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News from Earthwatch - 2001

Global Environmental Headlines

Freshwater Conference

International Conference on Freshwater - was held in Bonn in December 2001
In the week from the 3rd to the 7th December, more than 1,000 representatives of governments, international organisations, associations and non-governmental organisations and from industry and science gathered in Bonn for the International Conference on Freshwater, at the invitation of the Federal Government.
The aim was to work out practical recommendations on action regarding world-wide water supply and wastewater disposal, protection of water bodies and cross-border co-operation. These recommendations are going to be submitted to the heads of states and governments at the UN Summit Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio + 10) in September 2002.


The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a new publication "Aquaculture in the Third Millennium" in December 2001.
Over the next two decades, aquaculture will contribute more to the global food fish supplies and will help further reducing global poverty and food insecurity.

Demography - Population and Environmental Change

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) published "The State of World Population 2001" - POPULATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL CHANGE - report in November 2001
Increasing population and consumption, propelled by new technologies and globalization, are altering the planet on an unprecedented scale. Everywhere we see signs of stress— destroyed natural habitats, threatened and extinct species, degraded soil, polluted air and water, and melting ice-caps from global warming.

Climate change

UNEP Press release - November 2001. Rising temperatures, linked with emissions of greenhouse gases, can damage the ability of vital crops such as rice, maize and wheat, to flower and set seed. New studies indicate that for every one degree C rise in areas such as the Tropics, yields could tumble by as much as 10 per cent. Average, global, temperatures in the Tropics could climb by as much as three degrees C by 2100. Key cash crops such as coffee and tea in some of the major growing regions will also be vulnerable over the coming decades to global warming.

Greenhouse Gas Emission Graphics - set of graphics produced by GRID-Arendal in co-operation with the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for the 7th Conference of the Parties (COP-7) to the Convention, held in Marrakesh, Morocco 29th October to 9th November 2001.

UNEP.Net Climate Change portal launched in October 2001

Vital Climate Graphics - 2001 - published by UNEP/GRID-Arendal
The visual information contained in Vital Climate Graphics makes it possible to grasp complex facts more quickly and fully than would be possible through simple text. The graphical impact is supported by additional written details that help to fill in the picture. The first set of graphics focuses on the impacts of climate change and are available as overhead slides and can be obtained via CD ROMs, booklets or the Internet.

IPCC Third Assessment Report now available for download. The IPCC’s Third Assessment Report, published in January (Vol. I), February (Vol. II) and March (Vol. III) 2001, was written and reviewed by hundreds of climate change experts on the basis of the most up-to-date, peer-reviewed research available.

New Forest Assessments

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued the "State of the World's Forests 2001" (SOFO), in October 2001
FAO warned in its report that tropical countries continue to lose their forests at a very high rate.

Web edition of the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 Main report (FRA 2000) was released in October 2001
The report provides a comprehensive and up-to-date view of the world’s forest resources. It is the result of the collective efforts of the countries of the world.

UNEP published new Report, An Assessment of the Status of the World's Remaining Closed Forests in August 2001
A unique satellite-based survey of the planet's remaining closed forests, which include virgin, old growth and naturally-regenerated woodlands, has found that over 80 per cent are located in just 15 countries. Efforts to save the world's last, critically important forests, should initially focus on just a handful of countries.

New Depleted Uranium Assessment

UNEP starded new Depleted Uranium Assessment in Serbia and Montenegro in October 2001

Ozone layer

UNEP Press release - Recognizing the need to eliminate any remaining weaknesses in the international regime for protecting the earth's ozone layer, governments met in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 16 to 19 October 2001 in order to strengthen the effectiveness of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
While smaller than the 2000 record thinning, the 2001 spring ozone "hole" over Antarctica measures 24 million square kilometers - almost the combined size of the Russian Federation and Brazil. Earlier this year, during the Northern Hemisphere spring, the ozone layer over the Canadian Arctic declined by 20% for a short time, while over Northern Siberia the decline exceeded 30% in early March. Declines of 10 to 12% were measured over large areas of densely settled Europe, and declines of 6 to 10% were recorded over North America.

