Sustainable Energy

Over the last two decades, the UNECE Committee on Sustainable Energy has developed a number of international agreements, basically classifications and codifications in the field of coal and gas. The current programme is now being enlarged by initiating new normative projects related to the harmonization of national and regional regulations and specifications in the field of energy and environment, energy use and equipment and energy efficiency.

International Classifications

1. The United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) is a universally acceptable and internationally applicable scheme for the classification and reporting of all energy and mineral reserves and resources and is currently the only classification in the world to do so. It applies to all extractive activities, including coal, oil, gas and uranium as well as renewable energy, including bioenergy and geothermal. Work is underway to broaden application of UNFC to solar, wind, hydro and marine energy resources. It also applies to anthropogenic resources and injection projects, in particular to the storage of carbon dioxide. UNFC provides a single framework on which to build international energy and mineral studies, analyse government resource management policies, plan industrial processes and allocate capital efficiently.  By covering all extractive activities and renewable energy, UNFC captures the common principles and provides a tool for consistent reporting for these activities, regardless of the commodity. Importantly, it paves the way for improved global communications which will aid stability and security of supplies, governed by fewer and more widely understood rules and guidelines. This normative document has been approved by ECOSOC and recommended for worldwide implementation.  Following the completion at the end of 2013 of the generic specifications (rules of application) and commodity-specific specifications for petroleum and solid minerals, UNFC is now operational. The specifications ensure an appropriate level of consistency in the reporting of reserve and resource estimates under the system. Guidelines for accommodating environmental and social issues in UNFC have also been developed. UNFC is evolving into a tool that can increasingly help countries and companies attain the Sustainable Development Goals.

2. The International Codification System for Low-grade Coal Utilization (2002) is a helpful tool for coal users in selecting different types of solid fuels and optimizing the combustion process in thermal power sector.

3. The UNECE International Codification System for Medium and High Rank Coals (1988) is a useful instrument to assist in characterizing coals involved in the international trade of coal.

4. The UNECE Uniform Code of Draught Survey and Equipment Specifications for Determining the Weight of Bulk Coal Cargoes (1992) harmonizes procedures and practices in the international seaborne coal trade.

5. The International Classification of Dynamic Phenomena in Mines (1994) helps managers and researchers engaged in mine safety to forecast and prevent the gas dynamic phenomena in underground coal mines.

6. The UNECE International Classification System of In-Seam Coals (1998) determines the procedure of some geological operations related to coal seam evaluation.

7. The UNECE Framework Guidelines on Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings (2017) are an effective instrument for addressing energy efficiency in buildings. The concepts set out in the Framework Guidelines go well beyond the incremental, components approach of existing building standards. Rather, they represent a principles-based performance guidance for building energy standards that is outcome-based, anchored in energy actually consumed, and that is designed to project a vision of holistically designed and operated, ultra-high performance buildings as part of an integrated sustainable energy system.

8. The Glossary of Natural Gas Reserves (1996) serves to enhance communication and understanding of terms and definitions related to gas exploration, exploitation and economics.

9. Harmonization of Energy Efficiency Standards and Labelling Systems helps to promote energy-efficient technology in households and services and enhance technology transfer to economies in transition. Work is underway to develop best practice guidance, as appropriate, across the range of energy efficiency topics (standards), labelling/testing, subsidies (monitoring, reporting, lifting), tariffs, market design, market access, network issues, investment finance, research and development, and capacity building.

10. Best Practice Guidance for Effective Methane Drainage and Use in Coal Mines (2010) provides guidance to mine owners and operators, government regulators, and policymakers in the design and implementation of safe, effective methane capture and control in underground coal mines. It encourages safer mining practices to reduce fatalities, injuries, and property losses associated with methane. An important co-benefit of effective methane drainage at coal mines is to allow for the recovery of methane to optimize the use of otherwise-wasted energy resources. Thus, an important motivation behind the development of this guidance document is to facilitate and encourage the utilization and abatement of coal mine methane (CMM) to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Ultimately, adoption of these practices will help to enhance the sustainability and long-term financial position of coal mines globally by:

  • Striving to achieve a goal of zero fatalities, injuries, and property losses;
  • Demonstrating the global coal industry’s commitment to mine safety, climate change mitigation, corporate social responsibility, and good citizenship;
  • Establishing a global dialogue on CMM capture and use;
  • Creating critical linkages among coal industry, government, and regulatory officials;
  • Incorporating effective CMM capture as a part of an effective risk management portfolio.

The guidance document is not a comprehensive, prescriptive approach and hence might not adequately account for site-specific conditions, geology, and mining practices. Rather, it represents a broad set of principles that can be adapted as appropriate to individual circumstances. The technologies for implementing these principles evolve and improve over time. International industry best practices are outlined in this document as resources.

11. Work is underway to develop best practice guidance to support the use and installation of renewable energy technologies.

12. In the area of natural gas, activities have started to develop best practice guidance to reduce leaks in the gas value chain, to enhance the role of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and to use natural gas to significantly increase the uptake of renewable energy in the UNECE region.

13. Work is additionally underway to develop best practice guidance to support the effective operation of fossil fuel-fired thermal power plants.


As of 1 December 2017