Preparedness for environmental and technological emergencies

Environmental emergencies can cause severe environmental damage as well as loss of human lives and property. They result from natural, technological or human-induced factors, or a combination of these. Examples include industrial accidents that risk causing significant pollution. These accidents may be caused by human error or the impact of another hazard on an industrial facility or on the transport of hazardous materials. Armed conflict can cause explosions, fires, and the release of toxic materials that require immediate assessment and attention. Environmental emergencies may also result from terrorism, such as the intentional bombing or sabotage of oil pipelines.

Preparing for these events is essential in order to reduce impacts on human health and the environment on which we depend, and to allow a more effective response and recovery.

Since 1988, UNEP has implemented the APELL approach to reduce the risk of environmental and technological emergencies. APELL - "Awareness and Preparedness for Emergencies at Local Level" - raises local awareness of industrial and environmental risks. As a process it brings together local and national government, industry and local communities to develop plans and risk reduction activities focussed on industrial and environmental hazards.

In collaboration with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN Environment has developed a series of tools and online training packages. These help emergency responders prepare for and respond to chemical accidents, know how to manage disaster waste and dangerous debris and identify existing or potential acute environmental impacts that pose risks for humans, human life-support functions and ecosystems, following sudden-onset disasters.

UN Environment's environmental and technological emergency preparedness work has to date focussed on larger industrialised countries and the mining sector in South America. It is now being expanded out to other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

​APELL in South America:

UN Environment has implemented the APELL approach in Bahia Blanca (Argentina), Sao Sebastiao (Brazil), Barranquilla (Colombia) and Cajamarca (Peru). In October 2015 UNEP will be holding a regional training of APELL facilitators to scale up the approach to many more governments and private sector associations.

Introduction to APELL: [APELL 25th anniversary] [APELL implementation - Sao Sebastiao, Brazil] [Shelter in place training - APELL Process in Bahia Blanca] [Visit of UNEP APELL Experts - APELL Process in Bahia Blanca]