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UNECE Discussion Papers

UNECE climate change activities[1]

Table of Contents

Vehicle regulations
Energy efficiency in production
Energy-efficient housing
Sustainable forestry
Sustainable biomass
Other related UNECE areas of work


Climate change is a human-induced process of global warming, largely resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and fluorocarbons.[2] Countries are under increasing pressure to curb their emissions of these gases and to enhance carbon sinks in a drive to mitigate the effects of climate change. However, combating the threats of human-induced global warming requires more than mitigation; it is equally important to reduce society's vulnerability to climate change through adaptation, as established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Nairobi work programme on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change, launched in 2005. Adaptation addresses the impacts of climate change, including climate variability and weather extremes.[3]

The United Nations Secretary-General has put climate change at the top of the United Nations agenda, ensuring that the “United Nations system will continue … to bring to bear the collective strength of all its entities as an integral part of the international community’s response to climate change.”[4] The five regional commissions have assumed an active role in coordinating United Nations support for action on climate change at the regional level through the regional coordination mechanisms mandated by the Economic and Social Council in its resolution 1998/46 (annex III).[5] The five commissions are seen as conveners to support global, regional and national action on climate change, while coordinating their workplans and implementation efforts with other organizations that have significant mandates in their respective areas.[6]

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is a key driving force in combating climate change in the pan-European region and beyond. The UNECE region comprises 56 member States, spanning the whole European continent, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and also including Israel, Turkey, Canada and the United States of America. The region has a crucial role in contributing to the local and regional success of UNFCCC, as was noted by UNECE member States at the "Sixth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe" (Belgrade, 10–12 October 2007).[7] UNECE has spearheaded the region’s efforts to achieve the targets of United Nations Millennium Development Goal 7, especially to integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and to reverse the losses of environmental resources.



Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution

The 1979 UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP), and its protocols aim to cut emissions of air pollutants, inter alia, sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs). Such pollutants can either directly influence global warming, by affecting the cooling or absorptive characteristics of the atmosphere, or indirectly influence it through, for example, ozone formation. Recent studies have shown important synergies in addressing air pollution control and climate change mitigation and have highlighted the economic and environmental co-benefits that are possible by tackling these issues in an integrated way.

The Convention has 51 Parties and eight protocols, which are all in force. The most recent of these, the 1999 Gothenburg Protocol, is currently under revision. It targets the environmental effects of acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone through emission cuts for SO2, NOx, NMVOCs and ammonia. Such cuts are known to mitigate global warming. 

A recent major conference and workshop entitled “Air Pollution and Climate Change: Developing a Framework for Integrated Co-benefit Strategies” was held in September 2008 in Stockholm under the auspices of the Convention and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and in consultation with the UNFCCC secretariat. It brought together policymakers and scientists from all United Nations regions to consider ways to develop and implement integrated programmes for decreasing emissions of both air pollutants and GHGs. The conclusions stressed the importance of using integrated strategies. Of special note was the possible “buying of time” in GHG mitigation through cuts in such air pollutants as black carbon and ozone, and air pollutants with a strong radiative forcing effect, which might be cut more readily than CO2 and achieve some GHG mitigation in the short term. The conference agreed there was a need to strengthen air pollution abatement efforts as well as climate change mitigation to achieve better health and environmental protection. It also noted the significant cost savings of using integrated approaches. The conclusions and recommendations of the workshop will be considered by the Convention’s Executive Body (Meeting of the Parties) in December 2008.

The Convention is using different models and methods to analyse environmental effects and to calculate the necessary emission abatement and related costs. In this way, cost-effective pollution control strategies can achieve the desired environmental targets with the least overall expenditure. Recent use of the Greenhouse Gas and Air Pollution Interactions and Synergies (GAINS) integrated assessment model, developed by the Convention’s Centre for Integrated Assessment Modelling, has explored synergies and trade-offs between emissions of air pollutants and GHGs, for current and projected energy use. The model includes both end-of-pipe controls and non-technical measures, such as behavioural changes in traffic or economic instruments.

The Convention’s scientific bodies are also incorporating climate change issues into their programmes of work. The European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP), which monitors and models air quality, is involved in reporting and estimating emissions. Reporting requirements of the Parties have been harmonized with those of UNFCCC. EMEP is also responsible for the integrated assessment modelling work described above. The international programmes of the Working Group on Effects monitor and model environmental and human health effects of air pollution. Increasingly, these need to take account of the links to observed or predicted changes in climatic conditions. They also provide long-term monitoring of data that can identify changes that might be associated with a changing climate.

