OSLO - The United Nations needs to beef up and better coordinate efforts to help fight threats such as climate change, deforestation or over-fishing, two experts said on Thursday.
The world's system of green agencies and treaties is bewildering and while the international body's efforts are considerable they are diffused by having many organizations overseeing one aspect or another, the experts said.
There is an urgent need for an environmental organization within the U.N. system with the influence to realize change and to stand side by side with strong organizations such as the World Trade Organization and World Health Organization, Italy's Stefania Prestigiacomo and Kenya's John Michuki said.
They are the environment ministers of Italy and Kenya, respectively, and co-chairs of a group considering U.N. environmental reform.
Global environmental crises, from vanishing biodiversity and degrading forests to collapsing fish stocks and climate change, will not be solved without some tough thinking about international governance, they wrote in an opinion article.
They did not propose any specific agency for the role, but in the U.N. system, the Nairobi-based U.N. Environment Program is now the main authority, although its budget is low by U.N. standards at about $200 million a year.
Efforts to combat global warming, meanwhile, are overseen by the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn. Among others, the secretariat for safeguarding biological diversity is based in Montreal and another for wildlife trade is in Geneva.
A recent independent study has estimated the costs of separate secretariats are four times more compared to organizations that have all their related treaties under one roof, the ministers wrote. UNEP gave the article to Reuters.
Prestigiacomo and Michuki's group is meeting in Rome this week to review options. They are due to report back to UNEP in early 2010.
In September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy also wrote a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging an overhaul in the wake of a U.N. climate conference in Denmark in December.
We must make use of the momentum provided by Copenhagen to make further progress toward the creation of a World Environmental Organization, they wrote. The December 7-18 meeting is meant to agree a new U.N. pact to fight global warming.
Some past reform efforts have floundered, partly because some fear that overhauling the system could distract from action to address environmental problems.
In 2007, former French President Jacques Chirac won support from 49 nations for a new U.N. environment organization. But the United States, China and Russia did not sign up.