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Better understanding of environmental conditions and trends
Many international assessment activities launched under UNEP's "Earthwatch" programme since 1972 drew on well-established procedures; international scientific activities in Antarctica started in the last century, and cooperative investigations in the fields of meteorology and health were well advanced long before the UN came into being.
Antarctica shows how cooperative scientific research contributed to an international regime of the sort that may now be developing for "sustainable development" and "global change."
Under the first International Polar Year of 1882-1883, 12 nations studied meteorology, geomagnetism, and the Aurora Borealis and Australis. The clear advantages of cooperative research and observations led, in 1932-1933, to the Second International Polar Year, in which 44 countries joined forces for scientific work in the polar regions. Then, in 1957, the proposed Third Polar Year was converted into the International Geophysical Year (IGY), during which 12 countries established 48 new stations in Antarctica, while man's first artificial satellite - Sputnik - demonstrated the feasibility of synoptic observation of Earth phenomena on a global scale. Only two years later, in 1959, the US convened the 11 other states that had collaborated in Antarctica for negotiation of what became the 1959 Antarctica Treaty.8 This treaty paved the way for much that was to follow, including the 1967 Outer Space Treaty,9 and laid the basis for the concept that commons areas beyond national jurisdiction deserved protection under international legal regimes.
IGY successes in 1957-1958 also inspired similar programmes in related fields, notably the International Biological Programme that was subsequently converted into Unesco's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme, and highlighted the need to protect natural resources such as biological diversity; this information laid the basis for a convention now being negotiated to protect biological diversity.
With this background it was not surprising that when governments set up a new Environment Fund in 1972, they defined its use primarily in terms of supporting assessment functions with a rich information component, while giving less-specific attention to other purposes such as improved management and public awareness. The new fund was to support regional and global monitoring, assessment and data-collecting systems, including, as appropriate, costs for national counterparts; the improvement of environmental quality management; environmental research; information exchange and dissemination; public education and training; assistance for national, regional and global environmental institutions; the promotion of environmental research and studies for the development of industrial and other technologies best suited to a policy of economic growth compatible with adequate environmental safeguards; and such other programmes as the Governing Council may decide upon.10
In carrying out these "programmes of general interest," the Assembly directed that "due account should be taken of the special needs of the developing countries," and a major portion of UNEP's "catalytic" funding ever since has been for this purpose, as in supporting research and monitoring stations in developing-country regions under UNEP's Global Environmental Monitoring System (GEMS).11
UNEP's "Earthwatch" programmes have proven their worth by developing reliable data on global environmental conditions and trends ranging from pesticide levels in human tissue and methyl mercury levels in regional fisheries, to rates of loss of arable soil and changes in the mass balance of glaciers as an indicator of climate change. These activities are now ready for expansion and there is widespread agreement on the need for major reinforcement of UNEP's capacity to take the lead in providing "early warning" of major environmental risks, assessing these risks and helping states to develop cooperative measures required to reduce them or mitigate the consequences - such as through contingency planning.
But to serve these purposes information must be assessed and converted into credible statements about conditions and trends and their significance for human well-being. To cope with scientific uncertainty about likely changes and basic cause-and-effect relationships - that often cross over sectoral lines -assessment processes have relied on international groups of experts to assemble the best scientific capabilities.
A major problem is the large number of countries that lack human and institutional capabilities to gather information and assess its significance in terms of local planning and decision-making. UNDP's "Sustainable Development Network" is intended to address this problem and will undoubtedly figure prominently at UNCED, as will the new Global Environment Facility, discussed below.
The growing influence of international experts working with international civil servants in the UN system reflects the fact that even highly developed countries gain by pooling their expertise and setting up international groups of experts for this purpose.
An early such group was the UN Scientific Group of Experts on the Effects of Atomic Radiation - UNSCEAR - set up by the General Assembly some 30 years ago.12 Their work contributed to negotiation of one of the few international agreements that measurably lowered global risk; the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 reduced man-made radiation from about 7 percent of natural background radiation in the early 1960s to less than I per cent in 1980.13
Another group well-known in environmental circles is GESAMP the Group of Experts on Scientific Effects of Marine Pollution, whose third decadal review was recently published.14 Experts in GESAMP are selected and appointed by international organizations to provide advice and assessments they need to improve the effectiveness of the UN system in dealing with related matters. GESAMP assessments have gained increasing credibility, in part because its expert members - many of whom come from government institutions- are expressly working in an expert, non-instructed status.
More recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was set up by the governing bodies of WMO and UNEP in order to harness scientific and other expertise in preparing the 1990 Second World Climate Conference. Three working groups were established - on research, on climate impacts, and on possible response strategies. In effect, IPCC supplanted the work of an earlier interagency group - the Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases (AGOG) - in which experts chosen by WMO, UNEP, and ICSU provided scientific advice and issued a consensus warning in 1985 about the likelihood of climate change and the need to study the implications.15 An important difference between the AGGG and IPCC is that IPCC experts are under government instruction, whereas those in AGGG - whose message was clearly unpalatable to some governments - were not.16
"Impartiality" of international organizations and civil servants has been demanded and contested ever since the League of Nations, but here the issue is whether scientific judgement should be in the hands of instructed or uninstructed experts. Clearly it is useful to engage government experts whether or not under instructions in the study of policy matters, especially when the economic consequences may be severe, as in the case of policy responses to climate warming. But problems of credibility arise when international expert groups on scientific assessments are dominated by experts from developed countries or by "instructed" experts - whether from government, industry, or various "pressure" or "special-interest" groups. In the production of assessments of environmental conditions and trends the presence of such experts is bound to raise questions as to the reliability and credibility of the final product and thereby reduce its ability to help decision makers.17
As the scope of required information expands from scientific to include economic and social data, it will be increasingly desirable to broaden participation in international assessments and strengthen strict peer-review proceedings that are fully "transparent." This is merely an extension of the increasing role of international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) in partnership with the UN system - like ICSU's role with WMO and UNEP in climate assessment, and IUCN's role alongside UNEP and FAO in drawing up action plans to protect tropical forests and biological diversity. But national NGOs also are playing roles of greater significance, and their participation may be critical when it comes to trying to apply international findings locally, where decisions are made that determine whether or not sustainable development can be achieved.
International environmental impact assessments?
For over two decades the conventional approach to reducing harmful risks has been first to improve "assessment" processes of monitoring, research, and information exchange so that current environmental conditions and trends can be measured and their significance for human well-being weighed, and then to find ways to incorporate this information into "management" decisions to make them less harmful.18
Accordingly, attention has focused on the need to develop environmental information and integrate it in development planning processes so as, in the words of the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), "to make development sustainable - to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.19
Considerable progress has been made in refining this approach and applying it nationally at the project level in what are called "Environmental Impact Assessment" (EIA) procedures.20 Growing awareness of international risks arising from local acts suggests that EIA procedures should now be strengthened and applied internationally, at least where international financial assistance is being provided. This leads to contentious issues about interference in domestic affairs and "conditionality" in assistance.
The obligation to avoid harmful external impacts has been evolving since Stockholm. It has long been recognized that local actions can have environmental effects far beyond the place (and time) of origin, and nations were able to agree at the 1972 Environment Conference on the principle of responsibility not to cause external damage:
States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction21.
But state sensitivities on this issue were highlighted at Stockholm when an "information" principle was approved calling for promotion of scientific research and support for "the free flow of up-to-date scientific information... to facilitate the solution of environmental problems..."22 It was noteworthy that this principle could only be adopted after deletion of a disputed portion:
Relevant information must be supplied by States on activities or developments within their jurisdiction or under their control whenever they believe, or have reason to believe, that such information is needed to avoid the risk of significant adverse effects on the environment in areas beyond their national jurisdictions.23
Despite the reluctance of many states as a matter of principle to release information on possible external environmental impacts, when the issue arose in specific terms at a regional level agreement was possible; a provision was incorporated into the 1978 Kuwait Convention under UNEP's Regional Seas Programme to the effect that, each Contracting State shall endeavor to include an assessment of the potential environmental effects in any planning activity entailing projects within its territory, particularly in the coastal areas, which may cause significant risks of pollution in the Sea Area.24
A further provision encouraged the development of procedures for disseminating this information with an undertaking to develop technical guidelines "to assist the planning of development projects in such a way as to minimize their harmful impact on the marine environment."25
A similar obligation was agreed upon in the Abidjan Convention of 1981, according to which parties "shall develop technical and other guidelines to assist the planning of their development projects in such a way as to minimize their harmful impact on the Convention area," and to include an assessment of potential environmental effects in the area and develop procedures for dissemination of such information.26
