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News from Earthwatch - 2004

Global Environmental Headlines

UNEP decided to create a Task Force in Geneva to coordinate all inputs from the UNEP system to identify and alleviate the environmental impacts of the Asian Tsunami disaster and to support the efforts of the affected countries and the UN. Urgent environmental concerns that threaten human health must be addressed, as announced on 30 December.

UNEP support echoes directly the requests from national authorities for environmental experts to assess and mitigate the urgent problems.

UNEP Release: Environmental Issues Emerging from Wreckage of Asian Tsunami
UNEP Release: UN Launches Initial Tsunami Appeal & Seeks Early Warning System within a Year
UNEP Release: UN Mobilizes to Aid Asian Tsunami Survivors
UNEP Tsunami Crisis Website:

The Tenth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10), in Buenos Aires on 6-17 December, marked the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which served as a central theme for the meeting. In addition to the accomplishments of the past ten years and future challenges, discussions at COP 10 highlighted a range of climate-related issues including, the impacts of climate change and adaptation measures, mitigation policies and their impacts, and technology.

Figures released at the international climate change conference, show that for the first 10 months of 2004 natural disasters cost the insurance industry just over $ 35 billion, up from $ 16 billion in 2003.

In the face of growing evidence that climate change impacts can already be detected, the conference adopted the Buenos Aires Programme of Work on Adaptation and Response Measures.

UNEP Release: Climate Change Convention, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 6-17 Dec. 2004
UNEP Release: Extreme Weather Losses Soar to Record High for Insurance Industry
UNEP Release: Buenos Aires Conference Advances Efforts to Adapt to Climate Change
COP 10 Website:

Despite the lessons learned from the Baia Mare catastrophe in January 2000, the Tisza river basin, its people and nature remain threatened by environmental insecurity, in particular from floods and accidental pollution risks, according to a new report from UNEP, released on 13 December. The report, Rapid Environmental Assessment of the Tisza River Basin, was presented to the first Ministerial Meeting of the Danube River Protection Convention, in Vienna .

The new report notes that the Tsiza river basin ecosystem is regenerating itself after the cyanide accident, with wildlife largely recovering. But, it says more concerted action is needed to address environmental threats or “insecurities”, and recommends an “Integrated Sustainable Development Strategy” for the entire catchment area of the river Tisza, which includes Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia and Montenegro.

UNEP Release: New Environmental Assessment Launched at Danube Ministerial Meeting
UNEP Report: Rapid Environmental Assessment of the Tisza River Basin

A ministerial meeting on the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer was held on 22-26 November, and decided on how best to ensure that the stratospheric ozone layer returns to health over the next several decades.

The international conference on protecting the ozone layer has ended with governments agreeing to a global survey of the amounts of a key chemical being used in so called quarantine and pre-shipment. The meeting also made other key decisions including one to grant essential use exemptions for CFCs used in metered dose inhalers.

UNEP Release: International Conference on Protecting the Ozone Layer Concludes
UNEP Release: Montreal Protocol Talks on Protecting the Ozone Layer
Ozone Secretariat Website:

The 90-day countdown to the Kyoto Protocol’s entry into force was triggered on 18 November by the receipt of the Russian Federation’s instrument of ratification by the United Nations Secretary-General. The Protocol will become legally binding on its 128 Parties on 16 February 2005.

Only four industrialized countries have not yet ratified the Kyoto Protocol: they are Australia, Liechtenstein, Monaco and the United States. Australia and the United States have stated that they do not plan to do so; together they account for over one third of the greenhouse gases emitted by the industrialized world.

UNFCCC Release: Kyoto Protocol to Enter into Force 16 February 2005
UNEP Release: Russia’s Ratification of the Kyoto Climate Treaty “Historic” Says Kofi Annan

The General Assembly declared 6 November of each year as the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict (resolution 56/4).

As long as wars have existed, the environment and natural resources have been their silent victims. Crops have been torched, water wells polluted, forests cut down, soils poisoned and animals killed. During the 1991 Gulf War, Kuwait’s oil wells were deliberately set on fire, and millions of gallons of crude oil were discharged in waterways. In Cambodia, 35 per cent of the forest cover was destroyed during two decades of civil war and unrest. During the conflict in Angola, the wildlife population dropped by 90 per cent. And during the Viet Nam War, millions of tons of Agent Orange were sprayed over that country’s jungles, stripping vast areas of vegetation, some of them still unsuitable, even today, for agricultural use.

On a practical level, the United Nations is responding more and more actively when war-related environmental damage is occurring, so as to assess damage, clean up contamination and help countries build up their capacity for post-conflict environmental management. The United Nations Environment Programme has played such a role in the Balkans and is currently active in Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia and the occupied Palestinian territory.

UNEP Statement: International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War
UN Statement: no conflict is too remote to affect local environment, Secretary-General says
UN Day: 6 November 2004

A major pan-African conference on water for food and ecosystems was held in Addis Ababa on 4-6 November 2004.

The Addis Ababa water conference was jointly organized by the governments of Ethiopia and the Netherlands, the African Union and FAO, to study promising approaches and actions in integrated water resource management. The results of the conference will be presented at the International Conference on Water for Food and Ecosystems, which will take place from 31 January to 5 February 2005 in The Hague, which in turn will provide an input to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-13).

FAO Release: African water meeting seeks to harmonize water for food and ecosystems
Conference Website:

Boards are failing to disclose to financial investors how environmental and social issues pose strategic risks and opportunities for their businesses, according to an international review of corporate sustainability reports by SustainAbility, UNEP and Standard & Poor’s. Risk & Opportunity: Best Practice in Non-Financial Reporting finds that only three reports of the Top 50 assess the balance sheet implications of key environmental and social risks, despite this information being increasingly important to analysts, investors, lenders, insurers and re-insurers. The report was released in London on 1 November.

UNEP Release: Companies Fail to Identify Key Social and Environmental Risks
Report: Risk & Opportunity: Best Practice in Non-Financial Reporting

As part of the Seventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention, held in Geneva at the Palais des Nations from 25 to 28 October 2004, a new publication, “Vital Waste Graphics”, was launched on 28 October.

“Vital Waste Graphics” aims to give policymakers, experts, media professionals, teachers and students an overview of relevant waste-related issues, causes, effects, as well as possible solutions. The report provides sound facts and figures on the broadest spectrum of issues relevant to waste today, based on clear and user-friendly graphics. These include definitions of waste, the generation of waste, different waste streams, including new problematic waste streams, the transport and trade of waste, cross-cutting themes linked to sustainable development such as climate change and poverty, among others, as well as hopes and solutions.

UNEP Release: "Vital Waste Graphics" released today
Report Website

The State Duma of the Russian Federation endorsed on 22 October ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. The UNFCCC Executive Secretary expressed satisfaction at this important step in bringing the Kyoto Protocol into force. The next steps in the ratification process are consideration by the Federation Council (upper house of parliament), signing into law by President Vladimir Putin and depositing the formal instrument of ratification with the Secretary-General of the United Nations in New York. The Kyoto Protocol will enter into force 90 days after Russia's instrument of ratification has been received.

