20 July 2018

Utrecht University researchers and students key contributors to UN Global Environment Outlook process

Since 2016 several researchers and students from the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University have been key contributors to the 6th United Nations Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6). GEO is a series of reports issued periodically by UN Environment. It paints a comprehensive picture of the state of the environment, highlighting interlinked environmental, social and economic challenges confronting decision makers.

Through a consultative and participatory process, GEO-6 attempts to answer the following questions: what is happening to the environment and why? What are the consequences for the environment and humanity? What is being done and how is it effective? Where are we headed? And what actions could be taken for a more sustainable future?

Five GEO reports have been published to date: GEO-1 in 1997; GEO-2000 in 1999; GEO-3 in 2002; GEO-4 in 2007; and GEO-5 in 2012. GEO-6 will be formally adopted at the United Nations Environment Assembly in March 2019.

Copernicus researchers Lead Authors on a range of GEO chapters

Assistant professor Rak Kim is serving as a Lead Author on two chapters: “Oceans and Seas Policy” and “Systemic Policy Approaches for Cross-cutting Issues”. Rak took part in two Authors’ meetings in Bangkok (2017) and Berlin (2018). The chapters are currently under review by the High Level Intergovernmental and Stakeholder Advisory Group.

GEO-6 "Freshwater" Chapter First Authors. Photo courtesy of Farhad Mukhtarov

Senior Researcher Farhad Mukhtarov is a Lead Author on “Policy Effectiveness” chapter and Lead Coordinating Author of the “Freshwater” chapter. In February 2018, Farhad took part in a week-long meeting of authors in Singapore. Between February and June same year, he was involved in an intensive period of writing, co-leading the efforts of the "Freshwater" chapter. It is currently under review by the High Level Intergovernmental and Stakeholder Advisory Group.

Outlooks: radical approaches in the present to inspire large scale future change

Assistant professor Joost Vervoort is a Lead Author of the GEO-6 “Outlooks” chapter. Over the last year, he has helped conceptualize how bottom-up futures can complement top-down global assessments of pathways toward the SDGs, using his experience in scenario development methodologies.

“Bottom-up” futures use projects and initiatives that experiment with radical approaches to sustainability in the present as inspiration of larger scale change in the future.

Joost was supported by the hard work of Mandy van den Ende and Rohan Bhargava, students from the MSc Sustainable Development Earth System Governance Track. As UN Fellows, Mandy and Rohan provided crucial support to the development of the "Outlooks" chapter.

GEO Regional Assessment for Africa

Joost’s involvement in GEO-6 follows on his work, together with Lucas Rutting, on the GEO Regional Assessment for Africa from 2016.

Mandy van den Ende and Rohan Bhargava in Bangkok. Photo courtesy of Rohan Bhargava

UU Master students at GEO-6 For Youth in Bangkok

Mandy and Rohan also attended the First Authors’ Meeting of GEO-6 For Youth in Bangkok between 25 and 27 June 2018. GEO-6 For Youth is one of several derivative projects of GEO. It aims to translate and communicate key messages from the main report to youth globally.

The meeting brought together sixteen youth authors from around the world along with staff from UN Environment. Interaction with senior figures in the global science and science education communities aims to inspire and introduce participants to global science-policy processes and collaborative mechanisms in policy consensus building.