The 9th Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference closed today in Nicosia, Cyprus, with the adoption of a ministerial declaration affirming countries’ commitment to transition to a green economy with sustainable infrastructure at its core.
The declaration also calls on countries to join and commit actions under the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, and underlines the need for more and stronger education for sustainable development.
Fostering sustainable infrastructure and tourism
Sustainable and resilient infrastructure investment should be at the core of green economy policies and commitments, playing a central role in COVID-19 pandemic recovery plans, according to the declaration issued following the conference. New sustainable infrastructure should promote resource efficiency to reduce long-term environmental impacts, as a result of fostering innovation, nature-based solutions and cooperation with the private sector, countries agreed in the Cypriot capital.
Particular attention was given to the importance of infrastructure development and tourism as major sectors concerned in transitioning to a green economy and how therefore it is critical to consider the environmental, social and health concerns of these industries. In the light of this, the declaration also calls on countries to join and commit actions to the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative that unites the tourism sector behind a common vision of circular economy of plastics, and the Glasgow Declaration: a commitment to a Decade of Tourism Climate Action.
Countries pledged to support efforts to reduce water and energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from tourism, particularly in high-impact sub-sectors (including cruise liners, aviation and accommodation), as well as to improve efficiency in the use of other resources, such as water. They further committed to improve sanitation, wastewater treatment and waste management.
The Declaration also “strongly condemns the unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine by the armed forces of the Russian Federation” and recalls the related General Assembly resolutions.
It “recognizes the need to assess the environmental consequences of the military aggression against Ukraine for both the country and the surrounding region”, and “affirms ministers’ support to Ukraine in its reconstruction, including for providing subsequent assistance for restoration”. It goes on to invite the UNECE secretariat, in cooperation with UNEP, OECD and others, to “prioritize assessing the most urgent environmental needs in Ukraine based upon the methodology of the UNECE Environmental Performance Review Programme and on the results of ongoing and planned impacts assessments”. The Declaration further invites the international organizations to make recommendations to advance Ukraine’s sustainable recovery, in line with the Lugano Declaration adopted at the Ukraine Recovery Conference of last July.
Advancing Education for sustainable development and the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements
In addition, the declaration underscores the need for more and stronger education for sustainable development to advance environmental governance, to strengthen environmental democracy and to empower learners of all ages with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to address the interconnected global challenges.
Existing commitments were reaffirmed, including to the implementation of the voluntary Pan-European Strategic Framework for Greening the Economy adopted at the Eighth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference, as well as to the voluntary commitments of the Batumi Initiative on Green Economy to operationalize the Strategic Framework.
Countries furthermore acknowledged the progress achieved under UNECE multilateral environmental agreements and stressed their important role in supporting countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and in enhancing environmental protection, industrial safety and in improving social, economic and health aspects of people’s lives across the pan-European region and beyond. Special attention was given to the need for countries to engage with the Environmental Performance Review Programme and, to support a regular process of environmental assessment, apply the Shared Environmental Information System across the region.
The Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference was held on 5-7 October 2022 and brought together some 1,000 participants, with some 70 country delegations represented at the ministerial level, as well as representatives of European and international organizations, researchers and non-governmental organizations. The conference was hosted by the Government of Cyprus with secretariat support from the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), in cooperation with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and other partners.