20 years after the Rio Earth Summit, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) this year released the GEO-5 report. Since the inception of UNEP in 1972 there have been an impressive array of international treaties about the environment, over 500 in fact. But do we know how effective these treaties have been and do they go far enough?

According to Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of UNEP, the goals that are specific and measurable “appear to have a much better record of success”.  These include goals to phase out ozone depleting substances, certain persistent organic pollutants (POP)s, targets to increase the number and extend of protected areas and to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water.

Many other goals have not been achieved and others are non-specific and aspirational in nature making them difficult to track. One example is the aim of improving global freshwater quality…..  a good ambition but how does one measure its achievement or non-achievement?

Voluntary action by individuals and businesses face the same challenge. Once a commitment is made to improve an element of environmental or social sustainability, the targets need to be set so that they are specific and measurable with performance indicators.  This in turn enables the setting up of data gathering and sustainability reporting.

Down load the report at : http://www.unep.org/geo/geo5.asp