“The fight against climate change has been under starters orders for far too long. But it is finally out of the blocks and running as a result of this very welcome decision to ratify by the Russian Parliament,” said Mr Toepfer, who earlier this year expressed confidence that Russia would finally come on board.

UNFCC Release: Russian decision on ratification – major step towards entry into force of Kyoto Protocol
: UNEP’s Executive Director Statement on Kyoto Protocol Endorsement by Russian Duma

Environmental degradation and access to natural resources could deepen contention in areas of existing conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent regions of Azerbaijan. According to a new report released in Tbilisi on 22 October, the militarised situation also hampers waste management and disposal, and the maintenance and renovation of irrigation and hydroelectric dams, constraining economic growth.

The report, “Environment and Security: Transforming Risks into Cooperation - The Case of the Southern Caucasus,” was prepared by OSCE, UNDP and UNEP looks at both the negative impacts of conflict in the region as well as the opportunities environmental issues present for co-operation and confidence building.

UNEP Release: Caucasus - Transforming Risks into Co-Operation
: Environment and Security: Transforming Risks into Cooperation - The Case of the Southern Caucasus
Env&Sec Initiative Website:

The Global Crop Diversity Trust, an initiative to conserve in perpetuity the Earth's most crucial agricultural biodiversity, entered into force on 21 October as an independent international organization.

According to FAO, the launch of the Trust comes as plant diversity suffers record losses in both farmers' fields and the wild. Extreme hunger and poverty also contribute to diminished plant diversity in many parts of the world. Even the genebanks that are intended to be safe havens for crop diversity are under increasing threat from underfunding.

FAO Release: Crop Trust to conserve plant diversity
Trust Website

The human race is plundering the planet at a pace that outstrips its capacity to support life, according to a report by WWF, released on 21 October.

The Living Planet Report 2004 shows that humans currently consume 20 per cent more natural resources than the earth can produce, and that populations of terrestrial, freshwater and marine species fell on average by 40 per cent between 1970 and 2000.

WWF Release: WWF update on alarming state of the world
WWF Report
: Living Planet Report 2004

The General Assembly declared 17 October as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. It noted that activities undertaken with respect to the Day will take into account those undertaken each 17 October by certain non-governmental organizations and invited all States to devote the Day to presenting and promoting, as appropriate in the national context, concrete activities on the eradication of poverty and destitution. The General Assembly also invited intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to assist States, at their request, in organizing national activities for the observance of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, paying due attention to the specific problems of the destitute.

The Day seeks to promote increased awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and serves to remind all people that sustained and concerted effort is vital to achieve the millennium development goal (MDG) of halving the number of people living in poverty by 2015.

UN: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
UNESCO Activities
: Poverty and Human Rights: UNESCO's Anti-Poverty Projects

Each year on 16 October, FAO celebrates World Food Day in commemoration of its founding on that day in Quebec City in 1945.

This year's World Food Day theme, "Biodiversity for Food Security", highlights the vital role of biodiversity in ensuring that all people have sustainable access to enough diversified food to lead active and healthy lives.

FAO estimates that about three-quarters of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops have been lost over the last century. And of 6 300 animal breeds, 1 350 are endangered or already extinct.

FAO Release: World Food Day 2004 points to the vital role of biodiversity for food security
WFD Website

Women As the Voice for the Environment

More than 140 prominent women environmentalists from 60 countries, including seven environment ministers and other high level representatives, are meeting at the headquarters of UNEP in Nairobi between 11 and 13 October to express their concerns about the global environment.

Under the banner Women As the Voice for the Environment (WAVE), the first Global Women’s Assembly on the Environment will highlight the crucial roles women play in conservation and sustainable development. Participants will develop a Manifesto on Women and Environment with concrete policy recommendations and a portfolio of specific project ideas.

UNEP Release: UNEP Hosts First Women's Environment Assembly
WAVE Website

UN applauds awarding of Nobel Peace Prize to Kenyan environmental activist

Praising her "pioneering struggle" against deforestation and for women's rights and democracy, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on 8 October he was delighted by the awarding of this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya.

The first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Professor Maathai is Deputy Environment and Natural Resources Minister in her country's Government and has been a lawmaker since December 2002. She also founded the Green Belt Movement, which has planted more than 20 million trees across Africa.

For its part, UNEP announced that understanding is growing throughout the world of the close links between environmental protection and global security, so it is most fitting that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded this year to Africa’s staunchest defender of the environment, Professor Wangari Maathai, for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

UNEP Statement: Statement of the United Nations Environment Programme regarding the Award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Professor Wangari Maathai
UN Statement: Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the Nobel Peace Prize

Children face higher risks from pesticides than adults and need greater protection against these chemicals, particularly in developing countries, according to a joint report published by FAO, UNEP and WHO ("Child Pesticide Poisoning: Information for Advocacy and Action"), as announced on 5 October.

The number of children affected is unknown but, based on the experience of many countries, likely to be large. The report highlights both the magnitude of the problem and the need to put more efforts into better reaching and helping the rural, disadvantaged populations who are most affected by pesticide poisoning.

Two key international conventions are aiming at reducing the adverse health and environmental aspects of pesticides: The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), created to reduce and eliminate 12 POPs of which nine are pesticides, and The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. The Rotterdam Convention facilitates information exchange on a broad range of potentially hazardous chemicals and gives importing countries the power to decide whether or not they want to receive future imports of certain chemicals.

UNEP Release: Children face higher risks from pesticide poisoning
FAO Release: Children face higher risks from pesticide poisoning
: Childhood pesticide poisoning: Information for advocacy and action

The 166 member governments of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meet in Bangkok from 2 – 14 October to update the trade rules governing some of the world’s most charismatic, exploited and economically valuable wildlife species.

The conference will decide on some 50 proposals for improving the conservation and sustainable use of the African elephant, the minke whale, the great white shark, the ramin timber tree, the Chinese yew and other medicinal plants, the yellow-crested cockatoo and the lilac-crowned parrot, five Asian turtles, the white rhinoceros, the Nile and American crocodiles, the European date mussel and many other species.

UNEP Release: CITES conference on wildlife trade considers new rules for high-value species
CITES Website:

The theme of World Habitat Day on Monday 4 October this year is, Cities – Engines of Rural Development. The theme was chosen to remind development policy-makers at every level not to think of “urban” and “rural” as separate entities, but rather as parts of an economic and social whole.

Cities interact with rural areas in many ways. Migrants living and working in cities send money to families in rural areas. Cities absorb excess rural populations, and offer markets for farm produce and other rural products. They provide services and amenities -- such as universities and hospitals – that may not be available or feasible in rural areas. Cities are also the locus of most global investment, raising demand for goods, labour and other inputs from rural areas.

UN-Habitat WHD website:

Ministers and officials from over 100 countries will mark the debut of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade at the first conference of the parties, held in Geneva, from 20-24 September. One of the main tasks of the meeting is to take decisions on whether to add up to 15 new chemicals and pesticides to the list of substances subject to the Prior Informed Consent procedure.

