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Nuclear issues, sustainable development, and climate change to be at the centre of debates of the meeting of the Parties to UNECE Treaties on Environmental Assessment

Published: 13 June 2017

Over 200 Government officials, representatives of international organizations, international financial institutions (IFIs), civil society, academia and other stakeholders from some 50 countries will meet in Minsk, at the invitation of the Government of Belarus, from 13 to 16 June to take stock of progress made in implementing environmental assessment procedures. Such assessments are key for Governments and the public alike to ensure that projects, plans and programmes that affect the environment are developed in a most sustainable manner.

During four days of meetings, the Parties to the UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) and its Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) will look, among other things, at how the Convention and, in particular its Protocol, contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role of the two treaties in addressing climate change.  

The sessions will mark the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention. Its application in the field of nuclear energy is expected to be at the centre of the debates:  Parties are expected to adopt “Good practice recommendations on the application of the Convention to nuclear energy-related activities”, which will provide useful guidance in this respect. They will also review compliance of Parties with the Convention with respect to nuclear energy related activities.

In addition, the meeting will acknowledge the results achieved by the capacity-building programme under the two treaties.

The sessions also host two thematic panel discussions:

On the afternoon of Wednesday, 14 June, a panel discussion on the contribution of the Convention and the Protocol to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the future of the treaties will provide a platform for Parties and stakeholders to bring forward and to share good practice in using SEA and EIA as tools towards the attainment of the SDGs and their targets, as well as to identify benefits and challenges in mainstreaming this practice. The panel shall reflect on the future of the treaties and result in recommended actions to raise awareness on and to further enhance the role of the Protocol and the Convention in achieving SDGs.

On Friday morning, 16 June, a high-level panel discussion on the role of the Protocol and the Convention in addressing climate change will share experience and lessons learned in  using SEA and EIA  as  tools  for  integrating  climate  change  issues in  plans, programmes,  and  project  development  proposals. Participants shall discuss success stories, challenges and the way forward in efficient  integration  of  the  climate  change  related considerations  into  strategic  planning  and  project  development  through  SEA and EIA.

Meeting documents are available at the Convention’s website http://www.unece.org/env/eia/meetings/mop_6.html.

Note to editors

The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo, 1991) is the only international instrument under the umbrella of the United Nations that offers a legal framework to ensure international cooperation in assessing and managing environmental impacts of planned activities, in particular in a transboundary context. In force since 1997, it has 45 Parties, including the European Union. The Convention is applied more and more often, indicating that States find transboundary environmental assessment a valuable procedure for informing and consulting the authorities and the public of neighbouring countries.

The following countries are Parties to the Espoo Convention: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The European Union is also a regional integration organization member.

In 2003, the Convention was supplemented by the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment. Since its entry into force in 2010, the Protocol concretely helps to lay the groundwork for sustainable development: it ensures that Parties integrate environmental, including health, considerations and public concerns into their plans and programmes, and to the extent possible into policies and legislation, at the earliest stages. To date, the Protocol counts 31 Parties, including the European Union.

The following countries are Parties to the Convention’s Protocol: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Ukraine. The European Union is a regional integration organization member.

The Protocol was negotiated to provide for the possibility of non-UNECE States to become Parties, upon approval by the Meeting of the Parties. With the adoption of draft decision VI/5–II/5 in June 2014, the requirement for prior approval were lifted, rendering thus the Protocol a fully global instrument.

UNECE provided the setting for the negotiation of the Convention and its Protocol and now provides the secretariat for the two treaties.

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