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Advancing environmental governance in the region

The Committee on Environmental Policy (CEP) worked hard this year to advance environmental governance in the region. Its twentieth session, held in Geneva from 28 to 31 October 2014, brought together delegates from 40 Governments, the United Nations system, the European Union, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and Regional Environmental Centres.

In his address to the session, the UNECE Executive Secretary emphasized that global goals and targets, and in particular, the Sustainable Development Goals, will have a real effect only when converted into concrete recommendations, standards, statistics, conventions and policy instruments that can be and are used by countries. In that regard, the UNECE work on environment, as well as in several other sectors, is of utmost importance in our region.

Cleaning the air, greening the region and learning from each other

CEP welcomed the Georgian Government’s offer to host the Eighth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference in Batumi from 8 to 10 June 2016, and agreed that the two Conference themes would be “greening the economy in the pan-European region” and “improving air quality for a better environment and human health”. It also agreed that a high-level segment on education for sustainable development (ESD) would be organized during the Conference with a view to assessing progress during the first 10 years of the UNECE Strategy for ESD, and to consider its future development.

Building on the existing fruitful collaboration between UNECE and UNEP, CEP decided that a joint proposal for a pan-European strategic framework for greening the economy should be elaborated in time for the Batumi Conference. CEP therefore welcomed information on green economy developments in other regions provided by other regional commissions, which were shared via a Skype teleconference and video clip.   

Finally, CEP noted with appreciation the progress made under each of the UNECE multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) (see figs. 1 and 2), the “flagships” of UNECE, including progress on national implementation reporting, promotion of the benefits of MEAs beyond the region and in opening the MEAs to global accession.

Informed environmental decision-making

UNECE ministers have made development of a Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) in the region a priority, to facilitate the organization and dissemination of environmental data and ease the burden of national and international country reporting. Targets and performance indicators developed by the Group of Friends of SEIS and adopted by CEP this year will make it possible to monitor progress in the establishment of SEIS both at the national and pan-European levels.

The Guidelines for developing national strategies to use soil contamination monitoring as an environmental policy tool, prepared by the Working Group on Environmental Monitoring and Assessment and adopted by CEP this year, will further support efforts of countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia in making informed policy decisions regarding this precious resource.

CEP also reviewed the environmental performance of Montenegro and of Serbia and adopted the recommendations in the two environmental performance reviews (EPRs) of those countries, which will provide a valuable tool for those countries to advance their national environmental governance.

Breaking down silos — cross-sectoral cooperation

CEP welcomed the progress achieved this year in a number of cross-cutting activities, including the UNECE Strategy for ESD, the Pan-European Programme on Transport, Health and Environment, the Environment and Security Initiative and UNECE green building activities. It invited countries to continue their involvement in these process, in particular by considering hosting a THE PEP Relay Race Workshop in 2015.

CEP appointed new members from the environment sector to the European Environment and Health Ministerial Board (2015–2016) –– the political face and driving force of international policies in environment and health ––and welcomed the good cooperation between UNECE and the World Health Organization within the European Environment and Health process.

The twenty-first session of CEP would be organized in Geneva from 27 to 30 October 2015.