To encourage the incorporation of assessment information in planning and decision-making for activities that risk environmental impacts, UNEP's Governing Council in 1982 requested that appropriate "guidelines, standards and model legislation" be drawn up in the field of "Environmental Impact Assessment."27 The resulting 13 principles were approved by UNEP's Governing Council "for use as a basis for preparing appropriate national measures, including legislation, and for international cooperation... "28
To ensure that environmental effects are taken fully into account before decisions are taken by "the competent authority or authorities," and to encourage reciprocal procedures for information ex change, notification, and consultation between states when proposed activities are likely to have significant transboundary effects, these principles recommend that government agencies, members of the public, experts in relevant disciplines, and interested groups should have an opportunity and time to comment on EIA information before any decision is made; that any such decision should be in writing, state the reasons therefor, and include the provisions, if any' to prevent, reduce, or mitigate damage to the environment, and that: when information provided as part of an EIA indicates that the environment within another State is likely to be significantly affected by a proposed activity, the State in which the activity is being planned should, to the extent possible: (a) notify the potentially affected State of the proposed activity; (b) transmit to the potentially affected State any relevant information from the EIA, the transmission of which is not prohibited by national laws or regulations; and (c) when it is agreed between the States concerned, enter into timely consultations.29
However, a recent hint of continuing sensitivity on this issue is found in a 1989 definition of the term "sustainable development" that was adopted in UNEP's Governing Council and has since been cited in other fore, including the 1990 Climate Conference: "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs and does not imply in any way encroachment upon national sovereignty."30
Whereas free exchange of environmental information among technicians is, fortunately, far less difficult in practice than in principle, an examination of the treatment of information exchange in the Law of the Sea Treaty suggests that while state sensitivity about research information is less pronounced for environmental information than for non-environmental information, coastal state sensitivity increases as information gathering approaches land, especially within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
For example, under Part XII of the Law of the Sea Treaty on "Protection and Preservation of the Marine Environment," states are encouraged without qualification to cooperate in scientific research and exchange of information and data about marine pollution (Art. 200) and, "to observe, measure, evaluate and analyse... risks or effects of pollution of the marine environment" (Art. 204), and "publish reports of the results obtained" (Art 205).
But under Part XIII on the broader topic of "Marine Scientific Research," international cooperation is to be promoted "in accordance with the principle of respect for sovereignty and jurisdiction and on the basis of mutual benefit" (Art. 242), and much stricter requirements are applied to near-shore activities where coastal states have "the exclusive right to regulate, authorize and conduct marine scientific research in the territorial sea" (Art. 245) and, in their EEZ and continental shelf, have full authority to withhold consent for scientific research when it is "of direct significance for the exploration and exploitation of natural resources, whether living or non-living," among other characteristics (Arts. 245 and 246).31
Information to strengthen international agreements
Information - scientific or otherwise - is not static in a changing world and the need for flexibility in international agreements is now well accepted. During negotiation of the London Ocean Dumping Convention in 1971-1972, it became clear that flexibility was needed in selecting substances that require strict international control and in adjusting them to take account of evolving information about their toxicity or other characteristics. This led to the use of "black" and "grey" annexes attached to the formal agreement, with eased provisions for revision of these annexes as new knowledge came to light. This device has been used since then in a number of other treaties, notably in those regulating dumping in regional seas and, most recently, in the 1987 Montreal Protocol32 and the 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.33
A recent example of the changing nature and greater intrusiveness of information needed to improve and measure performance under an environmental agreement is found in the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Stratospheric Ozone. Here information is called for on production and consumption levels of controlled substances (including import and export figures), as well as the transfer of such production as permitted under "industrial rationalization" provisions (Articles 1 and 2). Parties are required to provide initial statistical data on production, imports, and exports or "best possible estimates of such data where actual data are not available," and thereafter to provide statistical data to the secretariat on its annual production (with separate data on amounts destroyed by technologies to be approved by the Parties), imports, and exports to Parties and non-Parties, respectively. of such substances for the year during which it becomes a Party and for each year thereafter. It shall forward the data no later than nine months after the end of the year to which the data related
Additional information is called for on "Research, Development, Public Awareness and Exchange of Information":
1. The Parties shall cooperate, consistent with their national laws, regulations and practices and taking into account in particular the needs of developing countries, in promoting, directly or through competent international bodies, research, development and exchange of information on:
(a) best technologies for improving the containment, recovery, recycling or destruction of controlled substances or otherwise reducing their emissions;
(b) possible alternatives to controlled substances, to products containing such substances, and to products manufactured with them;
(c) costs and benefits of relevant control strategies.
