Address by Ms. Olga Algayerova, UN Under-Secretary-General & Executive Secretary UN Economic Commission for Europe at the press briefing
on Ninth “Environment for Europe” (EfE) Ministerial Conference
22 September 2022
The Environment for Europe (EfE) process was created in 1991. The EfE Ministerial Conference, gathered every five years and serviced by UNECE, is the United Nations’ highest body on environmental policy in the region (56 countries covering Europe, North-America, the Caucasus and Central Asia).
The EfE process, which began at a time when the region was sharply divided along social, economic, and political lines, is a living example of what multilateralism can deliver. It has offered countries a forum for closer regional cooperation on environmental issues while, at the same time, pursuing their national interests. It helped countries to define and follow joint environmental priorities through the negotiation of various legal instruments, programmes and strategies on a variety of key issues for the region such as: air pollution (Air Convention); Environmental Monitoring and Assessment; Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention); Pan-European Strategy to Phase-out Leaded Petrol; regional Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development; environmental impact assessment (Espoo Convention); transboundary water cooperation (Water Convention); etc. Many of these initiatives have become important elements of regional cooperation and continue adding value to countries.
From climate change to biodiversity loss, from air pollution to floods or drought prevention, not to mention dealing with pandemics, most of the world’s most pressing challenges know no borders. Hence, international cooperation is more important than ever to tackle them.
This year, the Ninth “Environment for Europe” (EfE) Ministerial Conference will have three main themes:
- Greening the economy in the pan-European region: working towards Sustainable infrastructure, with the aim ofreducing the carbon, water and resource footprint of infrastructure projects. Infrastructure sits at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, cutting across all 17 Goals and influencing 92 per cent of their 169 targets.
- Applying principles of circular economy to sustainable tourism, with a view toreducing water and energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from tourism, particularly in high-impact sub-sectors (including cruise lines, aviation and accommodation), as well as improving efficiency in sanitation, wastewater treatment and waste management. Tourism is a key sector of the economy in many countries in the region, contributing 10% to the European Union GDP and representing 26 million jobs.
- Advancing Education for sustainable development, as a powerful catalyst for the transition towards more resilient systems and the implementation of all the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Conference will also:
- discuss the findings of the 7th pan-European environmental assessment report, taking stock of progress made and remaining challenges since the 6th assessment in 2017,
- review progress on the establishment of the Shared Environmental Information System
- launch the 4th cycle of UNECE Environmental Performance Reviews
The Conference will gather some 30 Ministers and almost 1000 delegates. It is expected to adopt a Ministerial declaration which will outline the direction of future regional cooperation on environment in general, and especially on Sustainable infrastructure and sustainable tourism. The 3rd High-Level Meeting of Education and Environment Ministries which will be held in the framework of the Conference is expected to adopt the Ministerial Statement on education for sustainable development.
I look forward to hearing bold commitments from both the Member States and non-government stakeholders in Nicosia to strengthen environmental protection, reduce resource use, cut pollution and foster the shift to a circular economy we badly need to make sustainable development a reality.