The UNEP Science Strategy was developed in response to “… the need to strengthen [UNEP’s] scientific base” as identified by UNEP’s Governing Council. The Strategy was developed jointly in 2009 by the UNEP Office of the Chief Scientist and the Division of Early Warning and Assessment. Experts provided input to the Strategy at a Consultation meeting at UNEP's office in Nairobi on 4-6 November, 2009.
The Strategy has four overarching goals covering the areas of “emerging issues”, “sustainability scenarios”, “sustainability science”, and “scientific competence”.
The four goals are:
Anticipating the future: UNEP takes a leadership role in the UN system in identifying emerging environmental issues.
In fulfilling this goal, the UNEP Office of the Chief Scientist and Division of Early Warning and Assessment have inaugurated a regular Foresight Process for ranking the most important emerging issues and conveying this information to a wide audience. Also, in line with this goal, the Division of Early Warning and Assessment has implemented a Global Environmental Alert Service for keeping the world informed in a timely fashion about critical environmental developments.
Designing the future: UNEP develops “solution-oriented”, sustainability scenarios as a tool for conveying the feasibility of sustainable solutions to policymakers and stakeholders.
Since the Strategy was developed, various solution-oriented, sustainability scenarios have been developed as part of UNEP products. For example, scenarios of this sort were featured in the “Global Environmental Outlook 5” released in 2012, and in “Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication” released in 2011.
Catalyzing needed science: UNEP takes a lead in formulating and advocating a worldwide sustainability science agenda that meets the critical needs of sustainable development.
To pursue this goal UNEP aims to be an honest broker between the science and policy communities on critical global environmental issues. In this honest broker role, the Office of the Chief Scientist, cooperating with various UNEP divisions, has convened groups of top scientists to produce “synthesis reports” about critical global environmental topics. Among these have been the “Emissions Gap” series of reports which have received a high level of attention in international climate negotiations since 2010. Other reports have covered:
- a joint strategy for reducing air pollution and slowing short term global warming ;
- approaches to strengthening the ecological foundations of food security ; and
- the role of HFCs as a critical link in protecting climate and the ozone layer
Bolstering UNEP’s scientific weight: UNEP equips itself scientifically to accomplish more at the science-policy interface and to strengthen itself as the “leading global environmental authority”
To accomplish this goal the Office of the Chief Scientist is organizing two task forces to increase the impact of its scientific assessments and publications by improving their coherence and scientific rigor. Another aspect of this goal is to establish new scientific partnerships, including the “Programme of Research on Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation to Climate Change” (PROVIA) This has become the major umbrella organization for bringing together scientists concerned with the impact side of climate change science, and provides an important contact point between scientists, policymakers and stakeholders working on climate adaptation measures.