The objective of this module is to introduce the integrated environmental assessment (IEA) and reporting approach based on the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) Process of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). You will learn why the IEA approach is an effective way of developing policy relevant recommendations about the state of the environment and its interaction with human development.
We begin with a short description of UNEP, its mandate from the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for keeping the global environment under review, and how the GEO process fulfils this mandate. The goal of the GEO process is to ensure that environmental problems and emerging issues of wide international significance receive appropriate, adequate and timely consideration by governments and other stakeholders. As part of the GEO initiatve, UNEP is involved in capacity building to help people learn how to carry out integrated environmental assessments at the regional, sub-regional and also national levels.
An IEA is much broader than a traditional state of the environment (SoE) report. It expands on a SoE report by undertaking a critical objective evaluation and analysis of data and information designed to meet user needs and support decision making. It applies the judgment of experts to existing knowledge to provide scientifically credible answers to policy relevant questions. This provides a participatory, structured approach to linking knowledge and action. Over time, GEO has developed an increasingly integrated approach to environmental assessment and reporting. It asks the following questions:
- what is happening to the environment and why?
- what are the consequences for the environment and humanity?
- what is being done and how effective is it?
- where are we heading? and
- what actions could be taken for a more sustainable future?
For GEO-1, GEO-2000 and GEO-3, UNEP’s comprehensive global integrated environmental assessments were carried out using the Drivers-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) framework, which is also used in Module 5 of this resource book. For GEO-4, the latest assessment which is expected to be published in 2007, the conceptual framework has been modified, and the differences between this new framework and the DPSIR framework are briefly explained in this module.
Geographically, we can distinguish between the global and sub-global (regional, national and sub-national) GEO assessments. While GEO-1, GEO-2000 and GEO-3 were global in scope, they were differentiated at regional and sub-regional levels to highlight important variations and the environmental priorities requiring policy attention in different parts of the world. Each GEO assessment covers a specific time period decided by, or relevant to, the policy makers to whom it is targeted.
GEO products include:
- global assessments (GEO-1, GEO-2000 and GEO-3);
- GEO yearbooks (2003; 2004/5; 2006);
- regional and sub-regional reports;
- technical reports; and
- educational products.
The module concludes by providing examples of three sub-global GEO assessments: the Africa Environment Outlook (a regional assessment), the Bhutan national GEO and the assessment carried out for Mexico City. These examples show how the processes started and were carried out, their main results and how they have been followed up.