According to Anna Ballance of the United Nations Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) information office, the term “environment” refers to all the elements of the physical and biological world including humans, as well as the interactions between them. According to Ms. Balance, these elements may be categorized as ecosystem: goods, meaning the actual natural resources themselves (flora, fauna, soil mineral, air, water), and services which include harvestable products (crops, timber), processes essential to sustain the provision of these resources (nutrient cycles, climate patterns, flooding control) and aesthetic and cultural benefits of ecosystems (recreation).
Worldwide, these resources and services are being degraded mainly by man-made pressures such as increasing population and consumption.
A Global Environment Outlook report produced by the UNEP states that pressures from rapid population growth and rising consumption trends are leading to the over-harvesting of resources as well as to the pollution of air, water and land. The report points out that these environmental changes impact human livelihoods by reducing food security, increasing vulnerability to natural hazards and diseases, and limiting opportunities for economic growth.
Challenges in the Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands’ economic base is heavily reliant on and primarily sustained by the exploitation of its natural resources. Unless this is changed, there will always exist a great potential for its environment to be put under pressure from human activities.
These activities in the country’s forestry, mining, fisheries and agricultural sectors are vital to the country’s economy; without them, Solomon Islands will face economic stagnation.
However, most of the negative changes to the country’s biodiversity and ecosystem services, state of pollution, as well as land and coastal degradation can be directly linked to these economic activities.
Changes caused by these man-made (anthropogenic) direct and indirect drivers are only further compounded by the country’s rapid population growth, urbanization and climate change. Climate change issues such as sea level rise (SLR) pose serious threats to coastal communities through loss of livelihoods. Likewise the country’s increasing population creates additional pressures on the environment manifestly through loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Responding to the challenges
The Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology (MECDM) is leading the fight in Solomon Islands to protect, restore and enhance the country's natural environment, helping to direct the country towards a path of sustainable development outcomes that are in line with objectives spelled out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Booklet.
The Ministry is primarily responsible for protecting the environment, through the formulation of policies and enforcement of existing environmental legislation, with an extended role towards disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Additionally, The MECDM is the national focal point for a number of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) including the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD), and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The Ministry is also responsible for implementing environmental initiatives and projects such as the Coral Triangle Initiative and other conservation efforts and regulates processes that have a direct impact on the environment as a means of ensuring sustainable development.