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BRIEFING paper

UNITED NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM

APRIL | 4 - 7 | 2013 | NATHAN CAMPUS | GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY

BRISBANE MODEL UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE


//WHAT IS UNEP Founded in Stockholm, Sweden in 1972 and currently headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya (the first UN Headquarters to be established in a developing country), the United Nations Environmental Program has been the centre-piece international forum on a range of issues, including global resource management, sustainability, climate change, green economics and poverty over the last 40 years. Its primary function has been to provide scientific advice to developing economies and to coordinate environmental research and development, and communication on environmental issues in UN member states and affiliated organisations. After the Rio 20+ Summit (UNCSD), the UNEP’s scope expanded to include universal membership. In February 2013, Nairobi hosted the First Universal Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, a land mark in United Nations history. As the UNEP’s major role throughout its existence has been to alert the international community of emerging developments in the environmental, economic and scientific fields, many issues have been addressed by the UNEP. Most pressing of these issues, is the availability and sustainability of global resources. A flaw in the notion of economies of “infinite growth” is that the resources, being finite, will be unable to match the demand of an ever expanding global economy. The question of global resource management, therefore, is directly within the UNEP’s purview.

//THE SITUATION The wellbeing of humanity, the environment and the global economy all depend on the way in which human societies utilise their natural resources, with the efficient management resources such as food, water, energy and minerals necessary for human development to continue into the 21st Century. However, current patterns of resource usage exceed what the natural environment is capable of providing, and with the industrial sectors of developing countries growing larger, resource usage is expected to triple by 2050. Along with concerns over the increased scarcity of these resources and the resilience of natural ecosystems in supplying these resources are additional pressures such as poverty reduction, economic development and the maintenance of current living standards. In order to address these concerns, the international community must cooperate and begin implementing strategies

that can allow countries to develop their economies through resource usage, while also reducing the environmental impact that such activities inflict.

//DECOUPLING AS A SOLUTION Decoupling refers to the process where resources can be used in a manner where economic development can be delinked from environmental harm. Resource decoupling is when resource usage per unit of economic activity is reduced through efficient practices, while impact decoupling requires increasing economic output without causing harm to the environment. Countries that achieve high incomes per capita while consuming fewer resources per capita tend to be developed countries with service economies, where the reliance on imported goods lowers domestic resource use. However, the material and environmental burden associated with heavy reliance on natural resources has been shifted to developing countries, particularly those in Africa and Asia, where resource usage and the overall environmental burden are high while economic gains remain insignificant. However, there exist opportunities for developing countries to utilise new and efficient practices to develop their economies without causing the same level of harm that earlier development trajectories inflicted, which will be explored further in the paper.

//MPORTANCE OF WATER RESOURCES Water is among the most significant of all resources facing scarcity today, as it is essential to nearly all aspects of human activity, ranging from agriculture to industrial production to health services. Water consumption has grown at a level twice that of population growth since start of the 20th Century, with 4,500 billion cubic metres consumed in 2010 compared with 600 billion in 1900. The 2030 Water Resource group estimates that demand for water could exceed supply by over 40% if unaddressed, thus necessitating global cooperation to provide a solution that can effectively maintain the global water supply for the long term. There are many difficulties in managing water resources however, especially on a global level. Political will is needed by the entire global community in order to implement a cohesive and effective policy, which is difficult considering the diverging positions developing countries may have compared with more developed countries. Many problems also exist on


a smaller scale, such as the need to appease many different stakeholders in implementing management strategies, a lack of sufficient means in measuring impacts of water use upon ecosystems, and the lack of widespread implementation of access registers needed to assess water availability throughout the world.

//POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS Technological Innovation: Developing countries today are able to utilise more efficient development processes thanks to the availability of new technologies that can ‘leapfrog’ the environmentally harmful processes relied on in the past. Technological advances are especially necessary for those countries with higher population density than others, whose need for resources will increase exponentially in coming decades. Wider Adoption of Water Access Registers: These can be used to introduce water charging systems and assess water resource availability quantitatively. An international framework that can be used to encourage implementation and regulation of such regimes is something all states should consider in addressing the complex problem of managing water resource use. Development of Recycling Infrastructure: No modern economy can function without metals, and for commonly used metals such as steel, there is no renewable alternative with which to substitute. As a result, recycling strategies targeted at reusing common metals such as iron and steel are more developed and effective, with between 70-90% being reused – although further development is required to decrease waste further. Specialty minerals such as gallium, germanium, indium and tellurium – used in creating solar cells have not been traditionally common materials, but as solar is a growing renewable energy source, there will need to be a significantly greater development of recycling infrastructure for these and other specialty metals.

//CONCLUDING REMARKS Delegates should be mindful of the following in their working papers/research: - Your country’s policies regarding the UNEP, the role your country has played in the past and is continuing to contribute today.

- Where your country stands on the provided issues. Is your country developed or developing? Does it need to maintain its current infrastructure, or build entirely new infrastructure to sustain a growing population density? Does it even agree with the IRP’s findings? - How to maintain current strategies or, whether they should be altered completely to suit either global or national interest. Who should be responsible for overseeing and implementing your strategies? Should there be a global regulatory mechanism or should countries agree simply to a multi-lateral guideline with ideal targets, much like carbon emissions? Questions like those above will give delegates a fair idea of where and how they should approach this negotiation. This paper is a guideline. How you choose to approach it is part of the fun of being a MUN delegate. Your Directors wish you all the best in your nefarious schemes to either save or ruin the world... Delegates are encouraged to begin their research here -: http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/ If delegates are caught for time, your directors highly recommend you at least read the following -: http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/Publications/ SynopsisofIRPFindings/tabid/104289/Default.aspx Download the pdf! It will help you.

//REFERENCES Stanley Johnson, (2013) ‘The first 40 years: A narrative’, United Nations Environment Programme. Retrieved from web site: (http:// www.unep.org/40thanniversary/) UNEP International Resource Panel, (2011) ‘Decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth’. Retrieved from web site: (http://www.unep. org/resourcepanel/Publications/Decoupling/ tabid/56048/Default.aspx) UNEP International Resource Panel, (2011) ‘Recycling rates of metals’. Retrieved from web site: (http://www.unep.org/resourcepanel/ P u b l i cat i o n s / Re cyc l i n g rat e s of m et a l s /


UNEP International Resource Panel, (2011) ‘Responsible resource management for a sustainable world: findings from the International Resource Panel’. Retrieved from web site: (http:// w w w.unep.org/resourcepanel/Publications/ SynopsisofIRPFindings/tabid/104289/Default.aspx) UNEP International Resource Panel, (2011) ‘Measuring water use in a green economy’. Retrieved from web site: (http://www.unep.org/ resourcepanel/Publications/MeasuringWater/ tabid/102126/Default.aspx) United Nations Environment Programme, (June 22 2012) ‘Inclusive green economy given go ahead by heads of state at Rio 20+’. Retrieved from web site: (http://www.unep.org/newscentre/Default. aspx?DocumentID=2688&ArticleID=9195&l=en) United Nations Environment Programme, (December 9 2012) ‘Notification by the Executive Director, Twenty-Seventh session of the Governing Council/ Global Ministerial Environment Forum’. Retrieved from web site: (http://www.unep.org/gc/gc27/ docs/K1283564.pdf)

Briefing Paper: United Nations Environment Programme  

Briefing Paper: United Nations Environment Programme BrizMUN 2013

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