Emerging Environmental Issues

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1 Emerging Environmental Issues as determined through the UNEPU NEP s s Foresight Process & the UNEP s s GEO Process

2 Why? To inform the policy agenda and ensure that the UN and environmental policy community are aware of most critical emerging issues related to the environment Goal of UNEP s Science Strategy stronger leadership role in identifying and prioritizing emerging global environmental issues Input to Rio+20 Why a UNEP Foresight Process? More systematic identification of issues to inform UNEP s Programme of Work

3 What? A systematic procedure for canvassing top experts identify and rank critical emerging issues. Coordination: Chief Scientists Office & UNEP s Division of Early Warning & Assessment Foresight Panel 22 distinguished scientists/experts Broad regional & disciplinary representation Process: What is the UNEP Foresight Process? 1) Canvass of UNEP community identified 68 issues 2) Foresight Panel meetings debated 95 issues selected 21 priority issues 3) Electronic Consultation (Survey) 933 scientists worldwide 428 responses West 4) Governments and Major Groups now Asia being Asia consulted Africa to ground truth Regional Profile of Respondents to Electronic Consultation North America 18% 18% Latin America/Carribean 13% 13% 10% 10% Asia/Pacific 15% 15% 17% 17% Europe 27% 27%

4 What is an Emerging Issue? An emerging issue in the UNEP Foresight Process is critical to the global environment, can be positive or negative. must be environmental or environmentally-related. should be given priority over the next three years in work programmes of UNEP and/or other UN or international institutions has to be of large spatial scale global, continental. must be recognized as very important by the scientific community, but has not yet received adequate attention from the policy community. Hence it is considered an "emerging issue" from the perspective of the policy community. Definitions of "very important" and "adequate attention left open.

5 The GEO Process The Global Environment Outlook (GEO) process implements UNEP s mandate to keep the global environment under review. A consultative, participatory, capacity building process for environmental assessment and reporting on the state, trends and future outlook of the environment. Facilitates the interaction between science and policy Involves stakeholders from across the globe, and delivers products to support environmental decision-making Through this assessment of the state, trends and future outlook of the environment, new emerging issues were determined.

6 Output of the Foresight & GEO Process Covers the major environmental themes Food and Land Freshwater and Marine Biodiversity Climate Change Energy Waste and Technology Also, include cross-cutting issues Environmental Governance Human behavioural change Bridging Science and Policy

7 Cross-cutting Issues Aligning Governance to the Challenges of Global Sustainability Challenge: Current system of international environmental governance (complexity of MEAs) unsuited for the 21st century. System lacks coherence, accountability and effectiveness for the transition to sustainability. Transforming Human Capabilities for the 21st Century: Meeting Global Environmental Challenges and Moving Towards a Green Economy Challenge: Need new range of skills and capabilities capacity building in developing countries to leap-frog traditional development pathways.

8 Cross-cutting Issues Broken Bridges: Reconnecting Science and Policy The Challenge: Weakening connection between the policy and science communities: lower public confidence, knowledge fragmented across many institutions and databases. Hinders development of solutions to global environmental change. Egypt, 2011 Social Tipping Points? Catalyzing Rapid and Transformative Change in Human Behavior for the Environment The Challenge: Need new social science research How public policy can rapidly modify human behavior in positive direction (e.g. public attitudes towards smoking).

9 Cross-cutting Issues Creeping Changes and Imminent Thresholds Challenge: Many human interaction with the natural environment are causing slow, incremental and cumulative degradation; e.g., stratospheric ozone depletion, acid rain, air pollution These are normally overlooked when they can be addressed. Migration Pressures caused by Environmental Change Challenge: Climate change and other global environmental change may become an important factor in increasing human migration. Also, some policies to limit global environmental change such production of biofuels or hydropower dams may result in increased migration.

10 Food and Land Issues New Challenges for Ensuring Food Safety and Food Security for 7+ billion people Challenge Improving food production sustainably, competition from biofuels production, diminishing phosphorus supplies, increasing water scarcity Boosting Urban Sustainability and Resilience Challenge: Increasing urbanization will play a key role in future local and global environmental change such as affecting land use and cover, biodiversity, and the hydrologic cycle locally and regionally.

11 Food and Land Issues The New Rush for Land: Responding to New National & International Pressures Challenge Increasing foreign investments in agricultural land, new wave of mining, energy cropping, carbon plantations,. Need for new governance approaches to promote sustainable land management Challenge Land degradation is increasing, the scale is poorly understood, land rights and tenure are fundamental, a new governance approach is needed.

