WGSI releases blueprint for low-carbon energy future; ecosystem approach
US and Mexico sign agreement for development of transboundary oil and gas resources in Gulf of Mexico; access to nearly 1.5M acres of US Outer Continental Shelf

UN scientific panel ranks overhaul of global environmental governance to meet 21st century challenges as top emerging issue; GEO-5 summary issued

A complete overhaul of global environmental governance is urgently needed if the challenges of global sustainability are to be met for seven billion people, according to a wide-ranging Foresight Process conducted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The process involved a Foresight Panel and more than 400 scientists and experts from around the world.

The current system of governance, with its maze of interlocking multilateral agreements evolved during the 20th century, was believed by the majority to be unsuitable and ill-equipped to meet the risks and to deliver the opportunities for the 21st century.

Issues were put out for consultation and feedback from more than 400 scientists and researchers worldwide. Based on their responses, the panel produced a ranked list of “21 Issues for the 21st Century”, and concluded that the number one issue facing the planet is Aligning Governance to the Challenges of Global Sustainability.

In general, national governments typically lack the capacity to support strong policy actions on environment at the global level. Yet the numerous emerging environmental challenges facing the world today are unlikely to be resolved without major, new efforts by governments in addressing the fundamental governance challenges that lie ahead.

Incrementalism and piecemeal approaches to global governance may not guarantee the urgently needed transition to more sustainable means of production and consumption. It appears that we may be seeing the emergence of a ‘constitutional moment’ in the development of international relations and governance, comparable in recent times only to the major constitutional moment of 1945 ‘post World War II’ that saw the emergence of a multitude of new, and often unprecedented, international norms, institutions, and agencies. Similar fundamental revisions in norms, processes and mechanisms of global governance would help address the global sustainability challenge.

—Foresight Report

Some commentators believe that the current system lacks the necessary representativeness, accountability and effectiveness for the transition to sustainability, and that a much higher level of participation and transparency is needed.

New models of governance are being tested, ranging from public-private community partnerships to alliances between environmentalist and other civil society groups. However, the effectiveness of novel governance arrangements is unclear and requires further scrutiny.

The second most pressing emerging issue is Transforming Human Capabilities for the 21st Century: Meeting Global Environmental Challenges and Moving towards a Green Economy. A wide-ranging upgrade is needed in the skills and education of the global workforce if the opportunities of the Green Economy are to be seized. Action is needed to close the skills gaps in the green sector; update educational institutions to better meet educational needs for sustainability work; train managers to better identify and respond to global environmental change; and encourage research to address the sustainability challenge.

Ranked number 3 of the 21 emerging issues is Ensuring Food Safety and Food Security for 9 Billion People. Although food security is a longstanding issue, the world needs to confront a new set of challenges such as climate change, competition for land from bioenergy production, heightened water scarcity, and possible shortfalls of phosphorus for fertilizer.

Food safety also faces new challenges from increasing disease transmission from animals to people and food contamination. There is also an urgent need to increase the security and safety of the world’s food supply by setting up more comprehensive early warning systems, supporting smallholder farmers, reducing food waste, and increasing agricultural efficiency.

The other top ten of emerging issues ranked are:

  • Broken Bridges: Reconnecting Science and Policy

  • Social Tipping Points? Catalyzing Rapid and Transformative Changes in Human Behavior Towards the Environment

  • New Insights on Water-Land Interactions: Shift in the Management Paradigm?

  • (joint) Accelerating the Implementation of Environmentally-Friendly RenewableEnergy / Beyond Conservation: Integrating Biodiversity Across the Environmental; and Economic Agendas / New Challenges for Climate Change Mitigation; and Adaptation: Managing the Unintended Consequences

  • Greater Risk than Necessary? The Need for a New Approach for Minimizing Risks of Novel Technologies and Chemicals.

The launch of the Foresight Report comes in advance of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 20-22 June 2012 under the theme of a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. The second overarching theme is the institutional framework for sustainable development.

UNEP’s Foresight Panel consists of 22 members of the scientific community from 16 developing and industrialized countries who are internationally recognized because of their expertise in one or more environmental or related issues. The Panel, whose findings were released on Monday at the opening of the 12th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, selected a preliminary list of 21 emerging issues after a first round of debate on more than 90 issues.

