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UN Environment Programme wins award for freshwater-related ecosystems work

  • Environment Programme wins award for freshwater-related ecosystems work

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The leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system.


The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has won an award from the Group on Earth Observations’ Earth Observation for Sustainable Development Goals Initiative and the Group on Earth Observations’ Sustainable Development Goals Awards Panel for its “remarkable efforts to integrate Earth observation data into a global methodology to enable the official monitoring and reporting of Sustainable Development Goal Target 6.6Change in the extent of freshwater related ecosystems over time.”

The title of the award is “2019 Earth Observations for Sustainable Development Award”.

The work was a joint effort of UNEP’s Science and Ecosystems Divisions.

“Although the award was given to UNEP, the work on goal 6.6.1 would not have been possible without a number of other partners, primarily the European Commission-Joint Research Centre and Google, but also a number of other partners including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States, the European Space Agency and the Group on Earth Observations’ Secretariat,” says UNEP statistician Jillian Campbell.

Sustainable Development Goal Target 6.6 seeks to halt the degradation and destruction of water-related ecosystems, and to assist the recovery of those already degraded. The target includes water-related ecosystems such as vegetated wetlands, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and groundwater, as well as those occurring in mountains and forests, which play a special role in storing freshwater and maintaining water quality.

Based on consultations with countries and an initial data scoping during 2017, less than a quarter of countries currently collect national data which can be used to monitor freshwater ecosystem extent.

More information on goal 6.6.1 and its importance in terms of understanding water dynamics and water-related ecosystems is available on the UNEP, Google, the European Commission-Joint Research Centre global web application for monitoring water.

The web application not only provides downloadable geospatial data (geotiffs) on permanent and seasonal water extent, but it also provides downloadable national, sub-national, basin and sub-basin timeseries data which forms the basis for official reporting on Indicator 6.6.1. UNEP, Google and the European Commission-Joint Research Centre, alongside several new partners, are currently revamping the web application. Additional functionality and data will be available by the end of 2019.


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