Global Environment Outlook

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) publishes the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report as its flagship environment assessment. Till 2020, there have been six editions of Global Environment Outlook. UNEP released GEO 6 in March 2019. The first report was launched in 1997. The report reflects the core functions of the organization.

For the IAS Examination, international organizations’ reports are important for both prelims and mains. The reports’ names and its associated organizations are important for prelims exam; while findings of the reports can be useful for UPSC mains (GS 2, GS 3 & Essay.)

This article will provide the relevant facts that the report, Global Environment Outlook 2019 presented.

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Complement your IAS Exam preparation with the following articles:

  1. NCERT Notes
  2. UPSC Mains GS 1 Strategy
  3. UPSC Mains GS 2 Strategy
  4. UPSC Mains GS 3 Strategy
  5. UPSC Mains GS 4 Strategy
  6. Complete List of NCERT Books

Global Environment Outlook 2019 | GEO 6

GEO 6 is the sixth and the latest edition of the UNEP’s environment assessment that was published in March 2019. The theme of the report was, “Healthy planet, healthy people.” The purposes behind publishing the GEO 6 were:

  1. Clear assessment of the current state of the environment
  2. Assessment of the challenges that the world community faces
  3. Assessment of the measures taken to deal with the environmental challenges with due consideration given to gender, indigenous knowledge and cultural dimensions
  4. To provide assistance to member nations to implement policies towards a sustainable future

Key Findings of Global Environment Outlook Report 2019 for UPSC

The Global Environment Outlook (2019) pressed on the need for immediate actions to be taken for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and important environmental agreements including the Paris Agreement. Four major concerns highlighted in the report are:

  1. Greenhouse Gas Emissions – The top 10 emitting countries emit 45 percent of global GHGs in comparison to the bottom 50 percent countries that emit only 13 percent.
  2. Pollution Exposure and cost to lives – Nine million lives are lost annually with indoor and outdoor exposure to air and water pollution.
  3. Water & Land usage – Meat production currently uses 77 percent of agricultural land and agricultural production consumes 70 percent of global water.
  4. Need to achieving Paris Agreement Targets – 54.1 trillion US dollars can be saved for a global expenditure of 22.1 trillion US dollars if countries achieve 2-degree celsius Paris Agreement target. Also, India can achieve a health saving of 3.3-8.4 trillion US dollars if 1.5-degree celsius target is achieved.

Some important facts to remember under broad headings are:

  1. Environment and social challenges and opportunities
    • Health problems and environmental diseases due to environmental pollution – 9 million premature deaths in 2015 were reported because of environmental diseases.
    • 6.4 million deaths in 2015 were reported due to indoor and outdoor exposure to environmental pollution.
    • East and South Asia have the highest total number of deaths attributable to air pollution
    • 6-7 million deaths are reported annually caused due to air pollution (including 2.6 million to 3.8 million deaths have been attributed to burning wood, coal, crop residue, dung and kerosene for cooking, heating and lighting.)
    • Exposure to ambient PM2.5 is the highest environmental risk factor for the global burden of disease
  2. Trends in drinking water and sanitation
    • As per the report, 2.1 billion people in 2015 lacked access to clean drinking water services and 4.5 billion people lacked access to safely managed sanitation facilities
    • 90 percent of child deaths are caused by diarrheal diseases
  3. Chemicals
    • Global chemical pollution is a challenge to the environment
    • Despite environment conventions like Stockholm Convention on POPs; Minamata Convention; there are more chemicals regularly made available for commercial use which display the same properties as the regulated persistent organic pollutants
    • The report mentions the adverse effects termed as ‘potential multigenerational effects’ on human health and the wildlife; that is born by the endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
  4. Land-use change and habitat loss
    • Urban growth leads to habitat loss and land-use change.
    • Land use practises like burning, livestock grazing etc. put pressure on the land.
    • Commercial fishing practises is affecting the marine environment
  5. Invasive Species
    • There is a growing effect of invasive species on the ecosystem.
    • Example of Invasive species – Zebra mussels, gypsy moth etc.
  6. Food Security
    • The report mentions that around 33 percent of food wastage is carried out globally.
    • 56 per cent of total food loss and food waste occurs in developed countries, while 44 per cent originates from developing countries
  7. Five drivers that bring changes in natural systems and social systems are:
    • Population
    • Economic Development
    • Urbanization
    • Technology
    • Climate Change
  8. Population growth
    • UN estimates mention that the population peak is going to be higher than the earlier projections. (2018 World Population – 7.6 Billion)
  9. Urbanization
    • Rural-to-urban migration to continue that is going to increase pressure on both the environment and the need for sustainability.
  10. Economic Development – There are concerns like:
    • Persistent debt-crisis
    • Increasing income-inequality
    • Trade wars leading to instability
  11. The economic and human impact of disasters in between 2004-2014
    • Disaster caused total damage of 1.5 trillion US Dollars in the last ten years.
    • 1.7 billion people were affected due to the disasters
    • 0.7 million people were killed in the disasters in the last 10 years where roughly 70 percent of deaths are caused by earthquakes and tsunamis.

Takeaway Points for India from Global Environment Outlook

  1. As mentioned before, the report suggests that India can save around Rs. 210 trillion approximately in healthcare costs if the Paris agreement target of limiting the global temperature beyond 1.5 degrees celsius in this century is achieved.
  2. Women in India spend an estimated 150 million workdays per year collecting and carrying water, the equivalent of a national income loss of 10 billion rupees (approximately US$160 million per year). The report mentioned the need for realizing the importance of women being able to spend their time on other activities.
  3. Case of demand-side management in India was presented in the report with the mention of UJALA scheme. The report stated, “UJALA is an international demand-side management showcase, being applied in the second largest world market (worth US$0.33 billion/year and growing) and more recently replicated in Malaysia.”

For healthy planet and healthy people, there is a need for Clean Energy:

  1. Circular Economy
  2. Adaptation to climate change
  3. Sustainable food systems
  4. Liveable cities

Topics related to environment and climate change are very important for the UPSC examination. Candidates should use the findings of the reports in their mains answer writing. This report on Global Environment Outlook can be useful in GS 2 under international organizations and GS 3 under environment. The facts can be used in the essay paper as well. (Read how to write an essay in UPSC in the linked article.)

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Frequently Asked Question – Global Environment Outlook – GEO Report

Q.1. Who publishes the Global Environment Outlook Report?

Ans. The United Nation Environment Program publishes the Global Environment Outlook Report.

Q.2. When was the first Global Environment Outlook launched?

Ans. The UN Environment launched the first Global Environment Outlook (GEO) in 1997.

Q.3. Which is the latest edition of the GEO report?

Ans. The  United Nation Environment Program UNEP has released the sixth edition of the Global Environment Outlook – GEO 6, titled ‘Healthy Planet, Healthy People’.

Q.4. What is the aim of the GEO Reports?

Ans. The Global Environment Outlook reports aim to build on sound scientific knowledge to provide governments, local authorities, businesses and individual citizens with the information needed to guide societies to a truly sustainable world by 2050.

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