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UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews support SDGs progress through peer learning

Reduce deaths from air pollution… Achieve water and sanitation for all… Double energy efficiency… Consume sustainably… These and many other targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to be achieved in just 12 years from now sound more than ambitious. Making them a reality requires not only political commitment but also strong policies, good planning and the right prioritization vis-à-vis the available resources. That is why, since 2017, UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs) help governments to cross-check their environmental policies against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and provide advice for achieving them.

On 21–22 November 2018, representatives of 19 governments participating in the EPR Programme gathered in Minsk, Belarus, to exchange experience and learn from each other on how to advance the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda.

Although environmental authorities do not commonly play the coordinating role in the national institutional set-up for implementation and monitoring of the 2030 Agenda, they are an irreplaceable actor in such set-up. In fact, they pioneer the work on the 2030 Agenda in many participating countries. In most countries, environment ministries lead the national efforts on the “planet” dimension of the 2030 Agenda. Good examples of adaptation of national policies to the 2030 Agenda, especially SDGs 6, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15, are already available in the UNECE region. Efforts to localize SDGs through defining the goals and indicators at subnational level are already taking place, although experience in this regard remains limited.

Participants exchanged views on the challenges with the production of environment-related indicators, where collaborative efforts of the statistical offices, national environmental authorities and many other actors (health, agriculture, emergency response authorities) are key to success. The limited capacity of environmental authorities to provide reliable administrative data on environment-related indicators is recognized among the weak links. The lack of a coherent approach at the international level to ways of collecting data and information on environment-related indicators is also reported to be a constraint for effective work on indicators nationally.

Recognizing the important role already played by the EPR Programme in providing countries with policy advice on the achievement and monitoring of the SDGs, participants identified ways to strengthen such support from the Programme. The Programme was encouraged to provide direct recommendations on the achievement of SDGs, include more extensive assessments of implementation of a larger number of targets and maximize the co-benefits from other 2030 Agenda-related processes such as the voluntary national reviews and the Mainstreaming, Acceleration and Policy Support for the 2030 Agenda (MAPS) missions to countries. The added value of incorporating the SDGs into EPRs is that it helps the national environmental authorities to raise awareness of the relevant SDGs. In turn, addressing the SDGs in the EPRs facilitates further incorporation of non-binding EPR recommendations into the national policy documents, which are mandatory for implementation and supported by financial allocations, thereby contributing to the implementation of EPR recommendations and, simultaneously, the achievement of SDGs.

The peer learning workshop “Policies for implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: exchange of best practices on the basis of UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews” was hosted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus. The meeting was supported financially by the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and the German Federal Environment Agency through the Advisory Assistance Programme and by the Regular Programme of Technical Cooperation of the United Nations Secretariat. The United Nations Development Programme in Belarus provided organizational support.

Learn more about UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews: https://www.unece.org/env/epr.html