2. The Parties, individually, jointly or through competent international bodies, shall cooperate in promoting public awareness of the environmental effects of the emissions of controlled substances and other substances that deplete the ozone layer.
3. Within two years of the entry into force of the Protocol and every two years thereafter, each Party shall submit to the secretariat a summary of the activities it has conducted pursuant to this Article.35
There is a corresponding obligation on the secretariat of the Montreal Protocol to "receive and make available, upon request by a Party, data provided pursuant to Article 7, to prepare and distribute regularly to the Parties reports based on information received pursuant to Articles 7 and 9, and to provide, as appropriate, the information and requests referred to (above) to such non-party observers."
The Basel Convention provides another example of new kinds of information parties are obliged to provide:
- to share information with a view to promoting environmental! sound management of hazardous wastes, including 'harmonization of technical standards and practices" for their management;
- to cooperate in "monitoring the effects" of waste management on human health and the environment;
- to cooperate in the development of "new environmentally sound low-waste technologies" with a view to "eliminating, as far as practical, the generation of hazardous wastes... ";
- to cooperate in the "transfer of technology and management systems" including in "developing the technical capacity among Parties, especially those which may need and request technical assistance in this field";
- to cooperate in developing "appropriate technical guidelines and/or codes of practice."36
At a time when some governments are finding it difficult to keep up with reporting requirements under international agreements, the expansion of information sought is adding a burden that will require assistance if all states are to comply.
Ecosystem and resource information with policy implications
Pollutants per se are a significant part of the problem but far from the whole environmental dimension of "global change," especially as food and other shortages reflect population pressures as well as the degradation of natural resources and the capacity of natural systems to perform functions vital for human well-being. Now that anthropogenic contributions are seen to be driving global change, non-pollutant environmental impacts are gaining more attention; especially the impact on natural systems of larger numbers of consumers. Information needed to cope with these problems tends to focus on national resources important to a country's economy and is frequently "ecosystem" specific, i.e., it may require aggregation of data across frontiers that can raise concerns about national sovereignty.
This new direction was signalled in 1980 when the General Assembly approved the World Conservation Strategy, in which "conservation" was defined in terms that foreshadowed "sustainable development": "the management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs of future generations."37
The strategy raised additional issues that some countries find difficult in that it also encouraged a strong role for local NGOs in collecting and analysing resource information, as well as increased access to planning and decision-making on the part of people who may be affected. This approach was warmly endorsed in the 1987 Brundtland Report.
Over time, monitoring and other assessment functions have significantly improved human understanding of processes and trends of change, and attention has focused on providing the kinds of data that should be useful for economic planning and decision-making in the "development" context.38
The precautionary principle
The obvious need for caution when proceeding rapidly in the face of uncertainty led ministers from countries of the ECE region meeting in May 1990 to adopt the "Bergen Ministerial Declaration on Sustainable Development in the ECE Region," containing what has since become known as the "precautionary principle":
In order to achieve sustainable development, policies must be based on the precautionary principle. Environmental measures must anticipate, prevent and attack the causes of environmental degradation. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation.39
Acknowledging that "environmental problems require greater and more systematic use of science and scientific knowledge," ECE ministers agreed to "invite the international science community to contribute towards the advancement of sustainable development policies and programmes. Scientific analyses and forecasts are especially needed to help identify longer term policy options."
The "symbiotic nature of economy and the environment" was reflected in a call in the Bergen Declaration for development of "sound national indicators for sustainable development to be taken account of in economic policy making" by means of supplementary national accounting systems to reflect as fully as possible the importance of natural resources as depletable or renewable economic assets.40
As a measure of sustainability, or the ability of a society to protect the interests and equity of future generations, better indicators than are now available will be needed; for example, a measure of changing ratios between food production and population growth, or of arable soil per capita in those countries unable to afford high-energy food-production techniques.