The eight-month Foresight Process was organized by UNEP’s Chief Scientist’s Office and the Division of Early Warning and Assessment. The process was to identify and rank the most pressing emerging issues in the sphere of the environment—issues which perhaps do not currently receive the attention they deserve—but which have a huge impact on the planet and on human well-being. While the scientific community is on the frontline of assessing emerging threats and finding innovative solutions to environmental challenges, the report reveals that they need more support from international political and delivery structures if real progress is to be made and a sustainable century realized.

The Foresight Process has brought a unique and sharp focus to the emerging issues the world is facing. It is a snapshot of expert scientific opinion, underlining how even long standing issues such as governance, food security and water scarcity are evolving and metamorphosing as accelerating environmental change presents fresh and fundamentally new challenges.

The findings dovetail with the summary for policy makers of GEO-5, which comes in advance of the full report—to be launched in early June—just weeks before Rio+20. The final report will offer the analysis and the scientific foresight that can not only inform governments, the public and civil society on just how far the current development path is stretching the planet and fast forwarding tipping points. It hopefully will be also read, understood and digested by everyone interested in transforming sustainable development from theory and patchy success into implemented day to day practice.

—Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director

Survey shows consensus on boosting renewable energy. A regional breakdown of the global survey of 400 leading environmental scientists shows a strong consensus on the need to prioritize Renewable Energy.

Respondents from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe all placed Accelerating the Implementation of Environmentally-Friendly Renewable Energy Sources number one on their list of priorities for the 21st Century.

Respondents from North America and West Asia placed it at number two, behind Getting a Grasp on Conflicting Water Uses and New Challenges for Improving Food Safety and Security, respectively.

Global Environment Outlook-5. The findings from the Foresight Process and Panel also come in advance of UNEP’s authoritative state of the environment report—Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5) to be launched on and around World Environment Day in Brazil in early June, weeks before the Rio+20 summit.

On Monday, UNEP released the GEO-5 Summary for Policy Makers as a prelude to the full report. GEO-5 assessed progress and gaps in meeting 90 internationally agreed goals. Significant progress was found for just 4 goals; some progress has been made for 40 and for 32 goals there was very little or no progress. Furthermore, GEO-5 regional policy analysis provides over 90 promising policies and 116 case studies which can help countries speed up meeting our internationally agreed goals.

The GEO-5 Summary for Policy Makers (GEO-5 SPM) is based on the scientific findings of the Global Environmental Outlook-5 report. It was developed by UNEP with the guidance of the GEO-5 High Level Intergovernmental Advisory Panel and with technical inputs from the GEO-5 authors. Governments convened in Gwanju city, Republic of South Korea to negotiate the GEO-5 Summary for Policy Makers and endorsed it on 31 January 2012.

The Summary warns of the continued deterioration in the state of the global environment, pointing out that internationally agreed goals have only been partially met:

  • The internationally agreed goal of avoiding the adverse effects of climate change is presenting the global community with one of its most serious challenges that is threatening overall development goals.

  • The rate of forest loss, particularly in the tropics, remains alarmingly high.

  • 80% of the world’s population lives in areas with high levels of threat to water security, affecting 3.4 billion people, mostly in developing countries.

  • At least 415 coastal areas have exhibited serious eutrophication and only 13 of these are recovering.

  • Up to two thirds of species are threatened with extinction. Since 1970, vertebrate populations have fallen by 30 per cent and degradation has resulted in declines of 20 per cent of some natural habitats.

The Summary for Policy Makers calls for policies that focus on the underlying drivers of environmental change (such as the negative aspects of population growth, consumption and production, urbanization) rather than just concentrating on reducing environmental pressures or symptoms. Recommendations include:

  • The use of timely and accurate data to inform decision-making;

  • Reversal of policies that generate unsustainable outcomes;

  • The creation of incentives to advance sustainable practices;

  • Urgent, ambitious and cooperative action by governments to meet internationally agreed goals;

  • Strengthening access to information;

  • The engagement of civil society, the private sector and other relevant actors in policy-making processes.

The summary contains a number of priority areas for action and includes examples of promising policies and practices that can be scaled-up in all regions to help countries meet internationally agreed goals. It reinforces the Foresight Report’s call for improved international environmental governance.