Discussions in the Convention’s bodies have drawn attention to the strong links between air pollutant and GHG emissions and have highlighted specific issues where integration of strategies is needed. For example, the current emphasis on renewable energy is leading to increased use of wood as a fuel. However, unless appropriate boiler technology is used, this can also lead to increased air pollution.


The intrinsic relation of the hydrological cycle – and thus water availability, quality, and services – to climate change makes adaptation critical for water management and the water sector in general. The UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) is an important legal framework for the development of adaptation strategies, in particular in the transboundary context.

At their fourth meeting in Bonn, Germany, in 2006, the Parties to the Water Convention took a decisive step to supporting the development of adaptation strategies by agreeing to elaborate a guidance document on water and adaptation to climate change. A draft has now been prepared by the Task Forces on Water and Climate and on Extreme Weather Events, both under the Convention’s Protocol on Water and Health. This marks the first attempt under any convention to flesh out a climate change adaptation strategy in the water sector with a particular emphasis on transboundary issues. Based on the concept of integrated water resources management, the Guidance will “provide advice on how to assess impacts of climate change on water quantity and quality, how to perform risk assessment, including health risk assessment, how to gauge vulnerability, and how to design and implement appropriate adaptation measures” [ibid. p. 8]. The Guidance is expected to be formally adopted in November 2009 at the next meeting of the Parties.

One important step in the Guidance’s preparation was a workshop on climate change adaptation in the water sector organized under the Water Convention and the Protocol on Water and Health (Amsterdam, 1–2 July 2008). The workshop, which allowed for an exchange of experience in the region, an assessment of information needs for adaptation strategies and a discussion of the benefits of and mechanisms for transboundary cooperation, touched upon the institutional, policy, legal, scientific and financial aspects of adaptation in the water sector and included cross-cutting issues such as education. The workshop highlighted current challenges such as still limited transboundary cooperation, the focus on short-term rather than long-term measures, and the need to consider climate change together with other global drivers of change, e.g. the energy and food crises and changes in production and consumption patterns.

The Protocol on Water and Health, the first legally binding instrument aimed to achieve the sustainable management of water resources and the reduction of water-related disease, is also highly relevant to climate change adaptation. It establishes joint or coordinated surveillance and early-warning systems, contingency plans and response capacities, as well as mutual assistance to respond to outbreaks or incidents of water-related disease, especially those arising from extreme weather events. The Protocol’s Ad Hoc Project Facilitation Mechanism is a funding tool for implementation of the Protocol at the national level; its provisions on safe drinking water and sanitation are also of relevance to climate change.


Access to information, public participation and justice

The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) constitutes the only legally binding instrument so far to implement principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which provides for the participation of citizens in environmental issues by giving them appropriate access to the information concerning the environment held by public authorities, including access to judicial or administrative proceedings, redress and remedy. Access to scientifically based information and public participation in decision-making on environmental issues – as provided by the Convention – are widely recognized as an important foundation for climate change mitigation efforts. UNFCCC, for example, underlined the importance of these principles at its thirteenth session, encouraging Parties to facilitate access to data and information and to promote public participation in addressing climate change and its effects and in developing adequate responses.[8] Environmental information can help to raise awareness about climate change issues and to strengthen synergies between mitigation and adaptation needs. Public participation in this process ensures that social values and trade-offs are represented in political decisions on climate-related issues.

UNECE is a co-organizer of the international conference, “The Role of Information in an Age of Climate Change” (Aarhus, Denmark, 13–14 November 2008). The event, marking the Aarhus Convention’s tenth anniversary, brings together leading scientists, policymakers, government authorities, non-governmental organizations, and representatives of the private sector to promote public access to information and public participation in addressing climate change.

The Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR), adopted in May 2003, is the first legally binding international instrument on PRTRs. PRTRs assist governments in collecting information on the emission of GHGs and toxic or hazardous substances from industrial facilities and other sources. By making this information available to decision makers and the wider public, PRTRs contribute to enhancing companies’ environmental performance, regional mitigation efforts and the fight against global warming and climate change.  


