UNEP-MCC collaborative research initiative

The future of global environmental assessment-making (FOGEAM)

Download the intermediate FOGEAM report here. It was prepared for UNEP in September 2014. Revised versions of some chapters will appear as research articles in our Special Issue of Environmental Science & Policy on Solution-oriented GEAs soon.

Download our short Background Paper here. It was prepared for the Intergovernmental and Multi-stakeholder Consultation on the Sixth UNEP Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6), Berlin, Oct 2014.

The release of GEO-5 (the Fifth Global Environment Outlook) in 2012 provided an opportunity to step back and reflect on the experiences and lessons learned from past large-scale global environmental assessments (GEAs) including the IPCC WG III AR5, IAASTD, MA, and the plans for IPBES. In this context, the MCC and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) initiated a collaborative research initiative called “The Future of Global Environmental Assessment Making” (FOGEAM) in early 2013. FOGEAM was advanced by the MCC Working Group Scientific Assessments, Ethics, and Public Policy (SEP).

The ongoing research under the FOGEAM initiative aims to learn from past GEAs in order to inform the design and conduct of future GEAs. FOGEAM works toward establishing a deeper understanding of the evolution of GEAs and how their policy orientations have shifted in recent years. It analyzes the relationships between the objectives, procedures and methodologies, and resources of GEAs with policy discourses and it investigates major obstacles and tradeoffs that have arisen in these complex and large-scale learning processes. In view of the increasing demand for solution-orientated assessments that can support the attainment of the multiple environmental goals that have been established at the international and domestic levels in recent decades, FOGEAM puts a special focus on strengthening the procedural and methodological options for carrying out and integrating solution-oriented public policy assessments.

Main (envisaged) outputs:

  • Special Issue of Environmental Science and Policy (expected in 2017) on solution-oriented global environmental assessments. Guest editors: Martin Kowarsch and Jason Jabbour. Besides the FOGEAM team, contributors (confirmed to date) include, for instance, Joseph Alcamo, Jan Bakkes, Silke Beck, Frank Biermann, Ottmar Edenhofer, Peter M. Haas, Marcel Kok, Melissa Lane, Michael Oppenheimer, Arthur Petersen, László Pintér, Robert Watson, etc.;
  • A multi-authored commentary on solution-oriented GEAs (in preparation);
  • A report on the work-in-progress conducted under the FOGEAM project, along with a background document (policy brief) prepared by MCC, as official inputs to UNEP’s Intergovernmental and Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on GEO-6 in Berlin in October 2014, where MCC members participated as stakeholders;
  • Three expert workshops (see below) to facilitate systematic reflection on contemporary GEAs by practitioners, scholarly observers, and other stakeholders;
  • Presentation of preliminary FOGEAM results at the International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP) Milan, July 2015 (panel organized by Christian Flachsland and Martin Kowarsch), and at the World Science Forum (INGSA side event) in Budapest, November 2015;
  • Compilation of a GEA metadata catalogue composed of information on large-scale assessments (in preparation).

Methods and approaches

  • Roughly 100 semi-structured expert interviews with individuals engaged in various GEAs (see Annex B), at least 67 of which participated in the GEO-5 process. The interviews were mainly conducted via Skype and telephone between August 2013 and July 2014. They lasted 55 minutes on average and anonymity was assured. All of the interviews were recorded and transcribed with the participants’ prior consent, and MAX QDA was used to facilitate coding and analysis;
  • Expert workshops as a source of information and as a forum to discuss ideas. A first workshop was held with UNEP´s assessment experts(UNEP-DEWA) in August 2013, and a second two-day expert workshop with GEO-5 authors was held in Berlin in October 2013 to identify and discuss the lessons learned from GEO-5 and other assessments. Finally, 30 Sep - 01 Oct 2015, we held a high-level expert workshop in Berlin on the challenges and prospects of solution-oriented policy assessments (see here for program and participants);
  • Analyses of GEA background documents, including scoping papers, meeting reports, independent evaluations, official United Nations documentation, government reports, news articles, and, of course, the assessment publications themselves; 
  • Literature reviews and syntheses. The peer-reviewed literature includes publications directly related to GEAs, as well as other streams of literature related to key issues of GEAs, such as contributions from STS, philosophy, political theory, public policy analysis; 
  • Numerous informal conversations and discussions, including with members of the IPCC AR5 WGIII Technical Support Unit, located near Berlin, several other IPCC authors from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), and the MCC, as well as with experienced scholars working at the science-policy interface and international environmental governance; 
  • Reflections on and discussions with the project team members regarding their personal experiences with various GEAs. One team member (Jabbour) was part of the production team of GEO-5, and another (Flachsland) was a contributing author to the IPCC AR5 WGIII; 
  • Conceptual and theoretical reflections and argumentations. 

Researchers involved in FOGEAM from the MCC Working Group on Scientific Assessments, Ethics, and Public Policy:

Dr. Martin Kowarsch (project leader and coordinator)

Dr. Christian Flachsland (project manager)

Jennifer Garard (PhD student)

Pauline Riousset (PhD student)

Researchers involved in FOGEAM from UNEP:

Jason Jabbour (project manager)

FOGEAM contact person:

Please contact Dr. Martin Kowarsch if you have any questions or comments on the FOGEAM research initiative.