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GEO Year Book 2003  
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INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGENDA

In the post-WSSD world, the sustainable development agenda has successfully integrated the WSSD targets and the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration of 2000, into the substantive work of all the relevant multilateral environmental agreements that held meetings in 2003. The link between poverty reduction and environment has also been increasingly recognized, as evidenced by the constant calls for environmental issues to be framed in a human-centred development context and integrated with national poverty reduction strategies.

On the heels of the Millennium Declaration and the WSSD, the 2003 International Year of Freshwater helped keep water on the global agenda (see Feature Focus) and led to increased cooperation on related issues, including at the Third World Water Forum in Japan in March, and the G-8 Summit in Evian, France in June. The Global Environment Facility’s announcement that it plans to increase funding for water projects over the next four years further reflects an important commitment to sustaining the planet’s water resources and ecosystems. The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), at its 11th session in 2003, agreed that freshwater, sanitation and human settlements would be its major themes of focus in 2004–05. This ensures that water will remain in the forefront of the sustainable development agenda for the next two years.
Forest issues, particularly illegal logging, also received a good deal of international attention during the year (see Box 3).

Box 3: Forest policy developments

The issue of illegal logging dominated debate on international forest policy in 2003, highlighting much wider issues such as appropriate forest governance, effective law enforcement, sustainable trade, and ethical investment.
In May 2003, the European Union published its Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade. This outlines proposals for voluntary licensing to ensure that only legally verified timber could be imported into the EU, procurement policies that discriminate against illegal timber, encouragement of responsible financing and support for private sector-led trade initiatives. However, NGOs have criticized the action plan as lacking the necessary legislation to make it effective, but deliberations are ongoing.
Regional Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG) processes have been running in tandem with the EU initiative. In the Asia Pacific region, for example, the East Asia FLEG, which was launched in 2001, met in January 2003 in Bali, Indonesia, delivering tough messages but less in the way of concrete action plans. Many of the governments involved have additionally signed up to other regional initiatives. Indonesia, home to the most extensive tropical forest cover in Asia, is the key member, with Japan, of the new Asia Forest Partnership (AFP). Indonesia also entered in 2003 into bilateral agreements on illegal logging and timber trade with China, South Korea and Laos.
In Africa, the first ministerial meeting of the FLEG process was held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, at which a ministerial declaration was endorsed by 27 African governments to promote good governance and strengthen forest law enforcement capacity through a number of joint actions. Momentum is also coming from the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, which was launched in January 2003. It will support multi-purpose community-based forest management, combat poaching and illegal logging, and improve management of protected areas. It has a starting budget of US$53 million from the US government. A number of countries in Western and Southern Africa have also started up a Forest Governance Learning Group aimed at sharing learning on key challenges for equitable and practicable forest policy.
The FLEG processes around the world have also opened space for action and calls for accountability by civil society. In Latin America, for example, where an official FLEG process is in the pipeline, a consortium of over 500 NGOs agreed in October 2003 to urge the Brazilian government to drop infrastructural plans in Amazonia which could worsen deforestation.

Source: CIFOR 2003

On the broader issue of the status of the planet’s terrestrial ecosystems, scientific findings weighed in with the release of a study indicating the apparent greening of the biosphere (Box 4).

Box 4: Greening of the biosphere

A globally comprehensive analysis of satellite and climate data between 1982–1999 was published in 2003. The results indicate an apparent greening of the biosphere. These changes could not have been identified without the up-to-date, consistent, and comprehensive picture of the planet that was provided by the long-term satellite data sets that are now available.
The results of this study demonstrate that net primary production (NPP), the amount of energy produced by plants through photosynthesis minus what they use in respiration, increased globally by about six per cent during the last two decades of the 20th century. Increasing temperatures, precipitation, carbon dioxide levels, and nitrogen deposition, changes in cloud cover and land use have all been implicated in the global greening, even though their relative roles remain unclear. In addition, advances in agriculture and successful implementation of a number of conservation programmes around the world may have contributed to the greening trend.
The study revealed that ecosystems in tropical zones and in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere accounted for 80 per cent of the increase in global net primary production. Tropical rainforests in the Amazon contributed nearly 40 per cent of the global increase, attributed to a decline in cloud cover and the resulting increase in the sun’s energy that reached the surface. Changes in monsoon dynamics resulted in more rainfall in the 1990s that led to increased vegetation over the Indian sub-continent and the African Sahel.

Source: Nemani and others 2003

Moving to the atmosphere, issues related to the implementation of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer were again on the agenda, with the phase-out of methyl bromide proving to be a challenge to resolve (Box 5).

Box 5: Methyl bromide a sticking point

The Fifteenth Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (MOP-15), which was held in November 2003 in Nairobi, adopted numerous decisions, including one on trade in hydrochlorofluorocarbons. It also addressed good housekeeping of, and destruction technologies for, ozone-depleting substances (ODS), and adopted a plan of action to modify regulatory requirements that mandate the use of halons on new aircraft.
However, the parties failed to agree on key issues related to ozone-destroying methyl bromide, including the critical-use exemptions for this broad-spectrum pesticide, conditions for granting and reporting on them and further interim reductions of methyl bromide consumption for the period beyond 2005, applicable to developing country parties. An extraordinary meeting of the parties was, therefore, proposed for March 2004 to follow up on issues related to this chemical.
Many experts believe that the amounts of methyl bromide nominated for critical use exemptions by several industrialized countries were excessive and could hamper progress in implementing the protocol. The methyl bromide issue is currently one of the key challenges faced under the Montreal Protocol.

Source: UNEP 2003

Regarding climate change, more governments than ever seem convinced of the importance of multilaterally-agreed solutions to this global problem. By the end of 2003, 188 countries had ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), while 120 had ratified the Kyoto Protocol (UNFCCC 2003).
However, as 2003 drew to a close, the Kyoto Protocol had still not gathered sufficient support to enter into force as a legally binding international treaty. To do so, it must be ratified by industrialized countries and former Eastern bloc nations (known under the Convention as Annex I countries) responsible for at least 55 per cent of total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions for the year 1990. With many of the major developed countries having already ratified, and the US having rejected the treaty in 2001, the focus is now on what the Russian Federation will do. Its ratification would be sufficient to trigger the Protocol’s entry into force. However, at year’s end, the Russian Government had yet to make a final decision.
The ninth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, in Milan in December, concluded with experts applauding a deal on the use of carbon sinks in the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This initiative is designed to help industrialized countries meet their emissions targets in a cost-effective way while helping developing countries to meet sustainable development targets. With this issue resolved, most of the details of how the Kyoto Protocol could function in practice have now been agreed.


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