Vehicle regulations

Transport is a significant and growing contributor to global climate change. According to some estimates, it is responsible for 13 per cent of all anthropogenic emissions of GHGs and for almost one quarter of the world’s total CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.[9]

In May 2008 in Leipzig, Germany, UNECE took part in the OECD International Transport Forum Ministerial Session, “The Challenge of Climate Change”, the first global meeting of transport ministers that focused on energy and climate change challenges relevant to the transport sector. Climate change mitigation and adaptation activities in the transport sector focus on different means of CO2 abatement: (a) innovative engine technologies to increase fuel efficiency; (b) use of sustainable biofuels; (c) improved transport infrastructure, including inter-modal transport and logistics to avoid road congestion; (d) dissemination of consumer information on eco-driving; and (e) implementation of legal instruments. In their key messages, transport ministers urged UNECE World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) to “accelerate the work to develop common methodologies, test cycles and measurement methods for [light] vehicles” [ibid. p. 5], including CO2 emissions. For over 50 years, the World Forum has served as a platform for developing harmonized global regulations for vehicle construction, thus increasing their environmental performance and safety.

The World Forum agreed that a possible strategy for the automotive sector to contribute to the abatement of emissions was to pursue: (a) improved energy efficiency and the use of sustainable biofuels as a short-term objective (2015); (b) the development and introduction into the market of plug-in hybrid vehicles as a mid-term objective (2015–2025); and (c) the development and introduction into the market of electric vehicles as a long-term objective (2025–2040). This strategy would shift the automotive sector from the use of fossil energy to the use of hydrogen and electric energy. To be effective, this strategy needs to rely on the sustainable production of electricity and hydrogen, a crucial policy issue identified for future discussions on global warming and the reduction of CO2 emissions.

The World Forum previously adopted amendments to UNECE regulations to limit the maximum admissible level of vehicle emissions for various gaseous pollutants (e.g. carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, NOx) and particulate matter. These have resulted in a substantial abatement of the emissions limits for new private cars and commercial vehicles. Moreover, UNECE Regulations were amended to include electric and hybrid vehicles as well as vehicles with engines fuelled with liquefied petroleum gas or compressed natural gas. At the present time, the World Forum is considering a number of energy efficiency measures, such as the development of a common methodology and measurement method to evaluate environmentally friendly vehicles, hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles, the use of other alternative energy sources such as biofuels including biogas, the installation in vehicles of engine management systems (e.g. the stop-and-go function), intelligent transport systems, tyre-pressure monitoring systems and the development of tyres with low rolling resistance. Once a consensus is reached, many of these measures are likely to be added to the UNECE regulations, which will help increase vehicles’ energy efficiency.

As concerns fuel-quality standards, in 2007 the World Forum demonstrated the close link between the market fuel quality and the emissions of pollutants from motor vehicles.  It recognized that further reduction of emissions required that cleaner fuel be available to consumers.  The lack of harmonized fuel quality standards was seen to hamper the development of the new vehicle technologies. Supported by UNEP and the International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association, the World Forum is committed to developing a necessary standard on market fuel quality, thus enabling vehicles to use fuels that minimize vehicle emission levels.

The Transport Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP), a joint project of UNECE and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, was initiated to help achieve more sustainable transport patterns and a better reflection of environmental and health concerns in transport policy. In particular, THE PEP also promotes sustainable urban transport, including alternative modes of transport, in the region.


Energy efficiency in production

As energy is a major market in the UNECE region, which contains 40 per cent of the world’s natural gas reserves and 60 per cent of its coal reserves, a number of UNECE activities promote a sustainable energy development strategy, a key to the region’s climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. The combustion of fossil fuels, the mainstay of the region’s electricity generation, is also a major source of GHG emissions. The sustainable energy projects of UNECE aim to facilitate the transition to a more sustainable and secure energy future by optimizing operating efficiencies and conservation, including through energy restructuring and legal, regulatory or energy pricing reforms. UNECE projects also encourage the introduction of renewable energy sources and the use of natural gas until cleaner energy sources are developed and commercially available, as well as the greening of the coal-to-energy chain.

For the period 2006–2009, the UNECE Energy Efficiency 21 (EE21) programme is working to promote regional cooperation to enhance countries’ energy efficiency and to reduce their GHG emissions, thus helping them meet their international treaty obligations under UNFCCC and the UNECE conventions. Energy efficiency is achieved by focusing on more efficient production, conservation and use of all energy sources in order to minimize GHG emissions.

Within the overall EE21 programme, UNECE manages the Financing Energy Efficiency Investments for Climate Change Mitigation project, with a budget of approximately US$ 7.5 million, financed by the Global Environment Fund, Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial and the European Business Congress. This project is currently establishing a privately managed equity fund with private and public sector partners. The fund, which will benefit from both public and private sources, will target energy efficiency and renewable investment projects in 12 countries in Central Asia and Eastern and South-Eastern Europe.

