Press Releases

    7 June 2002


    NEW YORK, 6 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette at the political launch of the United Nations Environment Programme’s third Global Environment Outlook in Bali on 6 June:

    I am pleased to join Klaus Töpfer in this important launch of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)’s third Global Environment Outlook, or GEO-3.

    We meet at a critical point in our efforts to address the challenges facing the planet. GEO-3 gives us an opportunity to look at where we stand and where we are headed, as we strive to protect and enhance the security and sustainability of the planet.

    This year, the third in the GEO series, is particularly significant in its timing and scope. Coming just before the Johannesburg Summit, GEO-3 completes a global assessment of environmental developments over the past 30 years -- the time that has passed since UNEP was created. It then takes an innovative look at the next 30 years, outlining four policy approaches that compare and contrast the probable impacts on people and the natural world.

    GEO-3 is the most authoritative and comprehensive study on the state of the environment, as of yet. It pulls together a vast amount of knowledge and expertise in a collaborative effort involving over 1,000 people.

    The picture that it depicts is not pretty. Signs of stress on our planet are everywhere. GEO-3 shows that the environment is seriously at risk because of the burdens being placed on it. Around 2 billion hectares of soil, an area the size of Mexico and the United States combined, is degraded as a result of human activities. Around half of the world’s rivers are seriously polluted. And I can go on.

    GEO-3 warns us that we can no longer blindly trust in the regenerative capacity of the planet’s ecosystems. Even in the best-case scenario, conditions will continue to worsen for several decades in a number of areas.

    There are a few bright spots. River and air quality has, for example, improved in North America and Europe over the past 30 years. Regarding the ozone layer, a multilateral effort has been successful in reducing the production and consumption of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). And the extent of protected areas has grown and proven successful in stopping land clearing and, to some extent, tackling logging.

    We have our work cut out for us. GEO-3 shows that we have the resources, the knowledge and the practical experience to nurture and utilize wisely the goods and services of the environment. That’s why the Johannesburg Summit is important. That’s why Johannesburg must give a new jolt of political impetus to real changes on the ground. With your commitment, we can secure our future and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

    That means all of us have choices to make. It would be disastrous to sit back and ignore the picture that GEO-3 has painted for us. The Secretary-General has suggested that we might wish to focus on five areas: water, energy, health, agriculture and biodiversity. You have been discussing these and other areas for some time. Now we need to focus on practical responses. Let us resolve to translate the vision that GEO-3 offers us into reality.

    * *** *