The response to the environmental impacts of large scale, sudden-onset disasters and complex emergencies, as well as industrial accidents, often requires technical expertise that exceeds the capacity of the affected state.
For the purpose of these guidelines, an environmental emergency has been defined as a suddenonset disaster or accident resulting from natural, technological or other human-induced factors, or a combination of these, that cause or threaten to cause severe environmental damage as well as loss to human lives and property.
This damage includes secondary environmental consequences from natural hazards such as earthquakes, storms, floods, tsunamis, wildland fires, landslides and/or man-made disasters such as industrial accidents, transport accidents, chemical spills, oil spills and a multitude of other types of emergencies. Sometimes, a natural event such as a storm or earthquake can trigger a technological accident (a so-called Natech event), which subsequently may lead to the release of chemical contaminants.
Often, governments in countries affected by environmental emergencies may seek expertise and resources available from the international community to manage such crises. In such cases, international support may be provided bilaterally - directly from one country to the affected country or multilaterally, through international entities like the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) / Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Joint Unit (JEU).
These guidelines focus specifically on the roles and responsibilities of regional and international institutions and frameworks in emergency response. As such, they do not in detail cover the prevention, preparedness and recovery phases of an emergency – which are highly important elements of risk management for which a variety of other support mechanisms exist. For more information on these mechanisms, please refer to section 2.4 on Preparedness for Response as well as to the external links and resources listed.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.