Options for action

The world is currently plagued by increasing poverty and continually widening divisions between the haves and the have-nots. These divisions — the environmental divide, the policy divide, the vulnerability gap and the lifestyle divide — all threaten sustainable development. They must be addressed urgently, and with greater success than has often been the case in the past. Certain key areas of attention have been identified for global action at all levels to ensure the success of sustainable development. Prime among them are alleviating poverty for the world’s have-nots, reducing excessive consumption among the more affluent, reducing the debt burden of developing countries, and ensuring adequate governance structures and funding for the environment.

Underlying this action, however, must be the greater provision of and access to information in all its forms as the fundamental basis of successful planning and decision-making. The information revolution holds the possibility of providing cheap and reliable information in appropriate forms to all stakeholders in the environment — decision makers, local communities, the general public — thus enabling them to participate more meaningfully in decisions and actions that determine the courses of their daily lives and of those of succeeding generations.

Time is running out. Planning for the future starts now

UNEP, Pramkaew, Still Pictures

The final section of GEO-3 presents possible policy options for the future based on UNEP experience, the GEO-3 assessment and wide consultations at different levels. The suggestions are intended as a check-list from which to make appropriate selections for action. The overriding need in policy development is for a balanced approach towards sustainable development. From the environment perspective, this means bringing the environment in from the margins to the heart of development. The fields where action is suggested cover the need to:

  • Rethink environmental institutions because they need to adapt to new roles and partnerships to fulfil present obligations and confront emerging environmental challenges.
  • Strengthen the policy cycle so that it becomes more rigorous, systematic, integrated and able to develop policies that are better attuned to specific localities and situations.
  • Provide an enhanced international policy framework to overcome the fragmentation and duplication inherent in the present system.
  • Use trade more effectively for the benefit of sustainable development to capitalize on the new opportunities provided by trade liberalization.
  • Harness technology for the environment and manage the associated risks to maximize the potential of new technologies to deliver substantial environmental and social gains.
  • Adjust and coordinate policy instruments, including various legal frameworks, and measures such as valuing environmental goods and services, ensuring that markets work for sustainable development and promoting voluntary initiatives, to develop appropriate packages that work more effectively for the environment.
  • Monitor policy performance with the aim of improving levels of implementation, enforcement and compliance.
  • Re-define and share roles and responsibilities between local, regional and global levels to provide efficient solutions to managing complex and varied situations at a variety of scales.