Looking on the bright side

Some environmental success stories

It would be wrong to conclude a review of GEO-2000 without acknowledging some remarkable progress towards halting environmental degradation.

Perhaps the most significant has been increased public concern over environmental issues. GEO-2000 points out that "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."

This trend towards responsible citizenship is matched in some quarters by the corporate sector. Voluntary action on the part of major industries has led to a reduction in resource usage and the elimination of waste. Self regulation, corporate environmental policies, cleaner production systems, voluntary codes of practice (such as the chemical industry's Responsible Care Programme) and the use of environmental audits are all to be applauded.

The fact that these actions are in industry's own self interest should not detract from their environmental significance. In fact, this realisation of these win-win situations should be welcomed. If more cases can be found where environmental and business interests are compatible, the overall benefits to the planet and its populace will be extremely significant.

Governments in developed regions can also take credit for reducing the levels of air pollution in many major cities. "Innovative legislation has been introduced and the goal of zero emissions in several important areas is no longer considered utopian," says UNEP's GEO-2000.

Great strides have been taken locally by Agenda 21 initiatives which have proved an effective way of developing and implementing sustainable development policies that involve communities and political agencies. At an international level, widespread support for the Montreal Protocol means the ozone layer is widely expected to have recovered within half a century. Such success should give critics of international organizations pause for thought.

Since 1992 and the UN-sponsored Kyoto Protocol further steps have been taken to combat global climate change. At the same time, the world's scientists, meteorologists and climatologists are all gaining insight into the likely impact of climate variation.

If the environmental battle is to be won, it will be because of the foundations laid down by the above activities. "Global issues have been recognised and effectively tackled for the first time in the latter part of the 20th century," says GEO-2000. "It is important to make sure that these global lessons filter down to regional, national and local levels - concerted action always achieves more than individual initiatives at every level."

Read on: Press release | City of Dreams | Water, water, everywhere | Think global, act sustainable | Life's a gas | Looking on the bright side | Issues | Indicators | UNEP's profile | Overview
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