A critical priority
World Resources 2000-2001

‘For too long development priorities have focused on how much humanity can take from our ecosystems, and have paid little attention to the impact of our actions,’ says Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, in the Foreword to World Resources 2000-2001. ‘This report reconfirms UNEP’s commitment, and that of the three other collaborating agencies, to making the viability of the world’s ecosystems a critical development priority for the 21st century.’

World Resources 2000-2001 focuses on five critical ecosystems – croplands, forests, coastal zones, freshwater systems and grasslands – and advocates three steps for their sustainable management.

The first is to acknowledge the value of the goods and services they provide, and the report provides examples of such goods and services that occur naturally, but which have to be replicated or supplemented when an ecosystem’s natural capacity declines. These include freshwater filtration by wetlands, pollination of crops and carbon sequestration in forests.

Then, the report suggests, management decisions should be based on current information about the capacity of ecosystems to remain productive. Such information has never before been collected comprehensively but to demonstrate the feasibility of a full-scale Millennium Assessment of Global Ecosystems, World Resources 2000-2001 evaluates the statistical evidence now available to determine trends and conditions in the five ecosystems. It provides bottom-line judgements for each on food or fibre production, water quantity and quality, biodiversity, carbon sequestration and recreation.

‘Our conclusion,’ says Toepfer, ‘is that while food and fibre production will probably continue to rise in line with demand, many of the other benefits provided by ecosystems will diminish unless we make strenuous efforts to manage our vital resources more effectively.’

The final step advocated by World Resources 2000-2001 is the adoption of an ‘ecosystem approach’ that explicitly recognizes the interactions among these goods and services, as well as the political and social contexts in which environmental decisions are made. ‘Through five detailed case studies and many additional examples,’ concludes Klaus Toepfer, ‘the report confirms that people all over the world have the capacity to improve the way they manage ecosystems.’

World Resources 2000-2001 also presents current global environmental trends in population, human well-being, food and water security, consumption and waste, energy use and climate change, together with comprehensive data on more than 150 countries.

World Resources 2000-2001, published jointly by UNEP, United Nations Development Programme, The World Bank and the World Resources Institute, is available from www.earthprint.com or SMI, PO Box 119, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 4TP, UK (Fax +44 1438 74 88 44) at $27.00

Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | The right to diversity | Gain, not pain | Changing course | From summit to summit | Empowering the poor | The environment millennium | Focus On Your World | Competition | A critical priority | Flashing indicators | Sea changes | No wires attached | Now for vigorous action | Malmö Ministerial Declaration | Young, impatient and soon to be in charge | Green spot in Africa