The International Ozone Day is an annual event that takes place on September 16. For the year 2001 celebration UNEP issued a press release, stating that a range of new chemicals, used in everything from fire extinguishers to cleaning fluids, are appearing on the market to the concern of scientists studying the ozone layer. The new substances, with names such as n-propyl bromide and halon-1202, are not controlled by the Montreal Protocol which lists ozone-depleting substances that are to be phased out.
Studies indicate that some of the new substances, which are being used as replacements for banned ones, may have the potential to damage the ozone layer. The quantities being manufactured are at the moment believed to be small, but over the coming years they may be produced in ever increasing quantities.

Biodiversity issues

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD October 2001), there is an urgent need to address the impact of invasive alien species. Eradication, control, mitigation of their impacts combined with legislation and guidelines at national, regional and international levels are some of the ways that the Convention is addressing the issue.

UNEP's Great Apes Survival Project (GRASP) - program launched in May 2001

Coral Reefs

UNEP-WCMC releases World Atlas of Coral Reefs in September 2001: The most detailed assessment of the status and distribution of the world's coral reefs.



Report urges better nutrition to improve economic growth. Economic impacts of transboundary pests and diseases also examined in special chapter.


Land resources

UNEP has released an environmental assessment report entitled “The Mesopotamian Marshlands: Demise of an Ecosystem” in August 2001. The report, which was prepared by GRID-Geneva in collaboration with GRID-Sioux Falls and the Regional Office for West Asia, is available on-line.


New Cities reports

New UNCHS reports published in June 2001: State of the Worlds's Cities Report and Cities in a Globalizing World


Earthwatch Activities

Earthwatch Working Party

The seventh meeting of the Earthwatch Working Party was be held at the UNEP offices in Geneva on Monday 10 December and Tuesday 11 December 2001. The Meeting documents are available online.


The United Nations Environment Programme has launched the pilot version of UNEP.NET, its new global environmental information network on the Internet. The new web site at http://www.unep.net/ includes the Explorer search tool, country profiles and the Protected Areas Atlas. Further components will be added as they are developed. The new site aims to provide integrated global information on the state of and trends in the environment provided by many partners. It has been designed by the UNEP Division of Early Warning and Assessment in collaboration with the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) and other partners. The official launching took place on 8 February 2001 during UNEP's Governing Council in Nairobi.

Earthwatch reorganization

With the transfer of the former Coordinator of Earthwatch, Arthur Dahl, as Director of the new UNEP Coral Reef Unit in the Division of Environmental Conventions, responsibility for Earthwatch Coordination has now devolved on other staff in the Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA) as follows:

Tim Foresman, Director of DEWA, will represent UNEP in plenary sessions of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). Tim Foresman will also be the focal point for liaison with the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) of ICSU, IGBP and other international scientific programmes.

Overall responsibility for UN System-wide Earthwatch now rests with Dave MacDevette, head of the Assessment Branch, supported by the Assessment Branch Partnership Management Unit. An Earthwatch Coordination Officer will be recruited in Geneva through the GRID-Geneva partnership to handle day-to-day activities, organize meetings of the Earthwatch Working Party, arrange UN system inputs to GEO, oversee maintenance of the Earthwatch web-site, etc.

Dave MacDevette takes over responsibility for Environmental Indicators in close collaboration with Ashbindu Singh. Indicators are a prime tool in assessment processes and will form the input reporting framework for the annual UNEP State of the Environment Reports.

Ashbindu Singh will be the UNEP focal point on environmental statistics and represent UNEP on the ACC Subcommittee on Statistical Activities

Global Observing Systems (GCOS, GOOS, and GTOS) and the Sponsors Group for the G3OS will be the responsibility of the Early Warning Branch, with Dan Claasen as the designated focal point for the Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS) Partnership. Maintenance of the IGOS-P web-site has been transferred to IOC-UNESCO. Arthur Dahl will continue in his new role to take the lead in the development of a coral reef theme under IGOS.


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