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Energy issues to be at the centre of debates of the meeting of the Parties to UNECE Treaties on Environmental Assessment in June

Published: 28 May 2014

Over 150 Government officials, representatives of international organizations, international financial institutions (IFIs), civil society, academia and other stakeholders from some 50 countries will meet in Geneva from 2 to 5 June to take stock of progress made in implementing environmental assessment procedures within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region and beyond. Such assessments are key for Governments and the public alike to ensure that projects, plans and programmes that affect the environment are developed in a most sustainable manner.

During four days of meetings, Parties to the UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) and its Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) will look, among other things, at how the Convention and the Protocol contribute to sustainable energy generation and use, how they can facilitate accession by countries outside the region and what role the IFIs can play in raising awareness about and increasing the implementation of the two instruments.

Aside from providing the platform for decisions on priorities and the budget for the next three years, the meeting will have three special thematic sessions in the form of seminars or a panel discussion.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, 3 June, a seminar on wind and hydro energy will look at good practice in the application of the Convention and the Protocol and will examine issues of landscape analysis, spatial planning and environmental challenges in the framework of environmental assessment for such activities and plans.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, 4 June, a seminar on the globalization of the Convention and the Protocol and the role of international financial institutions will be held, moderated by the European Investment Bank (EIB), to discuss the application of the Convention and the Protocol outside the UNECE region. The seminar aims to provide some insights regarding interested countries practice and development needs for their possible future accession to the two instruments. Participants will then explore ways to raise awareness of the two UNECE treaties in other regions and how the IFIs could support the development of the necessary legislation and institutional capacity for the implementation of the Convention and the Protocol in countries outside the region. The law and practice of a number of countries in the African and Asian regions will be examined. Representatives from the World Bank, EIB, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the African Development Bank and the Department for International Development (United Kingdom) will showcase their experience in applying environmental assessment in their operations within and beyond the UNECE region, and leading civil society organizations, such as Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) Bankwatch Network and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), will give presentations to further stimulate discussion.

On the morning of Thursday, 5 June, at the high-level segment, a panel discussion on the application of the Convention and the Protocol to energy-related matters will be held. Under the direction of Mr. Valentinas Mazuronis, Minister for Environment of Lithuania, and Mr. Andriy Mokhnyk, Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of Ukraine, participants will examine achievements, lessons learned and remaining challenges in this area, in particular through recent case-studies, such as the Nord Stream gas pipeline project in the Baltic Sea and the Cernavodă nuclear power plant in Romania. Participants will then reflect on how to improve implementation of the Convention and the Protocol for energy-related projects, plans and policies, looking, in particular, at the practice in the countries of Eastern-Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia in the energy sector and the role of Euratom.

The adoption of a Declaration on Thursday afternoon, focusing on the areas examined during the seminars and panel discussions over the course of the 4-day meeting, will mark the end of the joint session.

Meeting documents are available at the Conventions website http://www.unece.org/env/eia/meetings/mop_6.html.

Note to editors:

The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo, 1991) is the only international instrument under the umbrella of the United Nations that offers a legal framework to ensure international cooperation in assessing and managing environmental impacts of planned activities, in particular in a transboundary context. In force since 1997, it has 45 Parties, including the European Union. The Convention has been applied over 1,000 times to date and is applied more and more often. This growth reflects the increase in the number of Parties, but also indicates that States find transboundary environmental assessment a valuable procedure for informing and consulting the authorities and the public of neighbouring countries.

 

The following countries are Parties to the Espoo Convention: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The European Union is also a regional integration organization member.

The 2001 amendment to the Convention, once in force and once ratified by all Parties that were Parties to the Convention in 2001, will allow accession by any Member State of the United Nations and thus turn the Convention to a global instrument on EIA. Only one ratification is missing for the 2001 amendment to enter into force.

In 2003, the Convention was supplemented by the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment. Since its entry into force in 2011, the Protocol concretely helps to lay the groundwork for sustainable development: it ensures that Parties integrate environmental, including health, considerations and public concerns into their plans and programmes, and to the extent possible also into policies and legislation, at the earliest stages. To date, the Protocol counts 26 Parties, including the European Union.

The following countries are Parties to the Conventions Protocol: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The European Union is a regional integration organization member.

The Protocol was negotiated to provide for the possibility of non-UNECE States to become Parties, upon approval by the Meeting of the Parties. With the adoption of draft decision VI/5II/5 in June 2014, the requirement for prior approval would be lifted, rendering thus the Protocol a fully global instrument.

UNECE provided the setting for the negotiation of the Convention and its Protocol and now provides the secretariat for the two treaties.


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