Another project within the EE21 programme is RENEUER, a regional activity supported by the United States Agency for International Development, the United States Department of Energy, France and other bilateral donors. RENEUER promotes sustainable development in the region by overcoming regional barriers and creating favourable conditions for the introduction of advanced technologies for the efficient use of local energy resources.

Outreach activities to other regional commissions in the context of energy efficiency for climate change mitigation are being organized under the Global Energy Efficiency 21 (GEE21) project. This project, to be launched in December 2008 in Poznan, Poland, will develop a systematic exchange of information on capacity-building, policy reform and investment project financing to promote cost-effective energy efficiency improvements that will reduce air pollution, including GHGs.

The work of two expert groups under the Committee on Sustainable Energy relates to climate change mitigation. The Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Coal Mine Methane (CMM) promote the recovery and use of methane gas from coal mines to minimize GHG emissions. In February 2008 in Szczyrk, Poland, a UNECE-supported workshop assessed prospects for CMM recovery and use, noting that “Global potential for CMM projects to contribute to climate change mitigation and take advantage of the carbon markets is very strong because a reduction of one ton of methane yields reductions of 18 to 23 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent”.[10] However, economic feasibility of such projects typically requires a clear regulatory and legal framework, reasonable access to markets and relatively stable prices.

The Ad Hoc Group of Experts on Cleaner Electricity Production from Coal and Other Fossil Fuels held its first meeting in November 2007. Its programme of work includes reviewing the prospects for cleaner electricity production from fossil fuels and measures or incentives to promote investment in cleaner electricity production. The Group also assesses the regulatory needs for promoting investment in cleaner electricity production from fossil fuels, appraises the comparative advantages of investments in new capacities and analyses issues related to carbon capture and storage technologies, especially in the context of emerging economies in the UNECE region.[11]


Energy-efficient housing

Due to both its high GHG emissions and its large potential for energy-saving measures, the housing sector plays a critical role in climate change mitigation. IPCC estimates that the global potential to reduce emissions at roughly 29 per cent for the residential and commercial sectors.[12] The energy-saving potential in this sector is also considerable: UNEP estimates that in Europe, buildings account for roughly 40 to 45 per cent of energy consumption, emitting significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). Residential buildings account for the lion’s share of these emissions.[13]

Energy-efficient buildings can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation by reducing buildings’ energy consumption as well as by making them more resistant to severe weather events. Improving energy efficiency is especially important in the UNECE region, where projected increased housing construction and homeownership are likely to be accompanied by higher electricity consumption and thus growing emissions. UNECE has a programme geared to achieving maximal energy efficiency in the region’s housing, which will allow countries to share experience and good practice in reducing energy consumption in the residential sector, both vis-à-vis existing housing stock and new residential housing construction. This is expected to especially improve energy performance in parts of the region where progress is hampered by low innovation capacity and by a lack of knowledge about technical options to improve the thermal efficiency of existing buildings, and by outdated building codes that prevent countries from embracing the latest energy-efficient construction techniques. The programme will also include a wide-ranging regional assessment – featuring financing mechanisms, case studies, workshops and seminars for policymakers – and will benefit from close collaboration with above-mentioned EE21 project.

To date, UNECE has published country profiles on the housing sectors of Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia Lithuania, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation and Serbia and Montenegro. In 2009, two workshops (in Sofia and Vienna) will address the issue of energy efficiency in housing. A group of interested experts will assist the host countries in shaping the programme of the events and will provide the necessary expertise. In September 2008, the Committee on Housing and Land Management addressed energy efficiency in housing in the region, focusing on the legislative framework and incentives.[14]


Sustainable forestry

Forests and wood are integrally linked to climate change and have an important role to play in mitigation and adaptation. Forests sequester carbon from the atmosphere when they grow, thereby offsetting a significant part of GHG emissions. According to the forthcoming UNECE Annual Report, the annual increase of carbon in EU-27 forests is equivalent to 8.6 per cent of GHG emissions in the European Union (EU). In Europe, forests sequester approximately 140 million tons of carbon a year. Wood products are a store of carbon, keeping it from release to the atmosphere. Forests store more than 80 per cent of terrestrial aboveground carbon and more than 70 per cent of soil organic carbon. They are also the source of wood energy that can substitute fossil energy, thereby reducing GHG emissions.[15] Wood can also be a substitute for non-renewable construction materials such as plastics, steel or concrete.

