The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) is a major assessment of the human impact on the environment, called for by the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000, launched in 2001 and published in 2005 with more than $14 million of grants. It popularized the term ecosystem services, the benefits gained by humans from ecosystems.
During the 1990s, international conventions such as the UNEP Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification identified the need for a global scientific ecosystem assessment. There had been advances in resource economics with little effect on environmental policy. In November 1998, UNEP, NASA, and the World Bank published a study called "Protecting our Planet, Securing our Future: Linkages Among Global Environmental Issues and Human Needs". In 2001, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) was launched with work over a period of four years. Over 1300 contributors from 95 countries were involved as authors.
In May 2000 the Global Environment Facility approved a $7 million grant, followed in July 2000 by a United Nations Foundation $4 million grant and financial support from the government of Norway for the first meeting of the Board of the MA in Trondheim, and in December 2000 a $2.4 million grant by the Packard Foundation for a total of more than $13.4 million, considered "75% of the full budget".
The MA was published in 2005 and made four main assessments:
The bottom line of the MA findings has been that human actions are depleting Earth’s natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted. At the same time, the assessment shows that with appropriate actions it is possible to reverse the degradation of many ecosystem services over the next 50 years, but the changes in policy and practice required are substantial and not currently underway.
In 2008, a report calculated that the world's richest countries caused environmental damage to developing nations at more than the entire developing world debt of $1.8 trillion.