Archive for June, 2013


57002830The EVI is based on 50 indicators for estimating the vulnerability of the environment of a country to future shocks. These indicators are combined by simple averaging and reported simultaneously as a single index, a range of policy-relevant thematic sub-indices and as a profile showing the results for each indicator. Simple averages across indicators were used because they can be easily understood and more complex models do not appear to offer any advantages to the expression or utility of the index. This overview with drill-down structure means that in addition to an overall signal of vulnerability, the EVI can be used to identify specific problems. The EVI has been designed to reflect the extent to which the natural environment of a country is prone to damage and degradation. It does not address the vulnerability of the social, cultural or economic environment, nor the environment that has become dominated by those same human systems (such as cities and farms) because these are included in the economic and social vulnerability indices which are needed separately to identify trade-offs.

10-SlidesTherefore, the natural environment includes those biophysical systems that can be sustained without direct and/or continuing human support. The environment at risk includes ecosystems, habitats, populations and communities of organisms, physical and biological processes (such as beach building and reproduction), productivity and energy flows, diversity at all levels, and interactions among them all. Each of these ecosystem goods, services and relationships may be affected by natural and human hazards, the risk of which may vary with time, place and human choices and behaviour. The indicators used are ‘smart’ or end-point indicators, selected because they signal a wide variety of conditions and processes that must be operating well if that measure is favourable in terms of environmental vulnerability. Smart indicators are a way of minimising data requirements while providing a good characterisation of environmental vulnerability. For example, the presence in a country of a high percentage of original forest cover automatically indicates that all the processes that lead to maintenance of good cover must be operating well for that end-point to be present, without the need to measure the many hundreds of indicators that could individually lead to losses. The conditions present may include good policies for preservation, low widespread degradation, sufficient renewable water recharge, and little problem with acid rain.

6-Sea-TemperaturesThere are three distinct aspects of vulnerability recognisable for environmental, economic and social aspects of countries, all of which need to be evaluated to provide an overall sense of the issues at play. These are the risks associated with hazards, resistance and acquired vulnerability (damage). The first aspect relates to the likelihood of hazards coming into play, while the latter two aspects are related to the ability of the environment to withstand the effects of hazards. In the EVI, indicators were specifically selected to ensure that information on these three aspects is incorporated in the overall vulnerability of countries. There are 32 indicators of hazards, 8 of resistance and 10 that measure damage. The hazard indicators relate to the frequency and intensity of hazardous events. The resistance indicators refer to the inherent characteristics of a country that would tend to make it more or less able to cope with natural and anthropogenic hazards. This includes measures such as absolute size (there are fewer options for refuges in small countries) and number of shared borders (there are greater risks of trans-boundary effects). Damage indicators relate to the vulnerability that has been acquired through loss of ecological integrity or increasing levels of degradation of ecosystems. The underlying assumption is that the more degraded the ecosystems of a country (as a result of past natural and anthropogenic hazards), the more vulnerable it is likely to be to future hazards. Indicators were also selected to ensure a good spread of information across the different elements that comprise and/or affect ecosystems. Indicators on weather & climate (6 indicators), geology (4), geography (6), ecosystem resources & services (28) and human populations (6) were chosen to ensure a good cross-section of the ecological processes, including human interactions occurring in countries.

20-EndemicsFor most indicators, signals are based on average levels observed over the past 5 years, but may include data for much longer periods for geological events. The indicators signal risk potentials based on the experience of the immediate past because these are the influences most likely to affect short-term trends in environmental vulnerability and how ecosystems may respond to hazards compared with the years preceding them. This does not imply that that there are no effects of older events, only that the EVI has been designed to focus on this time frame. With repeated evaluations, the EVI will demonstrate changes in otherwise longer-term processes. The outcome of this strategy will be an understanding that for a while after an event, vulnerability to future hazards is elevated. The short timeframe also allows improvements to be measured quickly for indicators that can be directly influenced by human action.

All of the EVI’s indicators are transformed to a common scale so that they can be combined by averaging, and to facilitate the setting of thresholds of vulnerability. This new scale has been designed to reflect the environmental vulnerability associated with each indicator, regardless of any other scale on which an indicator could simultaneously exist. The EVI scale was defined as ranging between a value of 1 (indicating high resilience / low vulnerability) and 7 (indicating low resilience / high vulnerability). The EVI scale was determined separately for each indicator, is designed to be policy- relevant, and is based on the best available scientific information.

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EVI-Logo-NewA vulnerability index for the natural environment, the basis of all human welfare, has been developed by the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and their partners. The index was developed through consultation and collaboration with countries, institutions and experts across the globe. This index is designed to be used with economic and social vulnerability indices to provide insights into the processes that can negatively influence the sustainable development of countries.

The reason for using indices for this purpose is to provide a rapid and standardised method for characterising vulnerability in an overall sense, and identifying issues that may need to be addressed within each of the three pillars of sustainability, namely environmental, economic and social aspects of a country’s development. Development is often achieved through trade-offs between these pillars. Therefore, in order to promote sustainability, it has become increasingly important to be able to measure how vulnerable each aspect is to damage and to identify ways of building resilience. With this information to hand, the outcome for countries could be optimised for their unique situations and development goals.

templatemo_image_05Why focus on vulnerability?

The vulnerability of our environmental, social and economic systems is made up of more than just the risk of disasters and good or bad management. It is not just about climate change, or globalisation, or trade agreements. It must also include an understanding of how well any system (environmental, social and economic) can cope with any hazards that may come its way and that might harm it. It would be impossible to work towards good quality of life and growth for countries under a sustainable development model if no account were made of the damage that can occur from internal and outside influences.

