Pan-European countries commit to lead transition to green economy and tackle air pollution

Governments of the pan-European region reconfirmed their commitment to take the lead in the transition to a green economy and committed to reduce air pollution, the largest environmental health threat in the region. These were the main conclusions of the 8th “Environment for Europe” (EfE) Ministerial Conference, held in Batumi, Georgia, from 8-10 June 2016.

Countries endorsed the Strategic Framework for Greening the Economy in the Pan-European region, which will help countries in their transition to the green economy. In addition, 36 countries and organizations pledged additional commitments towards the green economy, in fields such as food production and waste, ecosystem services, sustainable public procurement and fiscal measures, green technologies, etc., through the Batumi Initiative on Green Economy (BIG-E).

Countries also endorsed the Batumi Action for Cleaner Air, which includes specific commitments to ratify and implement the latest protocols to the UNECE Air Convention that can have a strong and measurable impact on air quality and human health.

In his opening remarks, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said: “the Environment for Europe process provides a unique platform to identify urgent environmental issues to be addressed and make concerted efforts to promote sustainable development in the pan-European region. I believe that discussions at the Batumi Ministerial will result in firm decisions towards greening the economy and improving air quality in our country and in the whole region.” 

“We need strong leadership and efficient partnerships among all public and private actors to accelerate the shift towards green growth and green jobs, and to reduce air pollution, which silently kills hundreds of thousands of people every year in our region alone”, said UNECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach.

In the Declaration adopted at the end of the Conference, the ministers and heads of delegation from 44 countries in the UNECE region and the representative of the European Commission, reiterated the value of the Environment for Europe process as a unique pan-European platform for addressing environmental challenges and as a pillar of sustainable development in the region. They welcomed the launch of the European regional assessment of the Global Environment Outlook, as the regular pan-European environmental assessment

They also stressed the importance of the active participation of civil society — including business, women, non‑governmental organizations, academia and other groups — in decision-making to improve the environment and promote sustainable development.

The Committee on Environmental Policy will convene in 2018 a mid-term review to assess progress in the implementation of the main outcomes of the Conference.