15 May 2019

On 13th March 2019, the world’s environment ministers agreed to the sixth edition of the Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6), UN Environment’s flagship integrated environmental assessment, at the fourth United Nations Environment Assembly.

While the last truly global assessment on the environment as a whole was published in 2012, major environmental assessments are coming thick and fast at present. These are requested by governments in response to specific issues of common concern—for example, in February the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ State of Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture was published, and in April the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services will launch its Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the successor to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

Of course, such assessments don’t focus exclusively on the relentless historic decline in biodiversity and the state of the world’s ecosystems, though sadly that is a consistent underpinning message. As well as taking stock of the present state of our environment, assessments also look at how effectively policy has addressed this situation and, even more importantly, many look ahead at possible pathways based on scenarios and modelling to show how the world might move to a different and more sustainable kind of future, bending the downward curve of environmental degradation.