An emerging issue is an issue that is not generally recognized but that may have a considerable impact on environmental (social, economic and ecological) well-being in the future. Emerging issues may have positive or negative impacts. The field of understanding and predicting these possible future impacts is called “futures research” or “foresight”.
Environmental policies are often a reaction to the current state of the environment, in order to cure already occurring damages or to remedy environmental problems when they are already in place. But environmental policies need to be able to anticipate future evolutions and apply the precautionary approach in managing them in the light of the uncertainty associated with them. This is particularly important in managing the environment sustainably for future generations.
Every 5 years, the Gulf of Maine Council produces an action plan to provide strategic direction to the work of the organization. The current plan is the Action Plan 2007-2012, and the subsequent action plan is currently being developed. Anticipating and understanding emerging issues will be necessary to ensure that possible future issues will be incorporated in this action plan.
Emerging Issues Theme Paper
It is expected that several theme papers on emerging issues will be written. Initially, the Gulf of Maine Council produced a discussion paper on some key emerging issues in 2010: