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Environmental Vulnerability Index

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Environmental Vulnerability Index

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.

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.

Contact Information:

C/- South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC)
Private Mail Bag
GPO Suva
Suva
FIJI ISLANDS

Tel: (679) 338 1377
Fax: (679) 337 0040
Internet: www.sopac.org ; www.vulnerabilityindex.net
Email: Director

 

 


Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 June 2010 07:59  

Newsflash

In response to the recent negative press, particularly from the media outside of the Pacific islands, regarding the vulnerability of our islands to climate change and sea-level rise, the Director of the SOPAC Secretariat, Dr. Russell Howorth, convened a press conference to correct this misconception.

Specifically, these media (and others) have made reference to a recently published article in an international scientific journal co-authored by a senior staff member of the SOPAC Secretariat. Copies of the brief prepared by the senior staff member by way of a response were circulated. The response emphasises that the article addresses the ongoing change in shape, size, and position on the reef platform of 27 low-lying coral islands on four atolls over the past 19-61 years based upon studies of historic air photographs and recent high-resolution satellite imagery. In no way does it make sweeping conclusions that the vulnerability of our islands is reducing particularly with regard to predictions about future impacts of sea-level change.