with the problems created by the marketing of inadequately tested and potentially toxic chemicals in developing countries, UNEP should do everything possible to speed up the implementation of the IRPTC work plan.

3. Outer limits

(a) Assessment of basic human needs in relation to outer limits

225. Several delegations commended the programme on basic human needs as being

consistent with UNEP's catalytic role. Although the programme was of interest to developing countries, development efforts to satisfy basic needs might at times conflict with the need for environmental protection. Guidance was required as to how those interests were to be reconciled, and one delegation in particular suggested that the proposed research studies would make a useful contribution in that respect.

(b) Climatic changes

226. There was general support for the action plan for climate impact studies. A number of delegations expressed the view that its implementation should proceed gradually, within the resources available from the Environment Fund, supplemented by projects that countries individually or jointly might wish to undertake. Reference was made to the joint United States of America/Mexico project on the impact Of climatic chan@,es on food as one contribution to the plan's implementation. It was ho@d that other countries and international organizations might wish to take on other studies and projects.

227. There was general agreement that the Executive Director should be authorized to establish a scientific advisory committee to advis(- him on the development and implementation of the action plan, as well as a secretariat to develon and implement the plan and service the committee. One delegation proposed that the terms of reference of the committee should be along the following lines: to provide guidance to the ITorld Climate Impact Studies Proframme (WCIP), formulate scientific concepts and co-ordina,te scientific reports, determine principal research objectives, review and assess all elerqepts of WCIP and ensure exchange of information among scientists carrying out studies. Another suggested that the secretariat unit should be located at Geneva.

228. One delegation expressed the view that within the action plan, the order of priorities should be programme area 1, programme area 4 and programme area 3: in view of the approval of the plan of action on carbon dioxide, no further activities would be needed within programme area 2.

229. The representative of @!@10 said that the implementation of the World Climate Programme (@-TCP) was actively under way, and progress would be reviewed by the 1,R\40 Executive Committee at its thirty-third session in May 1980. 1-1@,10 supported the action plan for climate impact studies which was before the Committee. Where the other components of WCP were concerned, the following developments had occured:

(a.) World Climate Research Programme (WCRP): the meeting of the IIMO/ICSU Joint Scientific Committee (Amsterdam, March 1980) had considered the over-all plan for WCRP and priority areas for research activities in the study of climate dynamics, and had proposed specific actions which might be undertaken jointly by UL@EP, TIMO and ICSU with regard to the carbon dioxide and climate problem;

(b) World Climate Application Programme (IICAP): TIMO was undertaking Implementation of that component of IICP in conjunction with other specialized agencies. IICAP was aimed. at the application of climate knowledge to a variety ofplannina, and operational activities with particular reference to food, water and ener!--j problems. As those sectors were also proposed for the World Climate Impact Studies Programme, an effective scientific review and co-ordination mechanism covering both components would be extremely desirable;

(c) In the T,,Iorld Climate Data Programme, designed to serve the other three

components of the IICP, the data requirements for development of the data management plans were being defined.

230-The representative of UNESCO stressed the potential inputs from intergovernmental scientific programmes to WCP, the various elements of which were closely interrelated and required full co-ordination, and noted the important rolfto be played in that respect by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission "(IOC), the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), the International @-Geological Correlation Programme (IGCP) and MAB, which could mobilize national ,,efforts from different groups in support of WCP.

(c) Carbon dioxide

231. General support was expressed for the steps proposed by the Executive

Director to develop a plan of action for the continued assessment of the carbon dioxide problem, and the need for development of a coordinating mechanism was noted. The representative of Austria, on behalf of his Government, invited UDTEP to convene the first expert meeting in Austria in late 1980. One delegation suggested that NGO's be permitted to take 1 - )art in such working group meetings when they had expertise and competence to contribute.

232. The representative of @IMO said that the IIMO/ICSU Joint Scientific Committee, considering that a framework was needed for international action in the area of carbon dioxide, had recommended the establishment, jointly by WMO, UNEP and ICSU, of an International Board composed of well-known scientists to maintain a continuous review of research work and assessments, and ensure co-ordination of the va,st amount of continuing work. The Board might serve the purpose proposed for the group of experts mentioned in the addendum to the programme document.

(d) Risks to the ozone layer

233. One delegation informed the Committee that an intergovernmental meeting (Oslo, 14 and 15 April 1980) concerning regulation of chlorofluorocarbons released in the atmosphere had agreed that there was an urgent need to reduce such releases and that a wait and see policy, which could lead to irreversible damage, should therefore not be pursued. The delegation suggested that UNEP should initiate action to develop an international convention for the protection of the ozone layer.

234. The delegation of the Netherlands extended an invitation for the next meeting of the Co-ordinating Committee on the Ozone Layer to be held in the Netherlands.

235. The representative of CEC informed the Committee of the recent decision of the Council of Ministers on regulation of chlorofluorocarbons, which was part of a continuing exercise, in that it va.s to be reviewed by the Community at a Council meeting in June 1980. The Commission looked forward to further co-operation with the Co-ordinating Committee on the Ozone Layer.

(e) Bioproductivity, basic human needs and social outer limits

236. The Committee noted with approval the progress reported by the Executive Director in the areas of bioproductivity, basic human needs and social outer limits. Several delegations emphasized the continuing importance of work pertaining to food production systems.

(f) Weather modification

237. General support was expressed for the suggested draft decision annexed to the addenda on provisions for co-operation between States on weather modification. Some delegations said that appropriate legal frameworks must be developed concurrently with scientific research on weather modification.

4. Environmental data

238. One delegation observed that data collection alone did not solve environmental problems, and the analysis of environmental statistics should always be undertaken to answer specific questions. Another delegation expressed the view that considerable progress was being made in the work on environmental statistics, and urged continuing support by UNEP of the work of the United Nations Statistical Office. Another queried the nature of UNEP's co-operation with the Statistical Office: Earthwatch assessed global issues, while the Statistical Office's project was more concerned with national and regional information collection. To the extent that national statistics were used in Earthwatch assessment and monitoring programmes, the Statistical Office project should be compatible with, and supportive of, UNEP data collection efforts.

239. At the conclusion of its debate on Earthwatch, the Cormittee recommended for adoption by the Governing Council draft decisions on weather modification and chlorofluorocarbons (see annex I below, decisions 8/7 A and B respectively).

Teather modification

240. The draft decision was submitted by the Chairman, and co-sponsored by Canada, Guinea and the United States of America.

241. The secretariat indicated that there would be no additional financial implications for the Environment Fund.

242. One delegation noted his Government's understanding that in Provision IV and V, the sense of the Expert Meeting had been to stress that notification and assessment would normally be conducted in conjunction with V@@40. The representatives of I-]MO and UNEP agreed with that interpretation, and there was no objection from delegations.


243. The draft decision was sponsored by the delegations of Austria, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Federal Republic of, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sweden, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and United States of America.

244. The secretariat indicated that the decision could be implemented within available resources.

245. The delegation of Japan stated that research was being conducted in Japan regarding the possible destruction of the ozone layer by chlorofluorocarbons. Administrative measures in that regard had not been decided upon pending results of such research. In Japan, the use of liquid petroleum gas as a substitute for chlorofluorocarbons has been restricted as a safety measure.

246. The delegation of Uruguay stated that lack of knowledge regarding certain products and processes should be a valid reason for avoiding, rather than continuing, their use.