In order to filter relevant national data from authoritative, primary international data sources and harmonized databases, as well as to provide aggregated data at sub-regional, regional and global levels, UNEP has developed a dedicated reference database for GEO and sub-global IEA reporting: the GEO Data Portal.
The GEO Data Portal has matured into a reference data system, and has become the authoritative source of a broad collection of harmonized environmental and socioeconomic data sets used by UNEP and its partners in the GEO reporting process and other integrated environment assessments. It also allows basic data analysis and creation of maps and graphics.
Its online database currently holds more than 450 variables that can be analyzed and displayed as maps, graphs or tables. The data sets can also be downloaded in a variety of formats, supporting further analysis and processing by the user. The GEO Data Portal covers a broad range of environmental themes such as climate, disasters, forests and freshwater, as well as categories in the socio-economic domain, including education, health, economy, population and environmental policies. The online Data Portal has been designed as an easy and light system that can run on most platforms and does not need very extensive Internet bandwidth. Although primarily targeting the GEO user community (UNEP offices, GEO Collaborating Centres and contributors), extensive use of the portal is also made by other (UN) agencies, universities, schools, civil society and the general public around the world.
The data providers include many primary data collection agencies among the UN system and other key partners, including FAO, UNEP, UNESCO, UN Statistical Division, WHO, World Bank and OECD. Although nearly all data sets are in the public domain and freely accessible to all, due to copyright reasons, a small portion of the data can only be downloaded by the GEO user community of UNEP offices and the network of GEO Collaborating Centres and contributors. The statistical data variables are available not just for all countries of the world, but also for UNEP’s GEO regions and sub-regions, and the world as a whole. In certain cases, the aggregated figures cannot be given due to lack of underlying data at the country level. To the extent possible, the data cover the period since 1970, and are constantly being kept up-to-date. Apart from statistical data sets, a good selection of geo-spatial data (maps) is also available in standard formats used by the remote sensing community, usually at global and regional scales. New data are added on the basis of needs stemming from UNEP’s GEO reporting, and based on priorities discussed in the GEO Data Working Group (DWG) and reflected in the GEO Data/Indicator matrix, as well as through consultations and arrangements with UN agencies and other authoritative data providers.
The global GEO Data Portal is being supplemented by regional versions, starting in Latin America and Africa, and to follow in Asia and Pacific and West Asian regions. The Global GEO Data Portal is available on the Internet at http://geodata.grid.unep.ch/ and on CD-ROM. The website provides the most recent updates and further information on other associated tools, such as an e-Learning module for the Portal and a User Guide (http://www.grid.unep.ch/wsis/).
Although the GEO Data Portal is open to everyone and provides data for all countries of the world, for national-level environmental reporting authoritative data sources are more likely found within the country itself from the government (environmental and other ministries, bureau of statistics), research organizations, NGOs and other sources. Therefore, when using the portal you should also plan on cross-referencing with national databases.
See exercise 4.3.4