The UNECE Timber Committee has an active role in monitoring these trends and in promoting sustainable forest management. It collects basic data on forest resource assessment (e.g. carbon sequestration and storage in forests) and the production of and trade in forest products (e.g. harvested wood products, substitution of other materials). It contributes to policy monitoring by reporting on qualitative indicators of sustainable forest management and by publishing a chapter in the Forest Products Annual Market Review. It is currently developing a database on forest sector policies and institutions. In September 2008, UNECE hosted a workshop on “Harvested Wood Products in the Context of Climate Change Policies” to discuss different approaches to account for carbon stored in wood products and their economic, social and ecological impacts. It will also participate in the plenary session on Forest and Climate Change during European Forest Week (Rome, 21–24 October 2008). Finally, the UNECE Timber Committee provided an analytical contribution to the European Forest Sector Outlook Study in 2005 and has authored various papers on wood availability and the market for wood.


Sustainable biomass

Since 1998, UNECE has been directing a major cross-sectoral project for enterprises in the biomass sector in the region. One of the central tasks of climate change mitigation is to replace fossil fuels with alternative energy. The project aims to strengthen sustainable biomass supply from selected countries in the UNECE region to energy producers in the EU, with a focus on agro- and wood residues, whose use is an important alternative to the use of (food) crops for fuel. The project also seeks to improve the logistics chain of biomass trade from producer to the end-user through improved inland transportation, port and trade logistics, and customs cooperation with respect to imports and exports of biomass. Two further aims of the project are facilitating the exchange of good practice with the private sector and exploring cross-sectoral approaches that take into account environment, energy, trade and transport issues.


Other related UNECE areas of work

The "Environment for Europe" ministerial process

The “Environment for Europe” process provides a pan-European political framework for the discussion of key policy issues, development of programmes and launching of initiatives to improve the region’s environment and harmonize environmental policies. At the Sixth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” (Belgrade, 10–12 October 2007), environment ministers explicitly recognized the urgent need to address climate change in the UNECE region. The Conference saw the launch of the Belgrade Initiative[16], a subregional effort in South-Eastern Europe to support subregional implementation of the UNFCCC through a Climate Change Framework Action Plan and a virtual climate change-related centre in Belgrade designed to help raise awareness and build capacity.

UNECE Strategy on Education for Sustainable Development

The UNECE Strategy of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), adopted in 2005 by ministers and other officials from education and environment ministries across the UNECE region, endeavours to integrate key themes of sustainable development into all education systems. It constitutes the regional pillar of implementation of the United Nations Decade of ESD. At the joint session on ESD held during the Sixth Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe”, environment and education ministers referred to the problems posed by climate change as a “leading example of where ESD could be applied to daily life, as climate change affects everyone and ESD offers an essential way to shape knowledge and attitudes, and hence could help us to address these problems” [17]

Modifying transport policies based on traffic-based information about carbon dioxide emissions

In order to evaluate the implementation of new national or regional measures to reduce their contributions to the global warming, Governments must analyse different possible strategies, especially those that address the total energy consumption of the transport sector. To make the right policy decisions and to optimize their strategies to attain CO2 reduction targets, an assessment and analysis tool is needed that integrates the most recent developments in transportation. This tool should be transparent so as to ensure that decisions overly swayed by special-interest groups. Such an information tool is currently under consideration. It is based on a uniform methodology for evaluating CO2 emissions in the land transport sector, and incorporates climate-relevant indicators as well as new transportation trends.

Environmental Performance Reviews

The UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs), based on the OECD/DAC peer review process, aim to improve individual and collective environmental management. Since 1996, Central, South-East and Eastern European as well as Central Asian countries have been reviewed by UNECE, in addition to a few countries in transition that were reviewed in cooperation with OECD (Bulgaria, Belarus, Poland and the Russian Federation). A second round of EPRs have already been carried out for Belarus (2005), Bulgaria (2000), Estonia (2001), Republic of Moldova (2005), Ukraine (2006), Montenegro and Serbia and (2007) and Kazakhstan (2008), and are in process for Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

By disseminating relevant information, they contribute to enhancing public access to information about the environment and environmental issues and thus to more informed decision-making, relevant to the climate change debate. In future, they can provide a comprehensive analysis of instruments used in the context of regional climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, a means to share good practice and highlight gaps in this area, and a way to offer important policy recommendations.

Strategic environment assessment

The UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) provides a framework for considering transboundary environmental impacts in national decision-making processes.

