Advisory Group on Environmental Emergencies (AGEE)

The world has seen an increase in the frequency and severity of natural and human-made disasters that severely affect lives, livelihoods and the environment. The impact of these disasters, including degradation of vital ecosystems, creates additional vulnerabilities, which in turn undermine the attainment of sustainable development. 

Climate change has led to an increase in the frequency, intensity and unpredictability of extreme hydrological and meteorological events, and global challenges such as environmental degradation, extreme poverty, urbanization, water scarcity, the rising need for energy, migration and population growth disproportionally affect the world’s most vulnerable populations. Environmental emergencies1, are on the rise due to these global challenges and the impact of industrialization. Emergency response meets additional challenges in a context of acute threats to human health and life such as through the release of toxins, radiation etc. For these cases, governance and institutional frameworks for international emergency response are inadequate and specific operational difficulties emerge. There is a lack of awareness, notification procedures, and of clear responsibilities and coordination. 

As a result there is an increasing need for measures to be taken at the national level and demand for international assistance in the areas of prevention, preparedness, response, recovery and risk reduction. In order to meet these challenges, sustainable funding, improved coordination at the national and international level and inter-linkages between disaster risk reduction, pro-action2, prevention, preparedness, mitigation, response, recovery, environmental management and sustainable development efforts are necessary. In the current non-favorable global financial and economic situation, it is becoming ever more important to make wise investment decisions. Prevention, preparedness and risk reduction have shown to produce very good returns on investment, both in the context of natural disasters and in the more specific context of environmental emergencies. In order to meet development goals, risk reduction, prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery mechanisms have to also address the environmental aspects of disasters and accidents such as environmental degradation, pollution, disaster waste etc. Lessons from disaster risk management should be identified and taken into account by policy makers as an important avenue for contributing to a more sustainable development. The increased frequency and severity of natural disasters, humanitarian and environmental emergencies, and the related need for enhanced resilience, disaster prevention and preparedness have been identified as one of the emerging challenges to be discussed at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June 2012 (“Rio+20”).

In the following, specific inputs on strengthening prevention, preparedness, response and risk reduction relating to environmental emergencies are given for inclusion into the Compilation Document for the Rio+20 Conference. 1. What policy measures on environmental emergencies should be incorporated into the menu of policy options?

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