Education and public awareness were also recognized in the Stockholm Declaration as
... essential in order to broaden the basis for an enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals, enterprises and communities in protecting and improving environment in its full human dimensions. It is also essential that mass media of communication... disseminate information of an educational nature, on the need to protect and improve the environment in order to enable man to develop in every resect.41
In a section of the Bergen Declaration on Awareness Raising and Public Participation, a number of more specific steps for '`optimizing democratic decision making related to environment and development issues" are proposed, among them:
- to integrate and use environmental knowledge in all sectors of society;
- to stimulate national and international exchanges of environmental information and foster scientific and technological cooperation in order to achieve sustainable development;
- to encourage... schemes for informing the consumer of the environmental qualities and of the risks of industrial products from "cradle to grave";
- to develop further national and international systems of periodic reports of the state of the environment;
- to undertake the prior assessment and public reporting of the environmental impact of projects;
- to reaffirm and build on the CSCE conclusions regarding the rights of individuals, groups and organizations concerned... to have access to all relevant information and to be consulted...;
- to develop rules for free and open access to information on the environment; and
- to ensure that members of the public are kept informed and that every effort is extended to consult them and to facilitate their participation in the decision-making process on plans to prevent industrial and technological hazards in areas where they live or work.42
Because the Bergen meeting was a regional contribution to the preparations for UNCED, it is likely that these new approaches will be reflected in decisions in 1992, but not all countries are likely to find these new information requirements convenient.43
Another current example of expanding information requirements is found in the EEC Council Regulation on the establishment of the
European Environment Agency and the European environment in formation and observation network intended to provide "objective, reliable and comparable information" to enable these governments "to take the requisite measures to protect the environment, to assess the results of such measures and to ensure that the public is properly informed about the state of the environment."44
In furnishing information which can be directly used in the implementation of Community environmental policy,...priority will be given to the following areas of work: air quality and atmospheric emissions, water quality, pollutants and water resources, the state of the soil, of the fauna and flora, and of biotopes, land use and natural resources, waste management, noise emissions, chemical substances which are hazardous for the environment, and coastal protection.45
While an approach along these lines might be highly desirable to reduce global risk, in many regions of the world it would be difficult to find human and institutional capabilities up to the task of providing the required information.
A new regime for sustainable development
Looking back at the 1972 Stockholm Declaration of Principles, the Brundtland Commission suggested in 1987 the need to "consolidate and extend relevant legal principles in a new charter to guide state behaviour in the transition to sustainable development."
Towards this end they suggested that 22 principles should be negotiated, first in a declaration, then in a Convention on Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development. Five of these applied specifically to information:
- cooperation in the exchange of information; -prior notice of planned activities;
- cooperative arrangements for environmental assessment and protection; and
- cooperation in emergency situations.46
Other suggested principles would assert the fundamental human right to an environment adequate for health and well-being; require states to conserve natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations and maintain ecosystems and related ecological processes so that benefits are available indefinitely; promote optimum sustainability; establish specific environmental standards and both collect and disseminate data and carry out prior environmental impact assessments and inform all persons in a timely manner who may be affected and grant those persons access to and due process in judicial proceedings.
States also would ensure that natural resources and the environment are an integral part of development planning and would cooperate with other states or through international organizations in fulfilling their obligations. With regard to transboundary aspects, shared natural resources should be used in a reasonable and equitable manner, and serious risks of substantial harm should be prevented or abated and compensated for under special procedures for negotiations between states without discrimination between external and internal detrimental effects. Finally, states should be held responsible under these principles and resolve any disputes peacefully through a step-by-step approach including, as a last resort, a binding process of dispute settlement.
The World Commission was assisted in this work by an Experts Group on Environmental Law that drew up specific recommendations to strengthen the international legal framework in support of sustainable development. In his Foreword to this report, former President of the World Court of Justice, Nagendra Singh, observed that the general principles recommended do not merely apply in areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, or in the transboundary context; they are also intended to apply in the entirely domestic domain, and thus purport to break open traditional international law on the use of natural resources or environmental interferences and follow the practice that has developed since the 1948 adoption of the Human Rights Declaration.47
Looking to the future this group called for a new UN Commission for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development based on a membership of "competent individuals serving in a personal capacity...elected preferably by secret ballot by States Parties to the Convention."
The proposed functions of the Commission would be to review regular reports from states and the UN system and other international governmental and non-governmental organizations on actions taken in support of the Convention. The Commission would be empowered to issue periodic public reports, assess and report on alleged violations, and review recommendations for proposed improvements to the Convention and other relevant international agreements.
They also recommended the appointment by the Commission of a UN High Commissioner for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development with functions similar to an "ombudsman" and "trustee" for the environment, who would assess communications from private entities on compliance or violations of the Convention (and related agreements) and who could submit such cases for consideration by the UN Commission or other appropriate organizations. The High Commissioner would have special responsibilities for areas beyond national jurisdiction, as well as for representing the interests of future generations.
