Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs) and the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment help countries to integrate climate change measures into policies and planning. The fourth cycle of EPRs strengthens the in-depth assessment of climate change impacts on priority sectors, mainstreaming climate adaptation, and greenhouse gas mitigation. EPRs have been conducted for some 25 countries to date.
The UNECE region is home to 42% of the world’s forests, accounting for a net biomass carbon sink worth 433 million tonnes of carbon per year, and a living biomass carbon stock in forest land worth about 93 billion tonnes. UNECE/FAO provide wide-ranging support for the protection and sustainable management of these precious forest resources. Among many areas covered are mobilizing science and policy expertise on boreal forests, which are the world’s largest terrestrial carbon storehouse; promoting the use of wood in construction, which offers a material with carbon emissions 40% lower than concrete and 30% lower than steel; and advancing the sustainable use of wood energy – the leading source of renewable energy in the region, accounting for 35.4% of renewable energy supply for 31 countries.
UNECE has already supported six countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) in their commitment to restore around 3 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 under the Bonn Challenge. At a Ministerial meeting on 12 October 2021, countries in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe have committed to restore more than 4 million ha of land by 2030 in contribution to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
Tree planting in urban areas can unlock important benefits: a single tree can store up to 150 kg of CO2 per year, while trees also regulate urban temperatures, help limit erosion and flooding, and contribute to biodiversity. Over 20 cities have already pledged to plant some 11 million trees as part of the Trees in Cities Challenge launched by UNECE and Mayors in 2019.
Strengthening the knowledge base and informing action
Through its work on statistics related to the environment, climate change and hazardous events and disasters, UNECE helps countries to compile reliable, comparable statistics for climate-related policymaking, international reporting and informing the public. UNECE produced the first ever Recommendations on Climate Change-Related Statistics and the first internationally-agreed Set of Core Climate Change-related Indicators and Statistics providing the foundation for countries’ statistical offices to produce core indicators to track and report their progress towards nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement’s enhanced transparency framework (ETF). The indicator set is accompanied by practical guidelines on producing the indicators within the contexts of different national policy priorities and data availability. UNECE also facilitates a continuous dialogue between users and producers of climate-related statistics through its annual Expert Fora.
The Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention) supports the public’s role in climate change negotiations and in shaping climate action policies.
The Kyiv Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers facilitates access to integrated data and information on releases of greenhouse gases and hazardous chemicals and wastes. By supporting adequate measurement, reporting and dissemination of information, implementing PRTR systems help governments and stakeholders to manage risks in production processes and throughout product lifecycles, and support the sound management of chemicals as part of climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. Results from a recent survey among Parties and stakeholders on the experiences in implementing the Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers showed that using PRTR together with, and for, other existing reporting obligations may also improve data quality and reduce costs for its reporting, management and use. This could also facilitate analysis related to cross-cutting issues, helping to improve, for example, cooperation and coordination under the UNFCCC and Stockholm, Rotterdam and Minamata Conventions.
The Environmental Monitoring and Assessment programmes helps countries develop their capacities in relation to climate change indicators within the UNECE set of environmental indicators, and oversees preparation of a pan-European environmental assessment that addresses climate change, among other issues.
Guidelines for the Development of a Criteria and Indicator Set for Sustainable Forest Management, developed by UNECE and FAO to support Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan in the development of their national systems, are available to help all countries monitor progress on sustainable forest management, which is vital for both climate change mitigation and adaptation. To further support informed action, the unique online data platform INForest gathers the most up-to-date information on the over 1.7 billion hectares of forests in the UNECE region and its forest-based sector in one place, providing a user-friendly interface.
The Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme, serviced by UNECE in collaboration with WHO/Europe, brings member States together to ensure a joined-up approach to policy development in these three areas with a strong focus on reducing the environmental and health effects of transport. The Vienna Declaration agreed by member States at the Fifth High-level meeting in May 2021 sets the agenda for working towards more sustainable transport and mobility with a strong focus on achieving climate action targets.