The Convention’s Prior Informed Consent procedure provides developing countries with an additional tool for managing hazardous chemicals and pesticides more effectively. It permits them to prevent shipments of certain hazardous chemicals from entering their territory unless they have explicitly agreed to their import.

UNEP Release: Up to 15 hazardous chemicals and pesticides to be added to trade “watch list”
Rotterdam Convention Website:

The 2004 Clean Up the World Weekend, 17 -19 September, is an opportunity for Members and volunteers from around the world to celebrate year round environmental achievements and will be a time of action as volunteers get physical and clean up their local area.

Clean Up the World, held in conjunction with UNEP, mobilises over 30 million volunteers from more than 100 countries annually to clean up, fix up and conserve their local environment. In 2004 the campaign takes on a "Seas and Oceans" theme. It is estimated that half the world's population lives within 60 km of the coast causing increasing pressure on our marine environment.

UNEP Info: Clean Up the World Weekend, 17 - 19 September 2004
Clean Up the World:

Countries were urged on 16 September to re-double efforts to assess the quantities of an ozone damaging chemical being used to kill pests on shipments of rice, maize, nuts and other big commodity export crops.

UNEP is helping countries by providing guidance and materials to support the 16 September celebrations. Principal among these is a new animated awareness video, Ozzy Ozone, in which the main character, an ozone molecule, takes viewers on a voyage of discovery to find out exactly what is attacking the Earth's protective ozone layer. It explains how children can protect themselves from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation caused by ozone depletion.

UNEP Release: International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer

As towns and cities grow at unprecedented rates, sustainable urbanization is one of the most pressing challenges facing the global community in the 21st century. Cities are the hub of much national production and consumption – economic and social processes that generate wealth and form urban culture.

The State of the World’s Cities 2004/2005 looks at how this potential can be used to address current challenges and create dynamic, multicultural and inclusive urban settings. Using extensive examples and illustrations, and with contributions from many of the world’s leading urban scholars, it lays out the conditions for a new culture of planning, involving civil society as well as public authorities, to ensure participation of even the most marginalized sectors.

The report was formally launched at the World Urban Forum in Barcelona on 14 September. The Forum held in Barcelona from 13-17 September, opened with warnings from world leaders and mayors that rapid urbanization was one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in the new Millennium.

UN-Habitat Report: A major new report on the state of the world's cities
World Urban Forum
: World leaders, mayors warn of urbanization crisis

Dozens of international experts on forests have gathered at UN Headquarters in New York from 7-10 September to discuss how best to manage the world's rapidly disappearing stock of forests so that their long-term health is protected.

There are currently 40 legally binding instruments relevant to forests: 19 at the global level and 21 at the regional and subregional levels. These include international agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the International Tropical Timber Agreement, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Management of the world’s forests is essential for reducing poverty, as well as for maintenance and conservation of natural habitats. The UNFF and the Johannesburg World Summit have recognized that sustainable forest management and strong international, regional and national action to implement this principle are of paramount importance to eradicating poverty, reducing deforestation, halting the loss of biodiversity, improving food security, increasing access to safe drinking water and affordable energy, and in establishing sustainable land use practices.

UNFF Meeting
: Ad hoc expert group meeting, New York, 7 - 10 September 2004

High quantities of toxic chemical waste from unused or obsolete pesticides are posing a continuing and worsening threat to people and the environment in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, FAO warned on 9 September.

Obsolete pesticides are left over from pest control campaigns. Stockpiles have accumulated because a number of products have been banned for health or environmental reasons, but were never removed and disposed of. Stocks remain where they are stored and often deteriorate to contaminate the environment and put people at risk.

FAO Release: FAO warns of pesticide waste time bomb in poor countries

The first assessment of the state of the environment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was launched on 30 August by UNEP and DPRK officials at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi.

The State of the Environment report was produced in partnership with UNDP and was initiated following a visit by Executive Director Klaus Toepfer to DPR Korean capital Pyongyang in 2000.

UNEP Report: DPR KOREA : State of the Environment 2003
UNEP Release
: UNEP launches first report on the State of the Environment in the DPR Korea

Overfishing of cod and haddock, nuclear waste storage, the invasion of the Red King crab and a projected six-fold increase in oil and gas transportation are some of the issues threatening the unique Barents Sea Arctic ecosystem, scientists are warning.

An absence of long-term planning and legislation are the main causes of these threats according to a new report prepared by UNEP Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA), and released on 24 August at the Offshore Northern Seas conference in Stavanger, Norway.

UNEP Report: Barents Sea
UNEP Release
: Environmental Assessment of the Barents Sea

The management of fishery resources in Asia-Pacific needs to be improved, as overfishing is increasing and the abundance of more valuable species has declined, according to an FAO report presented on 6 August to the Asia-Pacific Fishery Commission during a meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

FAO's report affirmed that fisheries and aquaculture are of vital importance for food security and the economies of the region, but cautioned that improved management of these activities is required in order to secure the sector's future.

FAO Release: Overfishing on the increase in Asia-Pacific seas

The world’s oceans are absorbing an unprecedented amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is increasing their acidity and possibly threatening the long-term survival of many marine species, especially calcifying organisms including corals, shellfish and phytoplankton, UNESCO announced on 16 July. According to research presented recently at a symposium organized by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the International Council for Science’s Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR), this in turn could disrupt marine food chains and alter ocean biogeochemistry in ways that are not yet understood or predictable.

UNESCO Release: Research shows oceans becoming more acidic

The expansion of the tourism industry in the Mediterranean is destroying valuable wetlands and contributing to the depletion of the water resources that local communities and the tourism industry depend on, warns a WWF report, released on 15 July. It says that the expected tourism boom over the next twenty years - with tourist numbers expected to reach 655 million people annually by 2025 - will strain water resources further as tourist services such as golf courses and swimming pools continue to be built.

WWF Release: Mediterranean water resources threatened by expanding tourism
WWF Report
: Freshwater and Tourism in the Mediterranean

On 14 July, the Inter-Agency Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR) launched its 2004 version of “Living with Risk: A global review of disaster reduction initiatives.” The publication is an unprecedented compilation of concrete examples of what people are doing to make the world a safer place.

The review is drawn from studies commissioned by UN/ISDR and activities carried out by regional partner organizations, with inputs from various UN organizations, national governments and specialized institutions. It directly complements the UNDP report “Reducing Disaster Risk: A Challenge for Development” launched in early 2004.

UN ISDR Report: Living with Risk - A global review of disaster reduction initiatives - 2004 version

A new “environmental democracy” clearing house – – was launched by UNECE to highlight and promote awareness of issues covered by the Aarhus Convention on 13 July. The clearing house showcases good practices in citizens’ environmental rights and is expected to make implementation of the Convention more effective.

UNECE Release: Environmental democracy clearing house launched to highlight progress under the Aarhus Convention
Aarhus Clearinghouse for Environmental Democracy Website:

A multi million dollar project aimed at cutting pollution in the Western Indian Ocean was announced on 6 July at a meeting of environment ministers in the Madagascan capital Antananarivo.

The three-year project, funded by GEF and the Government of Norway, will help eight countries devise action plans to curb sewage, chemicals and other pollutants coming from the land into the region’s rivers and coastal waters.