12 Freshwater and Marine Issues New Insights on Water-Land Interactions: Shift in the Management Paradigm Challenge New understanding of interactions between land and water e.g., change in land use affects downwind rainfall this has important implications for how water and land are managed Potential Collapses of Oceanic Systems Requires Integrated Ocean Governance Challenge Acidification, overfishing, land & marinebased pollution, widespread habitat destruction and invasive species posing threat to long-term integrity of oceans current management approach are ineffective for avoiding potential ocean collapse because responsible bodies are currently widely dispersed

13 Freshwater and Marine Issues The Water-Energy Nexus Challenge Water and energy are becoming linked in complex ways, forcing tradeoffs between environmental sectors (land, atmosphere, and biodiversity), necessitating sacrifices by downstream populations and ecosystems to provide hydroelectric power, and contributing to climate changes and an increased severity and frequency of catastrophic droughts and floods. These trends appear to be worsening. New Challenges to Water Availability Demands Efficient Water Usage Challenge Although water scarcity is not a new issue, new challenges such as pollution caused by emerging contaminants including pharmaceuticals, personal care products, nanoparticles and microplastics and unsustainable usage patterns, are worsening water availability.

14 Freshwater and Marine Issues Shortcutting the Degradation of Inland Waters in Developing Countries Challenge Water quality degradation, channel modifications, overfishing posing growing threat to freshwater ecosystems in developing countries.. Constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment Adaptive Governance for Addressing Increasing Pressures on Coastal Ecosystems Challenge Increasing exploitation of coastal resources is degrading coastal ecosystems and affecting the economic, social and environmental gains from coastal ecosystems. The current coastal management options are inadequate for stemming the degradation

15 Biodiversity Issue Beyond Conservation: Integrating Biodiversity Across the Ecological and Economic Agendas Challenge New trends of research have documented the interrelationship between biodiversity and other aspects of society and nature one thread highlights the linkage between biodiversity and other ecological issues, while the other highlights the interrelationship between biodiversity and economics These two scientific insight warrants a paradigm change in the way biodiversity is currently being managed..

16 Climate Change Issues Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation: Managing the Unintended Consequences Challenge Mitigation & adaptation measures aimed at coping with climate change may cause unintended environmental problems e.g. ecosystem impacts of wind-parks Acting on the Signal of Climate Change in the Changing Frequency of Extreme Weather Events Challenge Recent studies comparing modelling and observatory results have confirmed hypothesis that climate change could alter the frequency of occurrence of extreme weather events.

17 Climate Change Issues Consequences of Glacier Retreat: Economic and Social Impacts Challenge Recent research shows that the rates of glacier retreat are much faster than previously predicted These changes pose threats to many, especially in the Himalayas, Central Asia and South American Andes regions Risks include a disruption of water supply patterns which could aggravate conflicts and threaten livelihoods.

18 Climate Change Issues The role of short-lived climate forcers in mitigating climate change Challenge Methane and black carbon are air pollutants which also have climate forcing potentials. Health impacts from fine particles of natural origin allenge Large amounts of soil-derived dust and particles are constantly engulfing major populated areas. These particles can have major impacts on human health

19 Energy Issue Accelerating the Implementation of Environmentally-Friendly Renewable Energy Systems Challenge Renewable energy increasingly seen as a solution to climate change and energy security. But the large potential for renewable energy has not been realized due to many barriers.

20 Waste and Technology Issues Greater Risk than Necessary: The Need for New Approaches to Minimizing Risks of Novel Technologies and Toxic Chemicals Challenge society first produces new technologies and chemicals and then tries to evaluate their impacts ex post facto e.g., synthetic biology & nanotechnology Instead of using a precautionary approach. Changing the Face of Waste: Solving the Impending Scarcity of Strategic Minerals and Avoiding Electronic Waste Challenge Increased demand for high-tech and renewable energy equipment, planned obsolescence, and wasteful manufacturing habits are contributing to a depletion in strategic minerals and also causing build-up of electronic wastes (e-waste).

21 Waste and Technology Issues The Decommissioning of Nuclear Reactors and their Environmental Consequences Challenge Existing nuclear reactors are aging. Earlier estimate: number of plants to be decommissioned doubles over next decade. Fukushima accelerates the trend. Large quantity of radioactive materials. Need to minimize threats to humans & environment.

22 Summing Up UNEP s Emerging Issues Compelling issues with broad consequences for many audiences Cover all major themes climate, biodiversity, hazardous substances and waste, freshwater, land/food, energy, cities, oceans, coastal zone Cross-cutting issues governance, sustainable resource use, production and consumption, human capabilities, science-policy divide, social tipping points, migration Cover both natural & social science perspectives Based on credible & legitimate process derived from debate amongst a distinguished, representative Foresight Panel with wide consultations within UNEP and external scientific communities

23 Thank you

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