United Nations System-Wide
The GEO-2000 Report



The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched its Global Environment Outlook 2000 (GEO-2000) report - the most authoritative assessment ever of the environmental crisis facing humanity in the new millennium.

Based on contributions from UN agencies, 850 individuals and more than 30 environmental institutes, GEO-2000 outlines progress in tackling existing problems and points to serious new threats. It concludes by setting out recommendations for immediate, integrated action.

GEO-2000 analyses both global and regional issues. Its key finding is that "The continued poverty of the majority of the planet's inhabitants and excessive consumption by the minority are the two major causes of environmental degradation. The present course is unsustainable and postponing action is no longer an option."

"Despite successes on various fronts, time for a rational, well-planned transition to a sustainable system is running out fast," said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director. "In some areas, it has already run out. In others, new problems are emerging which compound already difficult situations.

"UNEP welcomes the trend towards increased public concern for the environment. Until recently, few individuals cared about or even knew of the environmental issues facing the planet. Today, popular movements in many countries are forcing authorities to make changes," said Toepfer.

According to GEO-2000, full-scale emergencies now exist in a number of fields. The world water cycle seems unlikely to be able to cope with demands in the coming decades, land degradation has negated many advances made by increased agricultural productivity, air pollution is at crisis point in many major cities and global warming now seems inevitable.

Tropical forests and marine fisheries have been over-exploited while numerous plant and animal species and extensive stretches of coral reefs will be lost for ever - due to inadequate policy responses.

In a survey conducted by the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment for GEO-2000, 200 scientists in 50 countries identified water shortage and global warming as the two most worrying problems for the new millennium. Desertification and deforestation at national and regional levels was also a frequently cited concern.

While most issues raised by the survey are well-known, GEO-2000 also identifies new threats such as:

nitrogen's harmful impact on ecosystems
increased severity of natural disasters
species invasion as a result of globalization
increased environmental pressures caused by urbanization
decline in the quality of governance in some countries
new wars which impact on both the immediate environment and neighbouring states
the impact of refugees on the natural environment

At the core of GEO-2000's recommendations is a reinforcement of Agenda 21's call for environmental integration. The report states that, "The environment remains largely outside the mainstream of everyday human consciousness and is still considered an add-on to the fabric of life."

Institutions such as treasuries, central banks, planning departments and trade bodies frequently ignore sustainability questions in favour of short-term economic options. "Integration of environmental thinking into the mainstream of decision-making relating to agriculture, trade, investment, research and development, infrastructure and finance is now the best chance for effective action," says GEO-2000.

National Governments, international organizations, the private sector, community groups, NGOs and ordinary citizens all have a role to play in putting the environment at the forefront of the political agenda. "Environmental education, like mathematics, (should be) part of the standard educational curriculum," says GEO-2000, adding that we must "encourage the media to devote as much attention to environmental issues as they do to crime, politics, sport and finance."

GEO-2000 was edited by Robin Clarke - and published by Earthscan Publications on behalf of UNEP. E-mail earthinfo@earthscan.co.uk Telephone +44-171 2780433; Fax +44-171 2781142. It is available from Earthscan at a cost of £20 or US$40. It is also accessible on http://www.unep.org/geo2000//

From UNEP News Release 1999/103

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UN System-wide Earthwatch Coordination, Geneva