Will all other environmental summits depend on Eye on Earth?

This blog article has been produced for Eye on Earth Summit 2011 by SciDev.Net Conference Service, which maintains all editorial independence.

Squeezed between the COP17 Climate Change summit in Durban, which ends on 9 December, and the ‘big one’ on sustainable development — Rio+20 in June — a much lower key, but no less important environmental event will be taking place,

Under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi , the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi (Dec 12–15), could well be the environmental summit all others depend on:  the one that points out the importance of data networks for making environmental decisions.

Everyone knows the data is out there, but how do you access it in a useful way? This is a particularly pertinent question for developing and emerging countries.

The idea of the summit is to strengthen existing data access by creating linked networks, or by launching new ones. But it’s not just about technical systems, it is about the right to information and how it can be accessed by those who need it to improve lives, combat climate change and biodiversity loss, and protect against disasters. That’s why you need ministers in the room, not only scientists.

The Eye on Earth Summit declaration at the end of the four day meeting of ministers, international organisation officials, luminaries such as Bill Clinton, Jane Morris Goodall and Philippe Cousteau, just to name a few, will go to Rio+20. But the conference is much more than a political statement. UNEP’s Peter Gilruth tells me that his wishlist for the summit includes an agreement that developing countries will be supported in building capacity to maintain information networks.  Countries in the North and the South should both be able benefit from the information age.

Yojana Sharma

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