Governance Thematic Portal: News
The new online mapping service, the National Priority List (NPL) Superfund Footprint Mapper, was featured as part of a Webinar sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Partnerships for Public Environmental Health (PEPH) on May 7. Participants numbered 158 attendees, more than 30 from federal agencies. Senior research associate Meredith Golden showcased the Mapper with assistance from geographic information specialist Tricia Chai-Onn, who also helped develop the service. Golden highlighted data from several projects of the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center operated by CIESIN. These include the U.S. Census Grids and the Global Poverty Mapping Project. The NPL Superfund Footprint Mapper can display population and environmental characteristics for areas surrounding more than 1700 NPL Superfund sites. An archived recording of the Webinar will be available soon on the SRP Web site.
Announced at the World Economic Forum held January 25–29 in Davos, Switzerland, the 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) produced by CIESIN and Yale University’s Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP), in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy, identifies Switzerland as first in addressing pollution control and natural resource management challenges. Iraq is ranked last. The EPI has been produced every two years since 2006. The 2012 EPI ranks 132 countries, using 22 indicators in ten major policy categories including air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity, and forest management.
For the first time a complementary index showing country improvement from 2000 to 2010, the Pilot Trend Environmental Performance Index (Trend EPI), was released. Latvia was ranked number one in the Trend EPI, with Russia in last place. The U.S., which is 49th in the EPI, was just 77th in the Trend EPI, implying few recent gains in addressing environmental issues.
Data sets making up the EPI were contributed from the International Energy Agency, remote sensing research groups at Battelle and University of Maryland, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and other entities. Lack of data in certain areas—in particular, waste management, toxic exposures, agricultural sustainability and water resources—continue to limit the ability of the EPI to contribute towards the understanding necessary to develop policies for safeguarding the environment.
The 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which ranks 163 countries on environmental performance, has been released at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2010 in Davos, Switzerland. The Index, produced every two years since 2006 by researchers at CIESIN and Yale University’s Center for Environmental Law and Policy, is based on twenty-five indicators grouped within ten core policy categories—including environmental health, air quality, water resource management, biodiversity and habitat, forestry, fisheries, agriculture, and climate change—in the context of two objectives: environmental health and ecosystem vitality. The EPI’s proximity-to-target approach, in which each country’s performance is measured against clearly defined targets, enables comparisons among countries with very different characteristics.
Although some rankings have changed dramatically—the U.S. dropped from 39th to 61st place since the 2008 index, for example—so too have the methodologies and data. “A better focus is the comprehensive country profiles, which present a measurement across the different environmental indicators,” says CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin, a co-author on the report. These profiles, designed by CIESIN research associate Valentina Mara in conjunction with the Yale team, show a country’s scores for the indicators, policy categories, and objectives. Drilling down here, de Sherbinin points out, can help decision makers identify the needed focus of attention for a particular country. Geographic information specialist Malanding Jaiteh, CIESIN deputy director and EPI project leader Marc Levy, and senior research staff assistant Paola Kim were also part of the CIESIN team.
Analysis shows that income is a major factor in high environmental performance, but that policy choices may trump economic capacities. For example, the differences between neighboring countries Chile (ranked 16th) and Argentina (70th), or between Malaysia (55th) and Thailand (68th), have a lot to do with different approaches to environmental policy and governance. The biggest changes this year were seen in the scores for air pollution and effects on ecosystems, and a new indicator, water scarcity, was added. The indicators were drawn from international organizations such as the World Bank, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Some of the data sets are drawn from government reporting that is not subject to external validation, and incomplete data have resulted in incomplete representation of countries. The report calls for greater investment by the world community in environmental monitoring, and for data sharing and transparency on the part of national governments.
Robert Chen countersigns the agreement with IUCN on behalf of CIESIN. Palisades, New York.
CIESIN and the Environmental Law Centre of IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that formalizes a long-standing collaboration between the Environmental Treaty and Resource Indicator (ENTRI) service of the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) and the ECOLEX service developed by IUCN, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO), and the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP). Under the MOA, IUCN will provide access to its regularly updated treaty status database, and CIESIN will provide ECOLEX with advanced data query functions and ENTRI’s Conference of Party decision search tool (ENTRI COP). The MOA also lays the groundwork for further cooperation in developing new services for the international legal and research communities concerned with environmental treaties.
International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) is a not-for-profit organization working on issues relating to small-scale and artisanal fisheries in different parts of the world. ICSF has been maintaining a resource Web site on international legal instruments. This Web site identifies provisions in 124 international instruments, that are of relevance to fisheries in general, and to small-scale fishworkers, in particular.
Responding to the need for tracking the many decision documents approved by the Parties to environmental treaties, the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) has produced a Conference of Party (COP) Decision Search Tool as an add-on to its Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators (ENTRI) project. The search tool is powered by a Google appliance, and includes controlled “metadata” (coding of each decision document) to enable powerful advanced searches by date, COP number, or title of document. All decision documents are harvested and converted to PDF for consistency, but for reference purposes the original URL is listed. The tool currently includes decision documents from the first to the most recent COPs for ten agreements: Basel (transboundary wastes), CBD, CITES, CMS, FCCC, Kyoto Protocol, Montreal Protocol, Ramsar, UNCCD, and Vienna (ozone). Users can search across all ten or limit the search to subsets.
The Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) has released a report entitled “How to Improve the Dialogue Between Science and Society: The Case of Global Environmental Change.”
This collection, published by Cambridge University Press, is the outcome of an interdisciplinary research project involving scholars in the fields of international and comparative environmental law, the sociology and politics of global governance, and the scientific study of global climate change. Earth system analysis as developed by the natural sciences is transferred to the analysis of institutions of global environmental change. Rather than one overarching supranational organization, a system of “multilevel” institutions is advocated.
In this article, Dr. Nils Meyer-Ohlendorf, Ecologic Senior Fellow, discusses the need for international environmental governance reform, the advantages and disadvantages of creating a United Nations Environment Organization (UNEO), and its potential in helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The article concludes that a UNEO—as a United Nations specialized agency—may have greater political clout than the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) currently commands, which is only a programme based on a resolution of the General Assembly. Given its increased political weight, a UNEO could be a better tool to address environmental needs in developing countries, and help to achieve poverty and development goals.