A briefing focusing on preparations of the Eighth Environment for Europe (EfE) Ministerial Conference planned to be held from 8 to 10 June 2016 in Batumi, Georgia, took place at the International Environment House II on Monday 2 May.
Over two and a half days the Ministerial Conference will address two main themes: greening the economy in the pan-European region and improving air quality for a better environment and human health. Also, a high level segment on education for sustainable development will be organized during the Conference with a view to assessing the progress during the first 10 years of the UNECE Strategy of Education for Sustainable Development, and to considering its future implementation.
The Ministerial Conference is expected to culminate in the adoption of a Ministerial Declaration. In addition, key outputs expected from the Conference include a pan-European Strategic Framework and Batumi Initiative for Greening the Economy and the Batumi Action for Cleaner Air.
Welcome & Introduction
Christian FRIIS BACH, Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary, UNECE
Jan DUSIK, Director, Regional Office for Europe, UNEP
About the Eighth Environment for Europe Conference
Zaal LOMTADZE, Secretary of the Committee on Environmental Policy, UNECE
The Strategic Framework and Batumi Initiative on Green Economy (SFGE and BIG-E) and The Batumi Action on Clean Air (BACA)
Richard BALLAMAN, Head of Air Quality Management Section, Federal Office for the Environment, Switzerland
Edwin KONING, Senior Policy Advisor, Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, The Netherlands (EU Presidency)
Rie TSUTSUMI, Programme Officer, Regional Office for Europe, UNEP
Question and Answer session
Christian FRISS BACH, Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of UNECE, stared with discussing Environment for Europe process led by UNECE and multiple initiatives which resulted from it, such as Environment performance review, Education for sustainable development and etc. He highlighted that Environment for Europe process is a mechanism for member states, intergovernmental organizations, regional environmental centres, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and society to discuss current environmental issues.
Christian Friis Bach underlined an importance of Agenda 2030 and stated that better cooperation is needed. Batumi Conference is a part of the Environment for Europe process. It will address two main topics: Green Economy and a Cleaner Air. Mr. Friis Bach noted that expected outcomes of the Conference are: Pan-European Strategic Framework for Greening the Economy, Batumi Initiative on Green Economy (BIG-E), Batumi Action for Cleaner Air (BACA), Batumi Ministerial Declaration, Ministerial Statement on ESD, Framework for the future implementation of the UNECE Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development. In the end Mr. Friis Bach thanked all member states who contributed to the organization of the conference and those who facilitated the conference setting up, he also thanked the state of Georgia for hosting a conference.
Jan DUSIK, UNEP Regional Office for Europe Director, said that he has a pleasure to combine the regional expertise of UNECE and the world experience of UNEP for the organization of the conference. He stressed that the Second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2), taking place in Nairobi 23-27 May 2016, just two weeks ahead of the Batumi conference, will provide an excellent opportunity to further strengthen the outcomes of this inter-ministerial conference. At the Batumi conference, held right after the UNEA meeting UNEP will be able transform global experience into more region oriented. Jan DUSIK noted that he is looking forward for the next Global Environment Outlook (GEO 6), which will be launched during the Batumi conference. He also mentioned that UNEP is engaged in the work related to the air quality. Finally Jan DUSIK thanked Swiss government for the support of the Geneva Environment Network Secretariat, hosting the regular briefing to the international community in Geneva.
This introduction was welcomed by the representative of Georgia, who re-iterated the country’s honour to host this high-level event, and expressed gratitude to UNECE and UNEP for assistance in the preparation of this event. He expressed his hope that all goals set for the conference will be achieved and performed in a concrete way and welcomed everyone to enjoy Georgian hospitality at the time of a conference.
Zaal LOMTADZE, Secretary of the Committee on Environmental Policy at UNECE, gave a presentation explaining general issues of the conference. He talked about the history of Environment for Europe process and noted its achievements and numerous outcomes. Eighth Environment for Europe Ministerial conference has two main themes: Greening the economy in the pan-European region and improving air quality for a better environment and human health. A high level segment on the UNECE Strategy for Education for Sustainable development will be included. He noted expected outcomes of the conference and talked about logistics. In the end he presented figures: as of May 2: there are more than 500 delegates registered (excluding UNECE and a Host Country), 40 national delegations and a European Commission, 30 Ministers and State Secretaries, many UN and other international organizations, NGOs, academia, business , 31 side-events (number had to be limited due to the decision not to run side-events in parallel to the Conference sessions) and 7 thematic exhibitions.