The Convention’s Protocol on Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA), not yet in force, will ensure that Parties integrate consideration of the environment into their plans and programmes at a very early planning stage. SEA can be used to introduce climate change considerations into development planning. This is in line with the conclusions reached at the high-level event “The Future in Our Hands”, convened by the Secretary-General in September 2007, as well as the recommendation of IPCC[18] that climate change mitigation and adaptation be integrated into an overarching sustainable development strategy. The IPCC also concluded that consideration of climate change impacts in development planning, as might be provided by SEA, is important for boosting adaptive capacity, e.g. by including adaptation measures in land-use planning and infrastructure design or by reducing vulnerability through existing disaster risk reduction strategies.[19]

Statistics related to climate change

The global official statistics community still only engages in an ad hoc way with the issues of climate change. UNECE is reviewing the possibility of setting up a joint task force (subject to the approval of the Bureau of the Conference of European Statisticians) to explore statistical activities related to the UNFCCC guidelines on the compilation of emission inventories. The task force will also take into account the recommendations that are expected to be developed at a forthcoming conference on statistics of climate change in the Republic of Korea. In June 2008, the meeting of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Environmental-Economic Accounting (UNCEEA) recommended that statistics on emissions should become part of the regular production and dissemination process of official statistics at the national level. In this context, national statistical offices should gradually take on the responsibility for regularly compiling emission statistics and contributing to the review of the guidelines to assembling emission registers.

This is expected to contribute to a better understanding of how official statistics can contribute to the understanding, measurement and monitoring of the different aspects of climate change as well as to bring together all current activities in a coherent framework.

Innovation and financing

UNECE has organized workshops and seminars with a view to enhancing the understanding of the process of technology diffusion, identifying possible barriers to take-up, and providing training and technical assistance to the region’s Governments on their innovation policies. This includes a financing dimension, in particular regarding early-stage financing of innovative enterprises. During the International Conference Investing in Innovation, which took place in Geneva in April 2008, a session on how environmental challenges can be addressed through innovation brought together policy makers and specialized financial intermediaries to discuss emerging trends in the allocation of risk capital for eco-investing and the type of policies required to encourage the mobilization of private financing in this area.

Efforts to mitigate or adapt to climate change are significantly boosted by the diffusion of existing technologies but also by the introduction of new ones. Given the scale and systemic nature of the necessary shift towards low carbon technologies, there is a clear link between the challenges posed by climate change mitigation and innovation policies.  In future, work on innovation and its related financing and intellectual property aspects could help to inform policies in relation to climate change.


[1] This note, prepared by Laura Altinger, has benefited from valuable inputs by Ella Behlyarova, Francesca Bernardini, Nicholas Bonvoisin, Lidia Bratanova, Keith Bull, Paola Deda, George Georgiadis, Franziska Hirsch, Romain Hubert, Matti Johansson, Albena Karadjova, Marco Keiner, Monika Linn, Eva Molnar, José Palacin, Kit Prins, Juraj Riecan, Patrice Robineau, Gianluca Sambucini, Angela Sochirca and Michael Stanley-Jones.

[2] More formally, climate change is defined as “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods” (UNFCCC, art. 1).

[3] According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Climate Change 2007 Synthesis Report (p. 76), adaptation relates to the ‘initiatives and measures aimed at reducing the vulnerability of natural and human systems against actual or expected climate change effects. Various types of adaptation exist, e.g. anticipatory and reactive, private and public, and autonomous and planned. Examples are raising river or coastal dykes, the substitution of more temperature-shock resistant plants for sensitive ones”.

[4] A/62/644 , para. 11.

[5] E/2008/SR.38 , para. 25.

[6] Letter by United Nations Secretary-General to the members of the Chief Executives Board and the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, 30 May 2008.

[8] Decision 9/CP.13, annex, paras. 14 and 15 (FCCC/CP/2007/6/Add.1), amended the New Delhi Work Programme on article 6 of the UNFCCC. The thirteenth session was held from 3 to 15 December 2007 in Bali, Indonesia.

[9] OECD (2008), The Challenges of climate change, key messages, International Transport Forum, Ministerial Session, 29 May, p. 2.

[12] Quoted in Deda, P. and G. Georgiadis, “Tackling climate change ‘at home’: trends and challenges in enhancing energy efficiency in buildings in the ECE region”, in UNECE Annual Report 2009.

[13] Ibid. p. 3.

[14] ECE/HBP/2008/2 of 7 July 2008.

[15] Prins, Kit et al (2008), “Forests, wood and climate change: challenges and opportunities in the UNECE region”, in UNECE Annual Report 2009.

[18] Ibid.

[19] IPCC, WG II, Summary for policymakers.