Remote Sensing and Environmental Treaties: Building More Effective Linkages
Roberta Balstad Miller, Center for International Earth Science Information (CIESIN), Columbia University;
Oran Young, Institute on International Environmental Governance, Dartmouth College;
Jean Meyer-Roux, Space Applications Institute, Joint Research Centre, Italy;
Robert Harriss, Environmental and Social Impacts Group, U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research;
Gerard Begni, MEDIAS France;
Anthony Janetos, World Resources Institute;
Susan Subak, Office of Atmospheric Programs, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;
David Sandalow, Assistant Secretary for Oceans, Environment and Science,
U.S. Department of State;
Marc Levy, CIESIN;
Jack Estes, Remote Sensing Research Unit, UC Santa Barbara;
John Townshend, Global Land Cover Facility, University of Maryland;
Kal Raustiala, UCLA Law School; and
co-sponsored by the CIESIN, the World Conservation Union, and MEDIAS France
The tremendous proliferation of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) over the past 20 years has resulted in over 240 multilateral treaties that cover scores of environmental issues—and more global and regional agreements are on the drawing board.
But to achieve their purpose, these treaties require precise and accurate information about environmental conditions. Remote-sensing technology may allow for dramatically improved monitoring of those conditions as well as have great impact many other areas of foreign policy. Sixty-eight professionals from the remote sensing community and MEA constituencies met for two days at the Wilson Center to discuss enhancing the effectiveness of MEAs through the appropriate application of remote sensing data and technology.
Workshop participants came to a number of conclusions regarding the current potential of remote sensing in relation to MEAs:
1. Sovereignty concerns have generally taken precedence over enforcement of treaty provisions, and therefore contracting parties are unlikely to accept external verification. This may change as environmental issues grow in salience.
2. Many treaty-specific remote sensing applications are still experimental; these applications will need to be further refined before they will have the credibility necessary for use in compliance verification.
3. Issues such as guaranteed access to data by all parties, documentation of methodologies, and long-term data archiving have yet to be addressed.
Workshop participants also made a number of recommendations:
Participants agreed that the workshop represented the first step in a dialogue between the remote-sensing community and MEA constituencies, and that further exchanges are needed. CIESIN pledged to foster that dialogue through a new Web site at http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/rs-treaties. In response to participants' recommendations, CIESIN will also summarize case studies of treaty-specific remote sensing applications that can serve as a "state-of-the-art" in the field; it will also consult with convention secretariats about their remote-sensing data needs.