UNEP Release: Pollution Busting Project Unveiled for the Western Indian Ocean

FAO announced on 1 July that 84 FAO members have concluded a meeting on how to strengthen international cooperation on managing fishing capacity and combating illegal, underreported and unreported (IUU) fishing.

Two major barriers to sustainable fisheries are excess fishing capacity and IUU fishing. Recent FAO surveys show that while world fishing capacity appears to have begun to stabilize, more needs to be done to manage it. Meanwhile, the problem of IUU fishing is getting worse.

FAO Article: Excess capacity and illegal fishing: challenges to sustainable fisheries
FAO Release: Countries debate strategies for managing fleet capacities and combating illegal fishing

A project aimed at boosting the conservation and use of the wild relatives of some of the world’s key crops is being launched on 28 June. Researchers believe the new project, which is co-funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), will play its part in fighting hunger and improving the livelihoods of farmers across the globe.

The project, bringing together the biologically rich countries of Armenia, Bolivia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan, aims to improve key features of traditional crops ranging from their economic and nutritional value to their ability to naturally fight disease.

UNEP Release: Every crop needs its wild relatives

Representatives from governments, NGOs, intergovernmental organisations and the world’s leading coral reef experts met on 28 June in Okinawa, Japan, for a week of discussions and activities on protecting the world’s precious coral reefs.

A key issue will be the protection of cold-water corals, little known in comparison to their tropical cousins. For many years, research has focused largely on tropical, shallow-water corals, found in areas such as the Maldives, which support entire island communities by providing fish as sustenance for families and vital tourism-generated revenues. Nonetheless, coral species building reefs in colder and usually deeper waters play an equally important role in sustaining the delicate balance of our marine ecosystems, and they must be kept alive.

UNEP Release: Global action to save deep-sea treasures
UNEP Report: 'Cold-water coral reefs: out of sight – no longer out of mind'
10th International Coral Reef Symposium:

In a new report with UNEP, a group of 12 fund managers representing USD 1.6 Trillion of assets under management call on investors, government and business leaders to embed environmental, social, and governance best practice at the heart of our markets.

Without bold steps taken now these issues will threaten long-term shareholder value concludes the summary report, "The Materiality of Social, Environmental and Corporate Governance Issues to Equity Pricing" which was launched on 24 June at the United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit in New York.

UNEP Release: Protecting pensions and the planet
UNEP Report: 'Social, Environmental and Corporate Governance Issues to Equity Pricing'
UN Global Compact:

A new WWF report warns that indiscriminate dam-building is threatening the world’s largest and most important rivers, with the Yangtze in China, the La Plata in South America, and the Tigris and Euphrates in the Middle East likely to suffer most from dams, as announced on 22 June. The WWF report, Rivers at Risk, identifies the top 21 rivers at risk from dams being planned or under construction. It shows that over 60 per cent of the world’s 227 largest rivers have been fragmented by dams, which has led to the destruction of wetlands, a decline in freshwater species - including river dolphins, fish, and birds - and the forced displacement of tens of millions of people.

WWF Release: New dams are threatening the world’s largest rivers
WWF Report: Rivers at Risk

UNECE announced on 18 June that as much as 90% of the water of the two rivers that feed the Aral Sea – the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya (total flow 116 km3 a year) – is used up before reaching it. Most of this water is used for the irrigation of crops such as cotton. If present trends continue, the Aral Sea will disappear altogether in the not-so-distant future despite the many piecemeal efforts to save it. These are some of the findings of a recent study by UNECE and ESCAP. These two United Nations regional commissions have recently concluded a project on the links between water and energy in Central Asia and published the results.

UNECE Release: WATER AND ENERGY IN CENTRAL ASIA - Preventing the slow death of the Aral Sea
UNECE/ESCAP Publication: Strengthening cooperation for rational and efficient use of water and energy resources in Central Asia

The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is commemorated each year on 17 June. It is part of a UN led international campaign to increase awareness of land degradation. This year's celebration carries special significance as 2004 marks the tenth anniversary of the Convention’s implementation. Its theme also highlights the Social Dimensions of Desertification: Migration and Poverty. To commemorate this special anniversary, the secretariat has produced a publication highlighting the unique aspects and work of the Convention since its inception.

One fifth of the world’s population is threatened by the impacts of global desertification. Its effects can be seen all over the world, be it in Asia, the Sahel, Latin America, throughout North America or along the Mediterranean. Today, a third of the earth's surface is threatened by desertification, which adds up to an area of over 4 billion hectares of the planet.

UNCCD Publication: Preserving our common ground: UNCCD Ten years on
UNCCD Release: Ten years on: UN marks World Day to Combat Desertification

FAO, six other UN agencies and a group of leading international scientific organizations marked on 15 June the second anniversary of the release of the UN Atlas of the Oceans.

Thousands of people every month have been using the Atlas, an encyclopaedic online resource containing news updates, data on the state of marine resources, analysis of policy issues, environmental studies, access to real-time maps, and more.

UN Atlas of the Oceans:
FAO Release: A global point of reference for responsible ocean management

Governments, donor agencies and commercial firms from around the world met in Geneva on 9-10 June to promote international efforts to rid the world of PCBs, one of 12 highly toxic chemicals targeted for elimination by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

The Convention, which entered into force on 17 May 2004, gives governments until 2025 to phase out “in-place equipment” containing PCBs, as long as the equipment is maintained in a way that prevents leaks. It also grants another three years to ensure the environmentally sound management of PCB-contaminated wastes.

UNEP Release: Global clean-up of toxic PCBs

A growing number of countries are taking steps that will help conserve and restore the world's oceans by bringing their fishing sectors in line with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, FAO said on 8 June.

According to FAO, 52 of its member countries report having fisheries management plans in place that incorporate elements of the Code, including measures to promote use of selective fishing gear, to prohibit destructive practices and to ensure that permitted catch-levels reflect the state of stocks and allow depleted populations to recover.

FAO's FISHCODE Programme:
FAO Release
: Progress reported in implementation of international fishing code

Cold-water corals, mysterious and generally deeper living than their better known warm-water cousins in the tropics, are far more widespread and numerous than had previously been thought – and under serious threat. The new findings, released to mark World Environment Day (WED), which hosted by City of Barcelona, on 5 June, with the theme ‘Wanted! Seas and Oceans: Dead or Alive?’, are likely to strengthen calls for greater conservation of these curious habitats globally.

The full report, "Cold-Water Coral Reefs: Out of Sight- No Longer Out of Mind", will be published at an International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) meeting taking place in Okinawa, Japan, between 3 and 4 July following the 10th International Coral Reef Symposium which opens on 28 June.

UNEP Release: Cold-Water Corals New Global Conservation Challenge
UNEP Report: Cold-water coral reefs, Out of sight – no longer out of mind

An agreement aiming at boosting the environmental profile of this year’s summer Olympic Games has been made between UNEP and the Athens organizers. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed on 2 June in the Olympic Tennis Centre in the Greek capital between the Organizing Committee for the Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games (ATHOC) and UNEP.

