The Global Environment Outlook (GEO) 6 cover. The GEO is often referred to as UN Environment’s flagship environmental assessment.
A senior academic from The University of the South Pacific (USP) was the lead author of biodiversity chapters of the recently-released landmark United Nations report, warning that damage to the planet is so dire that people’s health will be increasingly threatened unless urgent action is taken.
Produced by 250 scientists and experts from more than 70 countries, Professor Jeremy Hills was the only contributor from the Pacific Islands of one of “the most comprehensive and rigorous assessment on the state of the environment completed by the UN”.
Professor Jeremy Hill is the only Pacific contributor to the landmark UN report on the environment.
Dr Hilary Allison, Biodiversity Chapter Co-coordinator for GEO-6 noted that Professor Hills provided valuable inputs on the Pacific region in this global assessment of the environment.
“We developed a case study of community-based ecosystem management from the Pacific region to highlight the diversity of approaches that are necessary to achieve our joint sustainable future,” added Dr Allison, also the Head of Ecosystem Assessment & Policy Support Programme, UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).
Professor Hills was selected for this task through contacts in his international research network based on his previous research experience in environmental policy.
“The process of development of GEO-6 was complicated and lengthy with multiple review processes. It involved detailed research in specific topics, but also much deliberation on the key messages that emerged,” he explained.
With around 250 scientists involved, he said there was constant discussion and negotiation over the 2 years of drafting to come up with the final text.
He stated that while the task involved detailed research and international workshops, he felt it was important to have at least one voice from the Pacific in the report.
“People in the Pacific are highly reliant on the natural resources, especially those from the ocean, thus sustainability of the environment is a key issue to the future of our region. In addition, it is important to internationally recognise the traditional knowledge and tenure systems of the Pacific, which need to be embedded in future initiatives for sustainability,” he noted.
"For equitable representation in such assessments, balancing contributions from North and South countries remains a challenge. This is not only in terms of the expert selection process, but also the limitations of access to literature resources and band-width to participate in online working groups; common challenges in countries of the South,” he shared.
He added that progressive efforts in the design of such assessments could help increase future involvement of Pacific Island experts, reflecting the massive natural resources of the largest Ocean in the world.
A major conclusion of the report is that environmental policy efforts are being hindered by a variety of factors, such as the unsustainable production and consumption patterns in most countries, and by climate change.
Furthermore, it shows that the overall environmental situation is deteriorating globally, the window for action is closing and the cost of inaction is rapidly growing.
The UN Environment’s flagship environment assessment was published on 13 March at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, Kenya.
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