Nairobi – The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2013 tackled a range of critical and emerging issues on the global environmental agenda, according to the organization’s 2013 Annual Report, which was released on March 26.
The report focuses on UNEP’s achievements in key focus areas: climate change; disasters and conflicts; ecosystem management; environmental governance; harmful substances and hazardous waste; resource efficiency; and sustainable consumption and production.
On harmful substances and hazardous waste, the report spotlights the historic adoption of the Minamata Convention on Mercury – a global, legally binding agreement to reduce mercury emissions and the first new global convention on environment and health for close to a decade – which was widely viewed as a major step forward in the global phase-out of the deadly heavy metal.
It also addresses UNEP’s work in reducing the lead content of fuels and paint, and tackling ozone-depleting substances such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons and methyl bromide.
In the area of climate change, the report highlights the findings of its Emissions Gap Report 2013 – which details the gap between current global emissions and the reduction needed to remain on track to meet the 2 degree Celsius global warming target – and its Africa Adaptation Gap Report, which describes the costs of adaptation measures on the African continent under various global warming scenarios.
It also focuses on the 2013 opening of the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) and the adoption of a Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in developing countries ‘Rulebook’, as well as the organization’s work on adaptation, energy and resilience.
The report describes UNEP’s work in the area of ecosystem management, in particular with regard to natural capital, payments for ecosystem services and the marine environment.
In this regard, efforts by UNEP and partners to incorporate the value of nature – natural capital, as it is known – into economic and developmental policies are also spotlighted. Over the course of the year, the UNEP-hosted Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), with 115 member states, established an ambitious five-year work programme and agreed to develop a set of fast-track assessments.
Meanwhile, more nations embarked on studies under the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) initiative, which has already demonstrated the negative economic impact of unsustainable management of ecosystems. Bhutan, Ecuador, Liberia, the Philippines and Tanzania have initiated studies to assess and value their natural capital, while others such as Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have expressed interest in TEEB scoping studies.
Environmental governance measures addressed by the report include UNEP’s capacity building efforts to enhance the implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs); its new Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI); and various efforts to address the illegal wildlife trade.
Also in 2013, UNEP’s Governing Council met for the first time under universal membership following the adoption of a 2012 resolution by the UN General Assembly which called for a significant upgrade to the organization.
Activities to bring science to policy makers and the general public are also detailed, including the launch of UNEP Live, a new digital platform to collect, process and share the world’s best environmental science and research.
In the area of resource efficiency, green economy initiatives are featured, including the Partnership for Action on the Green Economy (PAGE), the UNEP Finance Initiative, and the Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative.
Among emerging issues, it notes that pastoralism – the branch of agriculture relating to the herding and tending of livestock – will come into greater focus as an element of the green economy, through UNEP’s partnerships with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Alliance of Indigenous Peoples.
The report also highlights the benefit of UNEP’s work to communities though success stories such as a programme for small-scale gold mining communities in Indonesia. The initiative works with individuals to help introduce simple recycling techniques to reduce the use and impact of mercury on human health and the environment.
The project, which was created in conjunction with partners and funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, also helped the mining sector and the government to develop a national strategic plan on mercury in small-scale gold mining, resulting in the reduction of mercury releases by an estimated 3,000 kg in one year.
For each focus area, the report lists budget allocations and expenditures, evaluates achieved results against expected accomplishments and describes areas of action. It also includes sections on the environment in numbers, financial and management issues, and the Champions of the Earth award.
Click here to read/download the report.