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UNECE at the UN Climate Action Summit

The unprecedented heatwaves experienced across Europe this summer are a burning reminder that climate change is being felt everywhere, with very real consequences on people’s lives and on the environment on which we depend. But there is a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now, enabling us to shift to cleaner, more resilient economies and hold the increase in global average temperature to below the target of 2°C above pre-industrial levels set out in the Paris Agreement.

In order to accelerate the transformations required, the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 called for by UN Secretary-General António Guterres will put the spotlight on concrete, realistic plans for ambitious action.

When political leaders and partners from around the world gather for this landmark summit on 23 September 2019 in New York, UNECE will be mobilizing to support the climate action we urgently need.

UNECE to launch Trees in Cities Challenge

Urban areas are responsible for an estimated 75% of C02 emissions worldwide, making city-level action critical for global efforts. Mayors and other key urban leaders can play a pivotal role in localizing climate action, with immediate impact on the ground and the ability to mobilize citizens and different stakeholders. UNECE is stepping up its strategic partnerships with cities to tap into this potential, fostering cooperation to catalyze commitment for climate action and, most importantly, implementation on the ground.

UNECE will be unveiling a bold new campaign at the Summit to promote powerful climate action in cities through a simple yet highly effective nature-based solution: tree-planting.

The Trees in Cities Challenge invites Mayors to make tree-planting pledges and to put these into action. UNECE will showcase cities’ progress on their pledges on a dedicated website and through international fora, encouraging other urban leaders around to world to take concrete local action through the initiative.

By taking the Challenge, cities can unlock multiple sustainability benefits – for the climate, environment and society:

  • a single tree can store up to 150 kg of C02 per year
  • trees help clean the air of harmful pollutants
  • trees can limit the effects of urban heat islands, reducing air conditioning needs
  • trees help control land erosion, reduce landslides and control surface water, and help mitigate flood damage
  • planting trees can boost biodiversity in cities
  • green spaces in urban areas can contribute to stronger communities and improved wellbeing
  • trees can increase surrounding property values by an estimated 2-10%

The campaign, which will be launched on 21 September 2019 with the Mayors of Tirana (Albania), Victoria (Canada), Bonn (Germany) and Helsingborg (Sweden), will initially run until the end of 2020.

Find out more at https://treesincities.unece.org/

Supporting countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia to green their landscapes and infrastructure

The Caucasus and Central Asia is a region of harsh climate and fragile ecosystems, going through a period of rapid social and economic transformation, which has not, so far, featured strongly in global discussions on climate change. The landlocked region is rapidly improving its infrastructure to become more integrated into the global economy, but faces a number of environmental challenges. This presents a significant opportunity to green the landscapes and infrastructure of the region, strengthening its contribution to climate action. The UNECE/FAO forestry and Timber Section is responding to this potential with a strategy for action, aiming to support countries of the region to:

  • halt deforestation and forest degradation;
  • ensure that all infrastructure investment maintains the highest standards of sustainability and resilience;
  • restore millions of hectares of damaged and degraded landscapes.

Once fully implemented, this strategy would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase resilience to climate change, improve rural livelihoods and biodiversity and reduce pollution, reinforcing the foundations for sustainable development.

Restoring degraded land, including through reforestation, can make a major contribution to climate change mitigation. Large-scale forest regeneration has enormous potential to support climate action, as recent scientific studies have demonstrated. UNECE has already supported six countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) in their commitment to restore around 3 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 under the Bonn Challenge.

New forest landscape restoration initiative in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia to unlock climate action

A new regional forest landscape restoration initiative aims to bring 30 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes in Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia into restoration by 2030 in line with the Bonn Challenge, the New York Declaration on Forests and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. The “ECCA30” initiative will be supported jointly by UNECE, FAO, IUCN, the World Bank and the World Resources Institute.

The initiative builds on the Ministerial Roundtable on Forest Landscape Restoration and the Bonn Challenge, organized by the UNECE and FAO, in cooperation with IUCN. So far seven countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia have committed close to 3 million hectares to the Bonn Challenge (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan). ECCA30 will support acceleration of the implementation of the Bonn Challenge. It will facilitate access to technical and financial support and reinforce regional cooperation and capacity exchange on forest landscape restoration (FLR). Further, it will help countries receive international and regional recognition of their restoration ambitions connected to their domestic priorities and projects.

The launch of the initiative is planned at the Forest and Restoration Action Day at the Nature’s Climate Hub (22 September 2019). For more information and to register for the event, please click


UNECE region at the forefront of global efforts

The UNECE region is a major contributor to climate change. Although the region’s share of global CO2 emissions is declining, emissions per capita remain much higher than global averages.

UNECE member States are taking action to address this situation, with important, transformative climate action plans expected to be announced at the Summit. 

UNECE member States are co-leads on the majority of the strategic action “tracks” that have helped to identify the transformational initiatives for the Summit:

  • Social and Political Drivers (Spain);
  • Youth and Mobilization (Ireland);
  • Energy Transition (Denmark);
  • Resilience and Adaptation (United Kingdom);
  • Infrastructure, Cities and Local Government (Turkey);
  • Climate Finance and Carbon Pricing (France);
  • and Industry (Sweden).

Supporting countries to deliver the climate action we need

Through its norms, standards, Conventions and policy assistance, UNECE provides comprehensive support to countries’ efforts for both climate change mitigation and adaptation. For example:

  • Poor air quality and climate change are closely linked. Legally-binding emissions reduction commitments under the Air Convention have helped countries reduce emissions of key air pollutants in Europe by 40% to 80% and by 30-40% in North America since 1990. The Convention is the first legally binding agreement to specifically target powerful short-lived climate pollutants including black carbon, which is 680 times more heat-trapping than CO2.
  • UN vehicle regulations developed at UNECE enable reduced emissions and improved energy efficiency. These key international standards also support the widespread introduction of renewable and sustainable fuel sources for vehicles including electric, hybrid and hydrogen.
  • UNECE’s Group of Experts on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation for Transport Networks and Nodes offers a key platform to build capacities and integrate knowledge from countries and the scientific community, helping to identify climate risks to transport infrastructure and operations, and strengthen resilience by identifying the most suitable and cost-effective adaptation measures.
  • Internationally harmonized UNFC specifications for the assessment and reporting of renewable energy sources including geothermal, bioenergy, wind and solar will further help to scale up their use and channel increased investments.
  • In 2018 alone, UNECE supported Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russian Federation, Serbia, and Ukraine to develop national strategies on energy efficiency, renewable energy and low-carbon development.
  • The Water Convention provides a practical framework for cooperation between countries on climate change adaptation in shared basins, which are home to more than 40% of the world’s population. Working together across borders is essential to strengthen resilience to water-related disasters including floods, droughts and storms.
  • UNECE produced the first ever Recommendations on Climate Change-Related Statistics, providing a basis for effective decision-making for climate action. UNECE’s Expert Forum on Climate Change Statistics provides a key international platform to support this work.
  • UNECE’s Framework Guidelines help to improve the energy performance of buildings – which represent 40% of combustion-related CO2 emissions in developed countries.

Learn more about UNECE’s work on climate change here.

Following the Climate Action Summit, UNECE will also contribute to the SDGs Summit, to be held 24-25 September 2019.