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Entries tagged with ‘environment’

The Belgrade Process on International Environmental Governance

The Belgrade Process towards International Environmental Governance involved a first meeting of the Consultative Group of Ministers or High-level Representatives in Belgrade, 27 – 28 June 2009.

The premise of the process is the complex, fragmented and inadequately coordinated institutional context for international environmental governance of growing environmental challenges affecting societies and ecosystems at all scales from local to global.

To date, there are more than 500 multilateral environmental agreements in existence, dozens of agencies mandated to comply with and implement these agreements and address a multitude of other environmental aims and needs, with still fairly limited and dispersed funding sources.

In the last couple years, the persistent debate on how to reform international environmental governance (IEG) has grown and ‘gained significant momentum through processes put into place by the UNEP Governing Council, statements made by Heads of State, as well as through initiatives taken by intergovernmental bodies such as the Commonwealth, and by civil society such as the Global Environmental Governance Project’.

The Consultative Group of the Belgrade Process began by identifying the ‘possible core objectives and underlying functions of the system’ with the aim to find a form for IEG that effectively fits its function. This identification represents a critical step towards defining a pathway for improving IEG, and was a first. It also shows a growing recognition that only when there is a clear analysis of what is needed of the IEG system, followed by an assessment of what exists, can the international community embark upon an effective reform of the system. (UNEP, 2009)

Summary of the Consultative Group activities:
1. The Belgrade Meeting, June 2009 – Output: Roadmap
2. The Rome Meeting, October 2009 – Output: Set of Options for Improving IEG
3. The Bali Meeting, March 2010 – Output: Nusa Dua Declaration (Climate change, sustainable development, Green economy Biodiversity and ecosystems)

UNEP aims to coordinate the development of a ‘functioning IEG system that provides the international framework to support governments in successfully addressing environmental challenges and meeting their commitments at the national level’ and is, ‘in many cases, a precondition for UNEP to carry out other activities effectively’. (UNEP, 2009)

Timeline entry contributed by Biljana Ledenican

The World Conservation Strategy

The World Conservation Strategy was published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in 1980. Its main objectives are:
(a) to maintain essential ecological processes and life support systems,
(b) to preserve genetic diversity, and
(c) to ensure the sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems.

It is said that the concept of ‘sustainable development’ first appeared in the WCS. This document stresses the importance of development within “the reality of resource limitation and the carrying capacities of ecosystems.” While the Brundtland report (1987), which proffers the famous definition of sustainable development, has a strong concentration on the satisfaction of human needs, the WCS is primarily concerned with ecological sustainability. Since the publication of the WCS, many countries have prepared national conservation strategies. Also the concept of conservation of genetic diversity influenced formulation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992).

Among the priorities for national action that the WCS identifies are ‘improving the capacity to manage’ both in terms of ‘legislation and organisation’ and also ‘training and research’.

Timeline entry contributed by Ai Kaibu

Environmental Partnership for Sustainable Development founded

Founded in 1991 as a response to the dramatic political changes in the region, the Environmental Partnership for Central Europe (as it was first called) initially aimed to identify key environmental issues and goals within the regions, for which US-based private foundations could provide financial and technical support.

Moving from the Soviet regime and intense industrial production for economic growth towards the more Westernised goals for Sustainable Development provided a large ideological shift, so the goal for the EPCE was to support NGOs and governments while also encouraging grassroots civil engagement with the global sustainability agenda at both the local, community-based level and the broader cross-border level.

Today the EPSD functions as a consortium of national organisations that have awarded grants of around a total of €20 million across over 8,000 initiatives in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. While these projects target many areas of environmental protection – for example NGO capacity building, organic agriculture and biodiversity protection – their flagship project is the Central European Greenways project which promotes sustainable transport alongside local economic needs and community engagement. These national foundations are the largest source of private investment for sustainable development in the region and continue to support both governments and individuals in meeting and developing their sustainability goals.

Further programs of the EPSD include Schools for Sustainable Development and Alternative Energy including monitoring, information and debate on the risks of nuclear energy.

Timeline entry contributed by Sam Rush

Source: EPSD website

The First Image of Earth from Space

“Earthrise, December 1968 – the first picture of our world taken from space was published 40 years ago this week and still retains its haunting power” (headline from an article in the Independent newspaper from 10th January 2010).

From my own experience, a significant event in the history of science and technology is the first image of the Earth from space. The photograph was captured on Christmas Eve 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission, and was published over 40 years ago in January 1969. That a team of astronauts could travel to space is a great feat and of huge significance for science and technology. The creativity and intelligence of the human mind astounds, and surely has much to offer to sustainability and development.

However, the significance of the image is also symbolic. This image inspired the environmental movement as the social movement as we know it today. This image brought an awareness of a global environment. Seen as the ‘blue marble’ suspended in space, the potential fragility and finiteness of the Earth became apparent. Focus widened to an awareness of more global or transnational threats, and a dialogue between the green movement, which became institutionalised in environmental NGOs, and the private sector and governments was established worldwide.

The significance of the environmental movement today can be seen in its “impact on cultural values and society’s institutions”, in its “distinctive place in the landscape of human adventure”, and how it is “at the root of a dramatic reversal in the ways in which we think about the relationship between economy, society, and nature, thus inducing a new culture” (Castells, 1997). The importance of this ‘new culture’ for sustainability and development is that it links the public with ideas and progress in innovation and technology.

The pursuit of science and technology does not take place in a vacuum, it is given legitimacy by civil society. The environmental movement served as a two-way bridge between the research, design and development in innovation and sustainability and their intended sites for use and implementation, the public sphere. This is a two-way communication whereby civil society informs innovation and sustainability and vice versa, a symbiotic relationship driving science and technology forward on a greener path.

Source: Castells, M. (1997) The Power of Identity. Oxford: Blackwell Publications.

Entry submitted by Orla Martin

Documentary film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’

‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is a documentary film about passionate and inspirational former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s campaign to educate people about global warming.

This film was so shocking and successful that it became a worldwide phenomenon, the most-watched documentary, seen by an estimated audience of 5 million people.

Since its release in 2006 the film has helped awaken governments, leaders, organizations and individuals across the world to take action on global warming.

Entry submitted by Jurgita Zukauskaite

OECD: Achieving the Successful Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technologies

The paper states that in order to successfully transfer environmentally sound technologies, much has to be done both by the developed and developing countries. For example, the paper suggests that there has to be a transfer of know-how, capacity building and technical skills through training. Governments should eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers. Developed countries have to help with financial resources, and new technologies have to be adapted to the recipient country context.

Source: OECD website

Entry submitted by Rosalie Lehel

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