The Global Environment Outlook ProjectIn 1995, the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), at its eighteenth Session, called for the preparation of a new, comprehensive report on the state of the global environment now and in the year 2015 (UNEP, 1995). The document should be prepared, it suggested, in close co-operation with relevant international, regional, and national organizations and institutions. The Governing Council recommended that the report include essential problems of and threats to the environment, basic trends in environmental change, and the global effects of expected economic development, population increase, and consumption and production patterns. It further requested the inclusion of recommended action and measures, such as institutional and legal changes, that could effectively reverse unwelcome trends.
The Global Environment Outlook (GEO) Project is UNEP's response to the Governing Council's request. It addresses five questions:
The GEO Assessment ProcessTo implement its goals, the GEO Project will rely increasingly on a global network of Collaborating Centres, a series of regional consultations, four scientific working groups, and United Nations agency participation through the System-wide Earthwatch co-ordination function of UNEP. (See Box 1.1.)
The GEO Assessment ProcessThe process of assessing global environmental trends and policy options in the GEO Project has four major components.
Collaborating CentresA global co-ordinated network of Collaborating Centres consists of regional multidisciplinary institutes that are at the interface between science and policy. These centres undertake studies with the dual aim of keeping the state of the regional and world environment under review and providing scientific guidance to regional and international policy setting and action planning for sustainable development. Around 20 centres contributed to the production of GEO-1.
Working GroupsThe four GEO Working Groups are composed of top experts from around the world. Their major goal is to ensure that methodological developments in integrated assessments are globally co-ordinated and that the studies conducted by the individual Collaborating Centres can be compared and compiled. The Working Groups will develop new methodologies as required and provide technical advice and support to the Collaborating Centres. They are implemented jointly by a number of international and national organizations. The four Working Groups are:
Scientific and Policy ConsultationsAssessments geared towards policy setting and action planning need to be based on a dialogue between scientists and policy-makers. Regional policy consultations and other consultative mechanisms will promote and contribute to a continuous dialogue between science and policy at the regional and global levels. For GEO-1,
The World-Wide Web is an ideal platform for group review and global document distribution, both of which are important aspects of the GEO
process. Therefore, as a complement to the printed versions, the GEO Report Series
The process is designed to provide in the long run an effective
mechanism for international environmental policy setting, engaging
experts and decision-makers from industrial and developing worlds
and from international agencies as equal partners. Its primary
product will be the GEO Report Series. Each
report in the series will build on previous ones, expanding on
the issues and linkages identified as requiring closer political,
public, and scientific scrutiny. The series will include a decadal
State of the Environment Report-2002.
The process endeavours to gradually become an umbrella for global and regional environmental assessments, providing a framework and a mechanism for wide participation and co-operation that will also help build the capacity in developing countries for conducting integrated, policy-relevant assessments. As such, it should become a way to integrate and link sectoral and regional assessments, as well as a mechanism for aggregating and disseminating their results.
This volume-GEO-1-is the first product of the GEO Project. It provides a snapshot of a process in the making and aims to move the process along by documenting its progress. The principal focus of GEO-1 is a review of major environmental issues from regional perspectives, and an initial evaluation of some existing and a few promising policy responses that address regional priority concerns. It also takes a first glimpse at the future using quantitative analysis techniques.
As the logical follow-up to this volume, GEO-2 will further analyse the priority issues identified in GEO-1. This analysis will be done during 1997 and 1998 using, in particular, regionally available data, knowledge, and capacity.