UNEP also announced that it was establishing contact with the five cities short-listed for the Summer Olympic Games of 2012 to discuss how the environment can feature high in their proposals.

UNEP Release: Agreement to Boost Environmental Awareness at Summer Olympics
UNEP Website Sport and Environment:

From 1-4 June Germany hosted the International Conference for Renewable Energies Bonn 2004.

On Friday, 4 June, government delegates from 154 countries adopted the Political Declaration of renewables 2004. The declaration contains definitions of common political objectives for promoting the role of renewable energies. In the International Action Programme, governments, international organisations and stakeholders have committed to a plethora of activities that are geared towards the increased use of renewable energies. So far, 165 of the proposals for voluntary measures have been endorsed while many further submissions for action are being screened at present. The Policy Recommendations give practical advice on how to promote the development of the market for renewable energies in the North and in the South.

While holding great promise for developing countries, bioenergy is often neglected by policy-makers and needs to be urgently integrated into agricultural and forestry programmes -countries need to move towards more sustainable energy systems based on energy sources such as biomass, solar and wind energies, FAO said on this occasion.

UNEP Speech: Opportunity, Leadership and Commitment: Keys to a Sustainable Energy Future
FAO Release: The potential of bioenergy is still too often neglected
Renewables 2004 Website

New guidelines for determining if a living modified organism (LMO) poses a hazard to plants have been published by FAO, as announced on 1 June. FAO published the guidelines two weeks after the release of its annual report 'The State of Food and Agriculture 2003-04' which calls for adequate biosafety regulations.

Some 130 countries adopted this unique international standard on how to assess the risks of LMOs to plants. The guidelines also cover other LMOs that may be harmful to plants, such as insects, fungi and bacteria.

Guidelines: New guidelines on risk analysis for LMOs
FAO Release: Living modified organisms: new guidelines for risk assessment

Carbon dioxide emissions could be significantly cut if OECD countries used biomass — fuel generated from agriculture and forest products — instead of coal to generate electricity, according to a report by WWF and the European Biomass Association (AEBIOM), released on 27 May. The report indicates that this could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main global warming gas, by about 1,000 million tonnes each year — a figure equivalent to the combined annual emissions of Canada and Italy.

As ministers meet at the International Conference on Renewable Energies in Bonn, Germany from 1–4 June, WWF and AEBIOM are calling for firm commitments towards increasing the share of renewable energy such as biomass at national and international levels. The EU, specifically, must show global leadership by setting a target to supply 25% of its primary energy demand from renewable energy sources by 2020.

WWF report: Bioelectricity Vision: Achieving 15% of Electricity from Biomass in OECD Countries by 2020t
WWF Press release: New report shows alternative fuel could significantly reduce CO2 emissions

Marine turtle tourism brings in almost three times as much money as the sale of turtle products such as meat, leather ,and eggs, according to a new economic study Money talks: Economic Aspects of Marine Turtle Use and Conservation by WWF, released on 25 May. It shows that the worldwide decline in sea turtle populations jeopardizes jobs, tourism, and coastal economies, especially in developing countries, two-thirds of which have sea turtles.

Turtle populations are in steep decline in many areas, as nesting beaches are converted to holiday resorts, turtles and their eggs are over-harvested for food, and turtles are accidentally caught and killed in fishing nets. Six of the world’s seven marine turtle species are endangered or critically endangered. The WWF researchers found that sea turtle populations were declining in areas where they are exploited and rising or stable where they are not.

WWF report: Money talks: Economic Aspects of Marine Turtle Use and Conservation
WWF Press release: Sea turtles: worth more alive than dead

Around 20 countries discussed the role of forests in food and water security at the FAO Near East Forestry Commission (24-27 May) in Beirut. Countries in the Near East are showing increasing interest in planting trees to improve water quality and increase food security, FAO said in that occasion.

Forests are important as a source of fuelwood and livestock fodder. Forests in the region also provide some 2 million cubic metres of wood products and more than $100 million worth of exported non-wood forest products such as gum arabic, cork, pistachios and honey. In a region that is the most water scarce in the world with only around 2.2 percent of global renewable water resources, the sustainable management of forests is key to improving water security and alleviating poverty. An increasing number of countries in the region, including Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Yemen, have begun using treated waste water to irrigate forest plantations and greenbelts.

FAO Release: Afforestation in the Near East

A new book, Women and the Environment, released by UNEP on 20 May 2004, calls for greater recognition of women's role in conservation and poverty eradication. The book, drawing on observations and research by numerous individuals and organizations including UNEP and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, contains numerous illuminating anecdotes and case studies that reflect the crucial and all too often ignored role of women in the environment. It also highlights programmes, often established by individual women or women’s groups, to deal with environmental and development threats.

Women, especially in developing countries, are the farmers, the feeders and the carers in their communities relying on an intimate understanding of nature to fulfil their many and varied roles. They are also the primary providers of water. In the mountain areas of East Africa, women may expend close to a third of their calorie intake in collecting and supplying this precious resource.

UNEP report: Women and the Environment
UNEP Press release: Women in the front line in quest for sustainable development

From 9 May to 26 September, the Forum Barcelona 2004 will be a space where the citizens of the world can gather, engage in dialogue, and debate the most urgent issues of the 21st century. Three main themes define the Forum: cultural diversity, sustainable development and conditions for peace.

In the Statement of Principles and Values, the Forum makes a commitment to sustainability as one of its three core themes and takes on an active role to ensure consistency in its application:. Defense of biodiversity by means of the protection and improvement of environmental quality, together with the conservation and rational use of natural resources; The need for a social, economic and institutional network that is socially responsible and committed to equitable and technologically sustainable economic growth; Particular attention must be given to sustainable development of urban areas from an environmental, social, cultural and economic standpoint.

UNESCO, the main partner of the Universal Forum, has contributed since the start of the project to advising the organizers and cooperating closely with them in the conceptualization of the programme and activities.

Forum Website:

Urgent action is needed to protect one of the world’s most ancient life forms and the species that depend on it. A new study estimates that as many as half of the world’s 1200 woody bamboo species may be in danger of extinction as a result of massive forest destruction, as announced on 11 May.

The study, produced by INBAR (International Network for Bamboo and Rattan) and UNEP-WCMC uses novel analyses to combine data on the distributions of bamboo species and on existing forest cover. It shows that many bamboo species, including relatives of those cultivated commercially, have tiny amounts of forest remaining within their native ranges.

UNEP Release: Forest Loss Catastrophic for Wild Bamboo Warns Report
UNEP Report: Bamboo Biodiversity

Established in the aftermath of the Kosovo war, the $US 12.5 million UNEP clean-up programme has successfully identified, assessed and completed the first UN-led clean-up of environmental threats as a result of armed conflict, UNEP announced on 7 May.

The clean-up programme is being officially handed over to the Government of the Republic of Serbia. As an integral part of the handover, the environmental authorities in the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro worked together with UNEP on a joint final assessment of the environmental conditions at the four hot spot sites. The report, Assessment of Environmental Hot-spots Serbia and Montenegro April 2004, says that the conflict-related environmental consequences at Kragujevac and Bor have been largely dealt with.

