Keeping the World’s Environment under Review
An Intellectual History of the Global Environment Outlook

01-06-2022 | Rapport

How do we take stock of the state and changing trend of the world’s environment and draw lessons from policy experiences? Amongst the myriad detailed narratives about the condition of the planet, the periodic Global Environment Outlook (GEO), published by the United Nations Environment Programme, stands out as the most ambitious. For nearly three decades, the GEO project has not only delivered iconic global assessment reports, but the many contributors have also inspired hundreds of similar processes, worldwide, from regional to local levels. This history provides an inside account of the evolution of the GEO project from its earliest days. 

Building on meticulous research, including interviews with former heads of the United Nations Environment Programme, diplomats, leading contributing scientists, and senior leaders of collaborating organisations, the story is told from the perspective of five GEO veterans who all played a pivotal role in shaping the periodic assessments. GEO’s history provides striking insights and will save valuable time for those who will commission, design and conduct, as well as critique and improve the assessments of environmental development, in the next decade.

PBL and its predecessors have contributed to all global editions of GEO, especially to the forward-looking part — the actual outlook. PBL has supported the production of this history report.