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 GC Today - 22 February 2011

Side Event

The Future of Environmental Assessments - What Have We Learned So Far?


Integrated environmental assessments are a key element of modern environmental science and policy, over many spatial scales. At least (10) assessments are carried out by UNEP alone each year. But assessments often have important drawbacks that reduce their impact and relevance. The purpose of this side event is to review some of the key lessons learned by decades of experience with assessments with the aim to make new assessment processes such as IPBES and other ongoing environmental assessments even more relevant, credible and legitimate. We will draw on the latest evaluations of some of the most important assessments, focusing on the global scale.


The side event was moderated by Professor Joseph Alcamo, Chief Scientist, UNEP. Panelists were H.E. Ms Sherry Ayittey, Minister for the Environment, Ghana; Dr R H S Samaratuga, Secretary for Environment, Sri Lanka; Dr Renate Christ, Secretary, Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); Professor Bob Watson, Chief Scientist, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), UK; Ms Fatoumata Keita-Ouane, Chief, Scientific Assessment Branch, DEWA, UNEP; and Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director, European Environment Agency (EEA);

Renate Christ addressed lessons learnt from 22 years of IPCC assessment and referred to the recent independent review of IPCC by the InterAcademy Council.  Bob Watson reported on the experiences gained from the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) and compared it with the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). Fatoumata Keita-Ouane reported on the evaluation conducted on UNEP’s 4th Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report.  Jacqueline McGlade shared experiences on pan-European assessment processes conducted by the EEA.

Hon Minister Sherry Ayittey and Dr Samaratuga addressed the issue of how assessments can better inform policy and stressed the importance of capacity building for better assessment and reporting, particlualrly in the areas of data management and communications.

Professor Alcamo called on each panelist to suggest two concrete actions that would improve the impact and efficiency of integrated environmental assessments.  The panelists stressed the need for  sound governance structures for assessment processes, overarching legal frameworks, good assessment tools, stakeholder engagement, inclusive participatory processes; agreement on core indicators, quality baseline data, traceability of data, effective communications; and capacity development.

The moderator concluded the event by summarizing 10 ways to boost the impact and efficiency of integrated environmental assessments and thanked the panelists for their contributions to the side event.