UNEP Year Book 2013 Highlights Need for Effective Arctic Governance, Chemical Risk Reduction

UNEP Year Book 201318 February 2013: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released the 2013 edition of its Year Book, which presents events and developments from 2012 on key environmental indicators. The Year Book highlights two emerging issues, namely the need for effective governance of the fragile Arctic region, and reaching the goal of sound chemicals management by 2020.

The 2013 Year Book features chapters on: the year in review, environmental events and developments; searching for responses to a rapidly changing Arctic; reaching for the 2020 goal for sound chemicals management, and the need for better information and sound management to minimize chemical risks; and key environmental indicators.

The Year Book highlights the reduction in Arctic summer ice cover, specifically the record low of 3.4 million square kilometers in 2012, 18% below the previous recorded minimum in 2007. It notes that retreating ice brings easier access to natural resources such as gas and oil, thus prompting increased threats to already fragile ecosystems and wildlife. The Year Book calls for improved governance of the Arctic, underlining the key role the Arctic Council can play. It recommends: reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and highlights scope for curbing regional emissions of short-lived pollutants such as black carbon; assessing how exploitation of the Arctic would affect ecosystems and the peoples of the North; and adopting a long term vision and innovative policy responses that include the views of indigenous peoples.

The Year Book also discusses the ongoing challenge of chemicals management, and highlights emerging threats, including the risks of chemical mixtures, low-dose exposure, the substitution of hazardous chemicals by other hazardous chemicals, and nanotechnology. The report recommends the use of economic instruments to create financial incentives for improving chemical safety, increased government capacity for chemical regulation, and clear and consistent public information on the hazards and uses of specific chemicals. [UN Press Release] [UNEP Press Release] [Publication: UNEP Yearbook 2013]