UNEP Release: Kosovo conflict hot spots cleaned up
UNEP Report: From Conflict to Sustainable Development, Assessment and Clean-up in Serbia and Montenegro

The Fourth World Fisheries Congress was held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, from 2-6 May 2004. The Congress theme was Reconciling Fisheries with Conservation: The Challenge of Managing Aquatic Ecosystems.

Conservation of the world's oceans can only be achieved if larger problems of poverty, hunger and underdevelopment are adequately addressed, according to FAO. Millions of people depend on fishing for food and employment -- especially in the world's poorest countries.

Globally, reports FAO, 25 percent of major marine fish stocks are underexploited or moderately exploited. Forty-seven percent are fully exploited and are therefore producing catches that have reached, or are very close to, their maximum sustainable limits. Another 18 percent of stocks or species groups are overexploited, while 10 percent of stocks have become significantly depleted, or are recovering from depletion.

Fourth World Fisheries Congress Website:
FAO Release: To help the world's troubled oceans, deeper problems must be addressed

The United Nations Forum on Forests will hold its Fourth Session at the Palais des Nations in Geneva from 3 to 14 May.

During the session, the Forum will consider implementation of the proposals for action of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests/Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IPF/IFF) in five areas: social and cultural aspects of forests; traditional forest-related knowledge; scientific forest-related knowledge; monitoring, assessment and reporting, concepts, terminology and definitions; and criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management.

UNFF-4 website:
UN Release:

The European Union will not reach the goal of halting species loss by 2010 if it does not do more to prevent the decline of its most nature-rich areas of farmland, EEA and UNEP warned on 29 April.

A joint EEA/UNEP report to support the process estimates that high nature value farmland covers 15-25 % of the EU countryside, with the largest areas being found in eastern and southern Europe and northern Britain. The situation outside the EU is not known as data are not easy to obtain. The report warns that high nature value farmland is under severe pressure from two contrasting trends: increasing intensity of agriculture in some areas and abandonment of farming in others.

UNEP Release: Nature-rich farmland areas need greater support to prevent species loss
: High nature value farmland: Characteristics, trends and policy challenges

A major international initiative will help to meet the challenge of agriculture and rural development in mountain regions where high levels of malnutrition and hunger persist, in a manner that protects the environment for present and future generations, FAO announced on 28 April. High levels of malnutrition and hunger in mountain areas have much to do with the inaccessibility, complexity and fragility of mountain environments, and the extent to which mountain people are often marginalized, FAO experts say.

The project, formulated with the support of Switzerland and the participation of governments, non-governmental and other international organizations, follows an international conference on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Mountain Regions held in Adelboden, Switzerland, in 2002.

FAO Release: The challenge of sustainable mountain development

The twelfth session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-12) met at UN Headquarters in New York from 14-30 April 2004. For the first three days (14-16 April), CSD-12 served as a preparatory meeting for the ten-year review of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The following two weeks (19-30 April) served as the CSD-12 Review Session.

CSD-12 Website:

Brazil's spectacular and growing success as a prime exporter of beef-volume of exports abroad have increased more than fivefold in the last six years-is responsible for much of the recent spike in the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, according to a study released on 2 April by by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

The report, Hamburger Connection Fuels Amazon Destruction-issued, suggests that the jump in the worldwide demand for Brazilian beef has been brought on by several factors, among them concerns regarding the threat of mad cow disease in several other cattle-producing countries.

CIFOR media background in pdf format: Hamburger Connection Fuels Amazon Destruction
CIFOR Press Release: World Appetite for Beef Making Mincemeat Out of Brazilian Rainforest According to Report from Major International Forest Research Center

Dust and sand storms are plaguing North East Asia nearly five times as often as they were in the 1950s. Scientists from Korean universities and research institutes told participants in the 8th Special Session of UNEP Governing Council (29-31 March) and Global Ministerial Environment Forum on Jeju Island, Republic of Korea, they are concerned that the sand and dust is binding with airborne pollutants such as soot contained within atmospheric brown clouds, on 31 March. These are forming over densely populated parts of the world as a result of the burning of wood, charcoal and other so called biomass and the combustion of fossil fuels and industrial processes.

UNEP Governing Council Website:
UNEP Press Release: North East Asian Dust and Sand Storms growing in scale and intensity

UNEP studies indicate that along with issues including rising sea levels, over-fishing, water shortages and inadequate sanitation services, waste is fast becoming another key problem. The wastes not only threaten public health but also livelihoods. Many small island developing states (SIDS) are dependent on income from tourists.

A booklet called UNEP and Small Island Developing States: 1994-2004 and Future Perspectives, estimates that since the early 1990s the SIDS levels of plastic wastes has increased five fold. It points out that problems of rubbish and litter are part of a wider waste crisis. The reports presented, some of which were released on 30 March at the international gathering of environment ministers taking place in Jeju have been compiled by UNEP’s Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities or GPA and UNEP’s Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA)

UNEP SIDS Activities:
UNEP Press Release: Throw Away Society New Threat to Island Paradises
UNEP Booklet: UNEP and Small Island Developing States: 1994 -2004 and Future Perspectives

The new UNEP report, Global Environment Outlook Year Book, released on 29 March, states that there are nearly 150 oxygen-starved or “dead zones” in the world’s oceans and seas. These ‘dead zones’ are linked to an excess of nutrients, mainly nitrogen, that originate from agricultural fertilizers, vehicle and factory emissions and wastes. Low levels of oxygen in the water make it difficult for fish, oysters and other marine creatures to survive as well as important habitats such as sea grass beds.

The Year Book was launched to governments attending the Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GMEF) taking place this week in Jeju, Korea. Issues covered also include the coming into force of the Cartagena Protocol, an international treaty covering trade in genetically modified organisms, the costs of mainly weather-related natural disasters and the challenges that remain in improving drinking water supplies for over 1 billion people.

Global Environment Outlook Year Book:
UNEP Press Release: Dead Zones emerging as big threat to 21st Century fish stocks

Sea turtles have swum the seas for almost 60 million years, but decreases in their populations over the last century have many observers worried that long history could soon be coming to a close. In many places, coastal development is destroying fragile turtle nesting areas. In others, hunger and poverty lead to harvesting of eggs -- and of the turtles themselves. Sometimes turtles consume litter -- in particular discarded plastic bags, which look like the jellyfish they normally eat -- and are injured or die as a result.

To assess the extent of the problem and explore options for reducing fishing's impact on marine turtles, FAO convened an expert consultation on "Interactions between Sea Turtles and Fisheries in the Ecosystem Context", as announced on 25 March. The talks produced a report, still being finalized, that sets the stage for a larger, follow-up Technical Consultation to be held in Thailand later this year. The group of experts called on FAO to help fill data gaps regarding sea turtle-fisheries interactions and asked the agency to produce a set of turtle handling and release guidelines in order to educate fishers in the proper release of trapped turtles found alive during gear retrieval.

FAO Release: Helping sea turtles off the hook

Diarrhoeal diseases claim the lives of around two million children each year- 5,000 per day, and cause countless more to fall ill. Children already suffering from poor diets and the ravages of other diseases are the first to get sick and die from water and sanitation-related diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and typhoid, stated UNICEF in the occasion of the World Water Day, on 22 March.

