Environment - General
The Montreal Protocol is supported by many countries around the world and calls for the reduction in emissions of the main greenhouse gases. It also called for a monetary fund to be set up to aid developing countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. So far, this fund has delivered over $1 billion to various countries for numerous projects. There has also been the development and adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which has been ratified by 188 countries. However, only 120 countries have ratified the more legally binding Kyoto Protocol, even though many have signed the treaty.
Many localities around the world are also preparing greenhouse gas inventories and actively pursuing programs and policies to reduce these greenhouse gas emissions. This includes local governments participating in the “Cities for Climate Protection” program run by ICLEI, in which they are required to reach targets in the reduction of their greenhouse gas emissions in order to achieve milestones. In 2005, 188 countries will be required to submit reports to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change using new emission reporting guidelines. There is also a need for governments to develop alternative fuel sources to burning fossil fuels and encourage industry groups to produce their own efficient energy.
A cluster of biodiversity policies is currently emerging, including CBD, CITES, CMS and the Ramsar Convention. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed by 182 parties by December 2001. It has 3 main goals: the conservation of biodiversity; sustainable use of the components of biodiversity; and sharing the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way. There is also the recent development of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) which was established to gather information and data, needed to assist in determining the success of global initiatives to protect biodiversity. Currently there is no way to determine the effect of the implementation of applicable policy and how the policy changes may protect or change biodiversity.
There needs to be better support and encouragement for holistic approaches to land management, such as integrated plant nutrition systems and integrated pest management which will lead to better agricultural system health worldwide. There is current work to establish an international program which will develop a set of land quality indicators to allow for the comparison of global land degradation.
Whilst ambient air quality has improved around the world, there is still the need for vigilance. Concerns over common air pollutants have resulted in reductions in many countries. This was achieved through specific policy measures, including emissions and air quality standards, technology-based regulations and different market-based instruments. Stricter environmental regulations in developed countries have resulted in cleaner technology and technological improvements. However, rapid urbanisation in developing countries, along with lenient air pollution legislation has resulted in increasing levels of air pollution.
Throughout the world there have been many areas of forest that have been protected and set aside for conservation and recreation purposes. There has been the implementation of forest certification to inform buyers of the environmental standards reached to provide forest products, that was brought about by a lack of government participation in improving forest management globally. Dealing successfully with forests internationally will depend on the international community achieving political, financial, scientific and technical support for sustainable forest management, particularly in developing countries. It will also require the development of sound land and forest use policies, ongoing monitoring of forests and the introduction of forest management planning at international level.
Unfortunately, the emphasis on water supply, along with weak enforcement of regulations has limited the effectiveness of water resource management, especially in developing countries. There has also been a move away from the focus on riparian rights towards the exploration of efficiency improvements and river basin management, along with a shift from supply solutions to demand management, including water use efficiency and pricing policies. The Second World Water Forum, held in 2000, declared the main challenges, in regards to freshwater, as meeting basic needs, securing the food supply, protecting ecosystems, sharing water resources, managing risks, valuing water and governing water wisely. There has also been the development of methods to encourage people in developing countries to treat their own water using diluted chlorine and special containers.
There are currently international agreements on the treatment of ballast water for exotic species and dumping of waste into oceans in development and these will need to be supported by all countries. There have also been recent developments in the use and technology for wastewater treatment facilities, which will greatly reduce the amount of nutrients in sewage being dumped in marine environments.