• English

Geneva, 1 December 2004
Statement by Ms. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Executive Secretary

Mr Secretary of State, distinguished delegates and guests,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this special event of the Executive Body, which is being held especially to celebrate the twenty-five years of achievements of the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. I hope that today we shall not just reflect on our past successes - we should also be considering the work we still have to do.

In the 25 years since the Convention was adopted, 8 separate protocols to the Convention have been negotiated. Seven have now entered into force and the eighth is about to do so.

It is the entry into force of the last three Protocols that is giving our current work increased focus and drive. This is a time for reassessing the measures we negotiated in the 1990’s, to see if they have been effective and decide if they are sufficient. If they are not, and current scientific evidence suggests we are still falling short of our ultimate goals, we must consider the possibilities for further action.

The prospects for such action have changed since the late 1990’s. Not only is scientific understanding more advanced, but technologies for emission controls continue to improve. There are also possibilities for considering the benefits of addressing more than one environmental problem at the same time. Work under the Convention is now looking at the synergies between the traditional pollutants and the emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming; linking these may provide attractive options for policy makers when they consider future emissions controls.

In this opening presentation I would particularly like to draw your attention to the statements of congratulations we have received from the Ministers of the Environment of many Parties to the Convention. The secretariat has made copies of these available and it has prepared a short synopsis of their contents.

It is a reflection of the importance attached to air pollution and to the work of the Convention, that so many Ministers of the Environment have sent us statements. In addition to the long list in the document, we have also received statements from the Ministers of Azerbaijan, Belgium, Italy, Spain and the United States.

The statements make interesting reading. I will not attempt to summarize now all of the positive comments on the Convention’s past work and the suggestions made for future priorities. However, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the Ministers’ stress of the importance of the work of the Convention in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, the so-called EECCA region.

With the changing situation in Europe as a result of the enlargement of the European Union, the Convention has an important role to play in the East of the region. Such a focus is also important for UNECE too.

Throughout its history the Convention has used the exchange of knowledge on technology as a means for assisting development of emission controls in Eastern Europe. But while exchange of technology is important, it is not sufficient on its own to help countries with economies in transition to implement the Convention and its protocols.

I am therefore, very pleased that UNECE has managed to secure funding from the United Nations Development Account for its project on Air Quality and Clean Coal Technologies in the Central Asian region – the CAPACT project. This is a good start for developing the necessary monitoring and emission inventory work for Central Asian countries to become fully involved in the work of the Convention, as well as introducing possibilities for pollution controls for coal-fired power stations.

This is just a start. Central Asia is just part of the EECCA region, we need similar action in other EECCA countries. I wish to stress that implementation of the Convention’s protocols in the EECCA region is far lower than we would hope. I am reassured that the Convention’s Working Group on Strategies and Review has begun looking into the difficulties experienced by EECCA countries in their ratification and accession processes. This work needs to be continued and extended to develop concrete action for assistance to these countries.

I’d like now to turn to the west of the UNECE region. Here the active involvement of Canada and the United States in the Convention’s work effectively extends the geographic scope of the Convention over a very large part of the northern hemisphere. The importance of this has only been appreciated in recent years when studies have demonstrated the very long-range transport of some pollutants. Together, North America, Europe and Central Asia can work together to tackle the problem. The UNECE-wide measures may not be sufficient to protect the UNECE region. There are emission sources outside the region that cannot be ignored. It is essential that the Convention develops a better understanding of the movement of pollutants around the northern hemisphere – and that it does this in collaboration with countries outside the region. The Convention has already achieved a lot in developing a common understanding between countries in our region, now it has the further challenge of developing a dialogue with relevant countries outside.

The United Nations recognizes that air pollution is a global problem. As part of the follow-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development will be considering air pollution, together with climate change, energy and industrial development, in its second thematic cluster due for consideration in 2006/2007. The Regional Commissions are expected to make a major contribution to this work and UNECE and the Convention will be in an excellent position to provide its experience as an example to the rest of the world.

Before I finish I would like to draw your attention to the various special reports, brochures, games, as well as the book on the history of the Convention, that are being made available today. These have mostly been produced especially for this event, and it is a creditable performance. On your behalf I would like to congratulate and thank all of those involved in their production as well as acknowledge the government support that has made it possible.

Finally, I would like to note that ministers in their messages have reaffirmed their intention to continue to cooperate with the Convention and contribute to its future work. I too would like to reaffirm UNECE’s intention to continue to service the Convention’s work to the best of our ability.

I wish you continued success in your work. Thank you.