Diarrhoea spreads most readily in environments of poor sanitation where safe water is unavailable – often areas that have been hit by human made or natural disasters. Water-borne diseases are one of the major cases of under-five mortality, along with pneumonia, malaria, and measles.

UNICEF Release: Dirty water and poor sanitation kills over 5000 children every day

World Water Day 2004 on 22 March focuses on the theme: Water and Disasters. The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the World Meteorological Organization have been charged with co-ordinating events on the day.

Water-related disasters have disrupted national economies, severely weaken poor and vulnerable and are now recognised as impediments for sustainable development and reduction of poverty. Losses caused by natural disasters are particularly depriving countries of resources, which could otherwise be used for economic and social development. The toll for these disasters is much severe and tragic in the least developed and developing countries and has set back their development goals by decades. Disaster risk reduction is consonant with poverty reduction.

World Water Day 2004 Website:

Pre-UNCTAD XI High-level International Meeting of Experts to strengthen UNCTAD’s activities in support to developing countries´ efforts to take advantage of international tourism growth, is held in Lisbon, Portugal, from 8-11 March.

As the focal point within the United Nations system for supporting the development of international trade in services, UNCTAD has recognized the importance of sustainable tourism as an avenue for enhanced economic specialization and the catalytic role of international tourism in promoting the goals of job creation, foreign exchange earnings and income generation.

UNCTAD Info :Pre-UNCTAD XI High-level International Meeting of Experts on Sustainable Tourism for Development
UNCTAD Website
: Programme Event

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade entered into force on 24 February 2004.

Jointly supported by FAO and UNEP, the Rotterdam Convention enables countries to decide which potentially hazardous chemicals they want to import and to exclude those they cannot manage safely. The Convention starts with 27 chemicals, but as many as 15 more pesticides and industrial chemicals, identified during the interim PIC procedure, are flagged also for inclusion at the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties.

UNEP & FAO Release: Rotterdam Convention enters into force
PIC Website

The 14th session of FAO's African Forestry and Wildlife Commission, was held in Accra, Ghana, from 18-21 February 2004.

The Accra meeting emphasized the role of forests and water in food security and poverty reduction; regional and subregional cooperation; and the place of forests in the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

FAO Release: FAO stresses the importance of forests in alleviating poverty and protecting the environment
Meeting Website

The 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) will become legally binding on 17 May 2004, UNEP announced on 18 February. POPs are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of living organisms and are toxic to humans and wildlife.

The 90-day countdown to the treaty's entry into force was triggered on 17 February 2004 when France became the 50th state to ratify the agreement.

UNEP Release: Stockholm Convention on POPs to enter into force on 17 May 2004
PIC Website

In the first post-conflict environmental assessment of the West African country, UNEP found that only 26 per cent of the population now has access to safe drinking water, with many people resorting to sinking wells to siphon off groundwater that may be contaminated. The report, Desk Study on the Environment in Liberia, has been compiled by the Post Conflict Assessment Unit of UNEP. It carries 60 recommendations for improving the environment and development prospects for Liberia.

The report was prepared as part of the United Nations Development Group’s (UNDG) Needs Assessment for Liberia, and was officialy launched on 13 February. The Needs Assessment defines for the United Nations, donor countries and non governmental organizations the priority issues that need to be addressed in order to put Liberia and its people on the path to a stable and sustainable future.

UNEP Release:Restoring the Battered and Broken Environment of Liberia One of the Keys to a New and Sustainable Future
UNEP Report
: Desk Study on the Environment in Liberia Desk Study on the Environment in Liberia (PDF)

A new report, launched by UNEP-WCMC on 9 February, highlights the threats and benefits of conserving these precious habitats.

New figures, the result of the first comprehensive survey of these rare, romantic and fragile worlds, indicate that cloud forests cover an area of just under 400,000 square kilometres, or less than 2.5 per cent of the globe’s tropical rain forests. The report, Cloud Forest Agenda, which was launched at a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, estimates that 60 per cent of cloud forests are found in Asia with around 25 per cent in Latin America and 15 per cent in Africa.

The report is designed to stimulate new initiatives and partnerships for the conservation and restoration of tropical montane cloud forests around the world.

UNEP Release: Clarity Brought to Earth’s Cloud Forests (PDF)
UNEP Report
: Cloud Forest Agenda (PDF)

The seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-7), will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 9-20 February. Over 2,000 delegates from around the world, including cabinet ministers, world-renowned scientists and broad representation from NGOs and community organizations, gathered in Kuala Lumpur, for CBD COP-7.

Priority issues will include the biological diversity of mountain ecosystems, the role of protected areas in the conservation of biological diversity and providing benefits to people, the transfer of technology and technology cooperation, as well as implementation of the target set at the sixth meeting of the Parties to achieve, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss of biodiversity at the global, regional and national level. The COP is also expected to follow up on the call for action issued at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development to negotiate an international regime on access and benefit sharing, to help developing countries and indigenous peoples share in the wealth created by their native plants and organisms.

SCBD COP7 website
: Seventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity

Millions of lives could be saved in coming decades if developing countries did more to anticipate and reduce the risk from natural disasters, according to a report released by UNDP on 2 February.

The UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) has drawn up this global report with the aim to shed lights on the linkages between development and disaster. The increasing impact of natural disasters on development and the acknowledgement of development paths as determinant configuration factors of disaster risk are the two main issues addressed in this Report. It promotes disaster risk reduction through identifying appropriate development policies integrating both disaster risk management and actions targeting the 8 Millennium Development Goals achievement. The report provides a major input to (UNDP’s Crisis Prevention and Recovery Practice Area and the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR)).

UNDP Release: New Disaster Risk Index demonstrates that natural disasters are more deadly in poor countries (PDF)
UNDP Release
: Better preparation for natural disasters could save millions of lives in developing countries, says UNDP report (PDF)
UNDP Report

A WWF report published on 29 January reveals a collection of recent scientific evidence for contamination of both people and wildlife, such as whales, polar bears, seals and falcons, by a wide range of chemicals used in common consumer products. The release of the report marks the launch of WWF's DetoX Campaign for the adoption of a stronger EU law on chemicals.

While contamination of animals and humans by harmful chemicals such as DDT and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) has been widely documented, the dangers of many chemicals still on the market - and recently studied - are becoming increasingly clear, according to the WWF report Causes for concern: Chemicals and Wildlife.

WWF Release: WWF report highlights new chemical concerns
WWF Report
: Causes for concern: Chemicals and Wildlife (PDF)

West Africa’s environment ministers called on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to use UNESCO biosphere reserves as laboratories for sustainable development in the region, during a round table held at the Organization’s Headquarters on 26 January.

The declaration was made during a round table launching a new project involving UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) and UNEP. With a budget of more than US$6 million, the new project will combine a range of activities over the next four years to improve the protection and sustainable development of biosphere reserves in West Africa. While compiling an inventory of the reserves’ plants and animals, the project will develop a series of scientific and institutional structures to monitor and manage the environmental impact of human activities (such as agriculture, pastoralism, hunting and fishing). Local communities will also take part in alternative economic initiatives, such as eco-tourism.

UNESCO Release: West African environment ministers want NEPAD to use biosphere reserves as laboratories for sustainable development
MAB Website

Small island developing states (SIDS) are particularly vulnerable to natural hazards, as well as to the negative impacts of global change, whether these are environmental, cultural, social or economic. As part of an international strategy to address these issues, defined during the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, a meeting of some 300 stakeholders from island states in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, South China Seas, and the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans is being held in Nassau (Bahamas) from 26 –30 January, in preparation for a major ministerial meeting on small islands in Mauritius later this year.

The United Nations General Assembly called for a comprehensive review of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA). The BPoA adopted in 1994 sets forth specific actions and measures at the national, regional, and international levels in support of the SIDS sustainable development. The purpose of the International Meeting is to discuss recommendations for further and successful implementation of the BPoA.

UNESCO Release: Spotlight on small island developing states
SIDS Network Website

Bangladesh and India jointly started a census of tigers on 14 January with the support of UNDP. The census is among the first activities between the two countries under a cross-border initiative aimed at preserving the world’s largest mangrove forest, the ‘Sundarbans.’

Located partly in Bangladesh (40 percent) and partly in India (60 percent), the Sundarbans eco-system is steadily deteriorating due to population pressures and weak enforcement of existing regulations on both sides of the Bangladesh-India border. National attempts to save this World Heritage-listed habitat are underway but differing management approaches in the two countries have overlooked the fact that the Sundarbans is a single eco-system.

UNDP Release: Bangladesh and India start joint tiger census

The two-day intergovernmental consultation requested in paragraph 5 of Governing Council decision 22/1/IA will take place at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi from 14-15 January 2004. The consultation will be held at expert level to review and discuss the results of the consultative process carried out by UNEP on strengthening its scientific base, which is presented in a Synthesis Report compiled by independent experts under the auspices of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) of the International Council for Science (ICSU). The meeting will be conducted in all 6 working languages of the United Nations.

UNEP's Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA) is taking advantage of the intergovernmental consultation to organize a two-day meeting of leading scientific and technical experts, including representatives from selected NGOs, from 12-13 January 2004. The Scientific and Technical Meeting will discuss strengthening the scientific base of UNEP in the context of the Synthesis Report and UNEP's current assessment activities. Participants at this meeting will also be observers at the intergovernmental consultation.

UNEP Release: Sound Science Key to Saving the Planet
Science Initiative Website

The Worldwatch Institute release on 8 January, a special edition of State of the World examining how we consume, why we consume, and what impact our consumption choices have on the planet and our fellow human beings. From factory-farmed chicken to old-growth lumber to gas-guzzling cars, many of the things we buy support destructive industries. But businesses, governments, and concerned citizens can harness this same purchasing power to build markets for less-hazardous products, including fair-traded foods, green power, and fuel-cell vehicles.

With chapters on food, water, energy, the politics of consumption, and redefining the good life, Worldwatch’s award-winning research team asks whether a less-consumptive society is possible—and then argues that it is essential.


The 2004 International Year of Rice promotes improved production and access to this vital food crop, which feeds more than half the world's population while providing income for millions of rice producers, processors and traders. Development of sustainable rice-based systems will reduce hunger and poverty, and contribute to environmental conservation and a better life for present and future generations.

THE INITIATIVE FOR AN INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF RICE (IYR) came in 1999, when the International Rice Research Institute - responding to its members' growing concerns over the serious issues facing rice development - requested FAO's collaboration in having an IYR declared. This led to Resolution 2/2001 of the Thirty-First FAO Conference, which requested the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to declare the IYR. The Philippines, co-sponsored by 43 countries, submitted this request to the Fifty-Seventh Session of UNGA, which declared 2004 the IYR on 16 December 2002. The dedication of an International Year to a single crop was unprecedented in the history of UNGA. FAO was invited to facilitate IYR implementation in collaboration with other relevant organizations.

IYR will highlight the vital role that rice plays in agriculture, food security, the environment, culture and science. Water management is the key to creating sustainable rice-based production systems, particularly because rice is the only major cereal that can withstand water submergence.

IYR website:


Earthwatch Activities

Earthwatch Working Party

The height meeting of the Earthwatch Working Party will be held at the UNEP offices in Geneva in 2003.


News Index


Global Environmental Headlines
December 2004
Asian Tsunami
Climate Change Convention COP 10
Tisza River Basin
November 2004
Montreal Protocol meeting
Kyoto Protocol entry into force
Preventing exploitation of environment in war day
Pan-African conference on water for food ecosystems
Companies not reporting
October 2004
Vital Waste Graphics
Kyoto Protocol & Russia
Env&Sec in South Caucasus
Global Crop diversity trust
WWF Living Planet report
Eradication of Poverty Day
World Food Day
Woman as a Voice for Env.
Nobel Peace Prize
Pesticide poisoning children
CITES Conference
World Habitat Day
September 2004
Rotterdam Convention COP
Clean-Up the World Week
Ozone layer prevention day
State of the World's Cities
UNFF Meeting
Toxic Waste from Pesticides
August 2004
Barents Sea Assessment
Overfishing in Asia-Pacific
July 2004
Oceans more acidic
Freshwater and Tourism in the Mediterranean
Make the world safer learning to be less vulnerable
Aahrus environmental democracy clearing house
Clean up pollution in Western Indian Ocean
Illegal fishing continues to grow
June 2004
Conserving wild crop relatives
Cold-water coral reefs
Environmental and social research to protect shareholder value
New dams threaten world’s largest rivers
Water & Energy in Central Asia
World Day to Combat Desertification
UN Atlas of the Oceans
UN meeting on PCBs
Global code on responsible fishing
World Environment Day
‘Clean’ Athens Olympics
International Conference for Renewable Energies
Guidelines to protect plants from biotechnology risks
May 2004
Alternative fuel to reduce CO2 emissions
Marine Turtle Use and Conservation
Trees in deserts
Women & sustainable development
Barcelona 2004
Bamboo Threat
Serbia Clean-UP Closes
4th World Fisheries Congress
April 2004
UNFF 4th session
Europe Nature-Rich Farmland
Mountain Initiative
CSD 12
Amazon Deforestation
March 2004

Northeast Asia Dust and Sand Storms
SIDS Rubbich and Wastes
Global Environment Year Book
Endangered Marine Species
Poor sanitation kills thousands of Children
Wolrd Water Day
Sustainable Tourism for Development
February 2004
Rotterdam Convention
African Forestry Meeting
Stockholm Convention
Liberia's Reconstruction
Cloud Forests Protection
Reducing Disaster Risk
January 2004

Commonly Used Chemicals Threaten Wildlife
West African Biosphere Reserves
Small Island Developing States Meeting
Tiger census
Scientific Base of UNEP
State of the World 2004
International Year of rice: 2004

Earthwatch Activities
8th Working Party

2003 News
2002 News

2001 News


UNEP/DEWA/Earthwatch 1996-2003