Unfortunately, in the absence of any follow-up to the Commission recommendations, there is no basis on which to judge the feasibility of these far-reaching proposals. Perhaps their feasibility can only be tested after improvements have been made in information-handling capabilities of states now weak in them.
Possible future directions with regard to information are suggested by two other recent developments: a new facility at the World Bank, and the International Geophysical Biological Program. Both developments offer the prospect of mobilizing financial and human resources to strengthen information-handling capabilities in developing countries without which it is difficult to see how a "precautionary" approach could be widely applied.
The Global Environmental Facility (GEF)
In 1989 France proposed at the World Bank that a new special facility be set up alongside, but separate from, the Bank's "soft-loan" affiliate, the International Development Association, with a target of $1-$1.5 billion for concessional aid devoted to preservation of natural resources' protection of atmosphere, energy efficiency, and other activities aimed at reducing global risk and supportive of sustainable development. As agreed in late 1990 by 25 developed and developing countries with the World Bank, UNDP, and UNEP, GEF is a "pilot program to obtain practical experience in promoting and adopting environmentally sound technologies and in strengthening country-specific policy and institutional frameworks to support prudent environmental management."48 It will also provide operational information relevant in formulating other global conventions and in advancing the agenda that governments will be addressing at UNCED in June 1992. GEF has four objectives:
1. to support energy conservation, the use of energy sources that will not contribute to global warming, forestry management, and reforestation to absorb carbon dioxide in order to limit the increase in greenhouse gas emissions;
2. to preserve areas of rich ecological diversity;
3. to protect international waters where transboundary pollution has had damaging effects on water purity and the marine environment; and
4. to arrest the destruction of the ozone layer by helping countries make the transition from the production and use of CFCs, haloes, and other gases to less damaging substitutes.49
GEF shows that new concern over "global" risks has led governments to set up new funds to cover the extra costs of specific actions that countries in need of assistance could take in a common effort to reduce global risks. According to this new approach, when such actions should also be taken to reduce local risks or impacts, these costs should be covered by normal development funds; only when the costs of these actions cannot be internalized domestically are they eligible for coverage by GEF funds.
The case is clear that many countries need additional help as an incentive to join a common effort to reduce global risk. The incentive, under both the Montreal Protocol and GEF, is the provision of financial support to cover such aspects as the difference between a fair commercial price for technology to reduce global risk and what the intended user can afford. Hopefully, this approach will reduce abstract arguments about the sanctity of intellectual property to a more practical basis on which progress can be made.
The current appreciation of actions needed at local levels to reduce global risks - notably concerning depletion of stratospheric ozone by CFCs, and actions to slow the less-certain threat of climate change - has led to the identification of technical-assistance costs and capital investments that must be provided if all countries are to join in an agreed attack on the problem. Under present conditions of indebtedness and lack of capital flows into developing countries, the need for greater international financing is clear if preventive action is to be taken to reduce risks from future actions in the developing world.
International Geophysical Biological Program (IGBP)
Traditionally, precise data and information requirements for "assessment" purposes have been identified by the relevant scientific community, such as the work of ICSU/SCOPE in helping the design in 1971 of what since became UNEP's Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS), and current work under ICSU in relation to the forthcoming International Geophysical Biological Program (IGBP), better known as "Global Change," to: describe and understand the interactive physical, chemical, and biological processes that regulate the total Earth system, the unique environment that it provides for life, the changes that are occurring in this system, and the manner in which they are influenced by human activities.50
Along with the World Climate Research Program (WCRP) and other international research efforts, IGBP will address critical unknowns related to global environmental change that can provide insights necessary if future development is to be put on a sustainable basis. Increasingly the needs of non-scientific users are recognized as vital if human impacts on natural systems are to be made less destructive, especially "policy and decision-makers" at the national and local levels, where key decisions are made daily.
An important proposal late in 1990 was "START" - the Global Change System for Analysis, Research, and Training. It calls for major strengthening of regional networks and national capabilities, both to contribute information needed for global assessments and to strengthen local capabilities to employ it for planning.51 The concept is a world-encompassing system of Regional Research Networks, each of which would have a Regional Research Centre to serve as the information centre for the regional network. Each regional centre would engage in five functions supporting national institutes within the region:
- research, including documentation of environmental change -training
- data management
- synthesis and modelling
- communications between scientists and private and public-sector decision makers.
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