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Parties to UNECE treaties adopt declaration on applying environmental assessment procedures to nuclear energy issues

Published: 13 June 2014

On 10 June 2014 Parties to the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context and its Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment adopted a declaration on the application of these instruments to nuclear energy issues last week at back to back sessions of the Meetings of the Parties held in Geneva from 2 to 5 June.

On 5 June, in a joint High-level Session of the Meetings of the Parties devoted largely to energy, and in particular nuclear energy, issues, a high-level panel debated how to most effectively apply the two treaties to energy-related issues, focusing on nuclear activities, but also looking at large-scale energy infrastructure projects, such as gas pipelines. During the panel discussions, participants acknowledged the Convention as a key instrument in establishing rules for domestic action and international cooperation to prevent, reduce and control significant adverse transboundary and long-range — environment impacts in the field of nuclear energy. The Protocol, for its part, was declared to be an essential instrument to ensure assessment of the environmental, including health, effects of plans and programmes, including in the nuclear energy-related field. Overall, it was felt there was room for improved implementation of environmental impact assessment procedures in the energy sector. Speakers recommended in particular that environmental assessment documentation should identify and assess all the impacts of a nuclear energy activities throughout the whole life cycle, taking also into account impacts on the climate and risks. International cooperation among States and organizations in this regard, notably with the International Atomic Energy Agency, was also highlighted.

To support the practical application of the Convention and the Protocol in the field of nuclear energy, Parties adopted a decision to elaborate good practice recommendations on the application of the Convention to nuclear energy-related activities.

The Meeting of the Parties to the Convention, meeting in separate session, also endorsed the findings of the Conventions Implementation Committee that three Parties were in non‑compliance with the Convention with respect to nuclear energy activities: Ukraine was found to be in non-compliance with its obligations under the Convention for not having carried out a transboundary EIA procedure when extending the lifetime of its Rivne nuclear power plant (NPP); Armenia was found to be in non-compliance with its obligation to notify about the planned construction of its NPP in Metsamor; and Belarus was found to be in non-compliance with some of its obligations concerning the construction of the Ostrovets NPP.

Meeting documents for the sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention and the second session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment are available on 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 a thousand 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.

In 2003, the Convention was supplemented by the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment. Since its entry into force in 2011, the Protocol concretely has been helping 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.

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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