Richard BALLAMAN, Head of Air Quality Management Section at the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, gave a presentation about The Batumi Action on Clean Air (BACA). He explained that the Batumi Action on Clean Air will be a list of actions which countries commit to implement. Good instruments already exist but more active participation is required, and the Batumi Action on Clean Air is a good setting to urge actions. Not only countries, but also international organization, non-governmental organizations and donors are invited to support actions that improve air quality, in particular capacity-building and technical assistance actions. The four types of actions can be implemented under the BACA initiative:
- Establishment of monitoring activities and emissions inventories
- Improvement of public awareness
- Capacity-building and technical support
- Partnerships with the private sector
Mr. Ballaman named tentative actions of the Swiss Confederation: to support Central Asia and Azerbaijan in their initiatives on Clean Air and to work with the topic of ammonium occurring in the agriculture sector.
Edwin KONING, Senior Policy Advisor, Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, The Netherlands (EU Presidency) gave a speech about The Strategic Framework and Batumi Initiative on Green Economy (SFGE and BIG-E). Three main objectives of the Pan-European Strategic Framework for Greening the Economy will be attained:
- Reduced environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
- Enhanced economic progress
- Improved human well-being and social equity.
The Batumi Initiative on Green Economy (BIG-E) operationalizes the Strategic Framework during the period 2016–2030. It will comprise voluntary commitments by interested countries and organizations, both public and private, in the form of green economy actions. Mr. Edwin Konning said that the tentative action of the Netherlands for the Batumi Initiative on Green Economy will tackle resource re-usage. The project is expected to include France, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Denmark. This project will look into a possibility to use second hand resources as many times as possible. As technical problems might appear, i.e. that second hand resources, namely, waste, cannot be shipped across the borders, the project will do recommendation on how to improve legislation or a production process. Many stakeholders such as: the government, industry, NGO, academia are expected to be involved in the project. Mr. Konning concluded that he hopes this project to be a starting point for a circular economy.
Rie TSUTSUMI, Programme Officer at UNEP Regional Office for Europe, gave an in-depth information about the Eighth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference. She stated that there are three components prepared for the conference:
- The Strategic Framework for Greening the Economy in the pan-European region – includes practical examples, good practices and tools to be used for accelerating the transition to a green economy, while promoting a bottom-up approach, as well as building upon existing knowledge products and platforms. It was prepared jointly by UNECE, UNEP, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the European Environment Agency.
- The Batumi Initiative on Green Economy (BIG-E) operationalizes the Strategic Framework during the period 2016–2030. It will comprise voluntary commitments by interested countries and organizations, both public and private, in the form of green economy actions
- The list of possible green economy actions – is a list of possible actions to serve as inspiration for interested countries and organizations in identifying about five green economy actions per each country or organization to voluntarily commit to at the Eighth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference.
Finally, Ms. Tsutsumi invited all interested participants to make testimonials for the video which is being prepared for a Conference.
Jan DUSIK noted in the end that UNEP and UNECE are working on the exhibition, which will be a side event in Batumi, to showcase work of these organizations.
Christian FRIIS BACH concluded the meeting by re-iterating the need to transform current production and consumption patterns.
The representative of Romania congratulated the Secretariat and the host country for their continuous efforts in organising this conference, and confirmed that the Romanian Minister of Environment, Waters and Forests, H.E. Ms. Christiana Pasca Palmer, will attend the event and is willing to moderate sessions on Green Economy and the SDGs (also emphasizing the importance of private sector engagement).
Fulai SHENG, from UNEP Economics and Trade Brunch, asked whether the Batumi Initiative on Green Economy will be publicised during the United Nations Environment Assembly meeting. Christian FRISS BACH answered that there will be reference made during the Assembly; however an official launch of the Initiative will be done during the Batumi conference.
More information and documents
- Batumi conference website: http://www.efebatumi.com
- UNECE EfE webpage: http://www.unece.org/environmental-policy/environment-for-europe/efe-conferences/batumi-conference/welcome.html
- GE strategic framework: http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/documents/2016/ece/ece.batumi.conf.2016.6.e.pdf
- BIG E: http://www.unece.org/environmental-policy/environment-for-europe/efe-conferences/batumi-conference/documents-and-materials.html