For development to be sustainable, we clearly need to learn to manage our vulnerabilities. We need to be able to understand and/or manage hazards, natural resilience and acquired resilience. This understanding for the first time opens up opportunities for improving our overall vulnerability because it forces us to examine the problem from all angles, instead of just focusing on the risk of disasters. Vulnerability management is emerging as a critical part of any sustainable development strategy.

The interesting thing about vulnerability is that it can be examined at different levels for different issues. That is, it can be used to look at a single issue, or to assess a complex entity such as a country.

Vulnerability Inherent characteristics of a country + Forces of nature + Human use + Climate change

The overall vulnerability of a country is the result of a large number of interacting forces. Some of these can be influenced by our policies and actions. Others, like the forces of nature, cannot be directly changed by our choices. Where we have no power to change a factor, such as the weather or volcanoes, we can still improve our overall position by increasing resilience or reducing vulnerability
in seemingly-unrelated aspects of our environment. In the indicator descriptions that follow, we highlight some of the direct and indirect approaches that could be used to respond to vulnerability issues.

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A vulnerability index for the natural environment, the basis of all human welfare, has been developed by the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and their partners. The index was developed through consultation and collaboration with countries, institutions and experts across the globe. This index is designed to be used with economic and social vulnerability indices to provide insights into the processes that can negatively influence the sustainable development of countries.

The reason for using indices for this purpose is to provide a rapid and standardised method for characterising vulnerability in an overall sense, and identifying issues that may need to be addressed within each of the three pillars of sustainability, namely environmental, economic and social aspects of a country’s development. Development is often achieved through trade-offs between these pillars. Therefore, in order to promote sustainability, it has become increasingly important to be able to measure how vulnerable each aspect is to damage and to identify ways of building resilience. With this information to hand, the outcome for countries could be optimised for their unique situations and development goals.

BPoA Barbados Programme of Action

The Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA), Section C5 Vulnerability Index (paragraphs 113 and 114) called for the development of vulnerability indices and other indicators that reflect the status of Small Island Developing States (SIDs) and integrate ecological fragility and economic vulnerability. An emphasis was placed on how such an index and other measures might be used as quantitative indicators of fragility.

  1. Developed by SOPAC, UNEP and partners
  2. 32 collaborating countries
  3. Global relevance (not just SIDs)
  4. Designed to be used with economic and social vulnerability indices to provide insights into the processes that can negatively influence the sustainable development of countries

 

 

 

The natural environment is unequivocally the life support system for all human endeavours. Far from being a luxury available only to those countries that can ‘afford’ it, successful environmental management will increasingly become the basis for the success or failure of the economies and social systems. Environmental management now occurs within countries in response to individual development projects and at a global scale through international agreements. The approaches being used are largely concerned with pressure being applied to the environment by humans, or the state of the environment. They concentrate on improving practices through the development of guidelines for action, the use of protection, or by limiting exploitation, degradation and pollution. These approaches are critical to our efforts at environmental management, but are insufficient on their own to ensure a sustainable future. They do not always focus on optimisation or the cumulative outcome of our many actions and management approaches over different scales of time or space. Even countries with a good current state of their environment can be highly vulnerable to future damage.

The Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI) is among the first of tools now being developed to focus environmental management at the same scales that environmentally significant decisions are made, and focus them on planned outcomes. The scale of entire countries is appropriate because it is the one at which major decisions affecting the environment in terms of policies, economics and social and cultural behaviours are made. If environmental conditions are monitored at the same time as those concerning human systems, there is better opportunity for feedback between them. Without exception, the environment is the life-support system for all human systems and therefore  an integral part of the developmental success of countries.

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templatemo_image_02

Healthy, productive and protective environments, social systems and economies are the basis of sustainable development and human welfare. The environment is the source of all our raw materials and absorbs the pollution from our activities. In turn, whilst going about our daily business (social and economic) we use the environment and convert its resources and natural services into those that directly support us. The problem is that all of these systems can be damaged, overloaded, or prevented from meeting our needs. By our own choices we can to a large extent determine our own quality of life, the condition of our lands and opportunities for future generations. Vulnerability is a new way of looking at an age-old problem. Instead of focusing just on what has been going wrong in the past and the effects of hazards, vulnerability gives us the opportunity to focus on getting things right for the future. As a  future-focused approach, vulnerability is a way of using strengths and strategically improving weaknesses. Vulnerability refers to the tendency of something to be damaged. The opposite of this is resilience, or the ability to resist and/or recover from damage. When we talk about vulnerability, we are automatically also talking about resilience because the two are opposite sides of a single coin. That is, something is vulnerable to the extent that it is not resilient, and visa versa. The idea of vulnerability/resilience applies equally well to physical entities (people, ecosystems, coastlines) and to abstract concepts (social systems, economic systems, countries). The factors that cause the damage are known as hazards, each of which will be associated with some level of risk, or likelihood of occurring.

Why focus on Vulnerability?

The vulnerability of our environmental, social and economic systems is made up of more than just the risk of disasters and good or bad management. It is not just about climate change, or globalisation, or trade agreements. It must also include an understanding of how well any system (environmental, social and economic) can cope with any hazards that may come its way and that might harm it. It would be impossible to work towards good quality of life and growth for countries under a sustainable development model if no account were made of the damage that can occur from internal and outside influences.
For development to be sustainable, we clearly need to learn to manage our vulnerabilities. We need to be able to understand and/or manage hazards, natural resilience and acquired resilience. This understanding for the first time opens up opportunities for improving our overall vulnerability because it forces us to examine the problem from all angles, instead of just focusing on the risk of disasters. Vulnerability management is emerging as a critical part of any sustainable development strategy.
The interesting thing about vulnerability is that it can be examined at different levels for different issues. That is, it can be used to look at a single issue, or to assess a complex entity such as a country.

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