Internationnal environmental governance will never work because canada will oppose that with their polluting tar sands feeding petrol to the americans and china.

Also it's because of that governance leeded by big oil that we are plague by inneficient green car options like the nissan leaf, mitshubishi imiev and tesla. They organized the demise of hydrogen and directed tons of subsidies toward inneficient lithium ion batteries to proteck petrol sales. It's big oil that is behind all this internationnal turmoil. They find a reason( environment) to by-pass regular goverments to create for themself big inneficient internationnal new entities above regular goverments. All in all big oil bought all regular goverments and do not respect the law anymore and this website is own entirelly by big oil, their trick is to appear green then subtilly promote petrol and subsidised batteries and escape hydrogen.


I need to be careful about what I write or else you-know-who might report me to Mike....but didn't a bunch of our elected representives, including a nobel prize winner, fly to Copenhagen a couple years ago to try and address all these issues already? And what were the results of that - except a bunch of countries with their hands out for money from America.


The problem was they weren't the only ones that flew to Copenhagen. The friends of oil were there too.


With world population at 10+ B before the end of the century, it is fair to assume that various essential measures will have to be taken to:

1. control pollution (ALL) to ensure the survival of plants, animals and humans.

2. ensure the availability of fresh water.

3. ensure the availability of food for 10+B.

4. do whatever we can to reduce climate change and its adverse effects.

Globally, about 70% of the fresh water is currently being use for agriculture. That is about 4+ times too much. Crops like corn requiring huge amount of fresh water will have to be curtailed in favor of dry weather resistant crops. Southern Alberta is already facing that problem while Northern Alberta is being adversely affected by Tar Sands mining.

Canada, under the current administration, IS NOT an example to follow.


HarveyD - you need to be careful with posts like that because you-know-who might report you to Mike for straying from the topic of sustainable mobility.


The specific subject here is 'Global Environmental Governance' not Sustainable Mobility.

In the not too distant future, we may not have enough fresh water to mass produce corn grain and/or sugar cane ethanol for our gas guzzlers.

Harnessing much more wind and solar energy directly into clean electricity for future electrified vehicles and other domestic-commercial-industrial use will make better sense shortly. Any way, we may not have a choice, if we want to survive.


What is needed is another layer of bureaucrats under the heading of One World Government led by an unelected dictator and a committee of environmental Kommisars.

That will be four layers now, local, state, federal, and one world if one happens to be living in the US. In Europe it's five. This new entity will tax and spend just like the rest. A Schnaps idee if ever there was one just like the federal ethanol mandate. No pun intended.

If given a choice at the pump most people would not buy ethanol as a gasoline additive according to a recent poll.



Quit acting like a child, stop shooting your mouth off about subjects that do not belong on this site and you won't get booted.


There is a very well known name for single layer governance. In prehistoric days and not so long ago, the good leaders were self-appointed after a Revolution, named by a Universal Entity, or inherited the right to rule from their predecessors.

Alexander the Great, Cesar, Khan, Bonaparte, Hitler, Franco, Stalin, and many others have exercised single layer governance with some success in their early days but power corrupted most of them after 10 short years or so.


Right the more bureaucrats the better. The Europeans are finding out the hard way. The place is turning into the EUSSR.


M....most of Africa has single layer governance and the results are nothing to write home about. Many modern industrial countries have used (and are still using) multi-layer democratic governance with well known success.

Stan Peterson

All these appeals for "international governance" are just so much dreck by people with palms out to line, and who add nothing.

If you want to control pollution, control it; as the US is almost finshed doing. Not how others who moan and complain endlessly about needing to do so, and actually doing next to nothing, at all.

There are only handfull of US counties remaining with Air Quality that is unsatisfactory, and even there they are much cleaner than before.

The US Air is clearing, and the rivers and lakes have been largely cleansed to acceptable standards.

The days of burning rivers and acrid, choking, smog are long gone, except in geographjical accidents like Los Angeles and the smog there is much lighter and occurs only 20-30 days a year instead of 300+ days a a year as happened as late as the 1970s.

Controlling pollution just takes hard work and persistence, now that the cleanup technologies have been invented. Not just Talk.

The comments to this entry are closed.