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  • Action to tackle air pollution and reduce GHG emissions is mutually reinforcing. UNECE’s Air Convention is a unique instrument that helps 51 countries work together for cleaner air on a broad regional basis, reducing emissions of key air pollutants by 40% to 80% in Europe and by 30 to 40% in North America since 1990. Its amended Gothenburg Protocol is the only international legally-binding agreement to tackle short-lived climate pollutants including black carbon – some 680 times more heat trapping than CO2 – and targets key ground-level ozone precursors.   

  • As the United Nations platform for transport by road, rail and inland waterway and custodian of 60 UN Conventions, UNECE provides a harmonized legal and regulatory framework to decarbonize mobility and transport. A dedicated Inland Transport Committee (ITC) strategy on reducing GHG emissions in the sector is expected to show the way forward and drive future activities of ITC and its subsidiary bodies. This includes facilitating the shift to more energy-efficient modes such as rail and inland waterways or lowering the carbon intensity of vehicle use.   

  • UN vehicle regulations and Global Technical Regulations developed at UNECE enable harmonized measurement of fuel consumption and tailpipe CO2 emissions from powered two- and three-wheelers, cars, vans, trucks buses and coaches. These harmonized international regulatory tools also enable the widespread introduction of renewable and sustainable fuel sources for vehicles including electric, hybrid and hydrogen, while ensuring stringent requirements for safety and durability. To holistically capture the carbon footprint of vehicles, UNECE has started to develop a globally harmonized methodology to determine the GHG emissions of road vehicles throughout their life cycle.   

  • Doubling the current level of cycling would reduce GHG emissions by 8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent with indirect economic benefits of €1.1 billion per year in the region. The first Pan-European Master Plan for Cycling Promotion provides a blueprint to help countries achieve this by 2030. To improve the safety and comfort of cyclists across the region and to assist governments in designating cycling networks, UNECE established a group of experts on cycling infrastructure. UNECE, together with WHO/Europe, is further supporting the development of a Master Plan on Walking under the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme.    

  • Human-caused emissions of methane - with an instantaneous global warming potential 120 times higher than that of CO2 - are rising, and must be reduced by 40-45% by 2030 to limit global temperature rise to 1.5° C. Readily available measures – of which half are in the fossil fuels sector – can reduce 2030 methane emissions by 30% if fully implemented. UNECE guidance for methane management in the oil and gas sectors and for both operating and abandoned coal mines can support concrete action now.   

  • As part of comprehensive policy dialogue and cooperation to accelerate the region’s sustainable energy transition, UNECE helps countries to develop national strategies on energy efficiency, renewable energy and low-carbon development. Recent examples include Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russian Federation, Serbia, and Ukraine. With time running out and fossil fuels still accounting for over half of electricity generation in the region, a UNECE technology brief notes the potential role of nuclear power – which currently provides 20% of electricity generated in the region and 43% of low-carbon generation – to decarbonize the energy system and energy intensive industries, as part of a broader portfolio alongside deploying other sustainable low- or zero-carbon technologies.   

  • Coal-based infrastructure is at the heart of industrial complexes that include mines, power stations, steel production, other affiliated industries, and urban areas. The substantial industrial and urban ecosystems that have developed around coal facilities represent an important socio-economic and hence political barrier to diversifying away from coal mining. UNECE raises awareness of the need for adequate consideration of these issues, calling on countries to support a just transition through industrial modernization to address short-term political drivers, notably employment in coal mining regions, that impede real action on climate change and energy for sustainable development.   

  • Critical Raw Materials (CRMs) such as lithium, nickel, copper, cobalt, manganese, graphite and rare earth elements are essential to deliver on the Paris Agreement and SDGs. Used in electric vehicle batteries, wind turbines, solar panels, and in a range of digital technologies, they will underpin the green and digital transitions. However, rapidly rising demand is putting great pressure on limited resources: the World Bank estimates that over 3 billion tonnes of minerals and metals will be needed to deploy wind, solar and geothermal power and energy storage required to deliver a future below 2°C.    

  • UNECE proposes a comprehensive framework and toolkit to support countries’ sustainable management of CRMs, including the United Nations Framework Classification for Resources (UNFC) and the United Nations Resource Management System (UNRMS); Building Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards; supporting traceability of critical raw materials; and tools to aid in decarbonizing energy intensive industries.   

  • Buildings account for 40% of CO2 emissions through the energy services they require and around one third of the global consumption of materials. Framework Guidelines for Energy Efficiency Standards in Buildings developed by UNECE provide a set of principles to improve sustainability in the conception/design, construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning/recycling of buildings and their components.    

  • UNECE member States endorsed Place and Life in the UNECE – A Regional Action Plan 2030 that identifies measures to support responses to the climate crisis, together with key challenges including COVID-19 pandemic recovery and the housing emergency – at the level of the region, city, neighbourhood and home.     

  • The #Housing2030 initiative launched by UNECE, UN-Habitat and Housing Europe, supports decision making by providing examples of climate policy tools that can help in the implementation of climate neutral and affordable housing solutions.   

  • In addition, the COVID-19 Recovery Action Plan for Informal Settlements in the UNECE Region makes recommendations on how increased pandemic resilience and achievement of the SDGs can be advanced simultaneously, especially in the case of climate change mitigation.   

  • UNECE drove processes resulting in pledges to restore 7 million hectares of forest landscapes by 2030 in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. UNECE supports countries to implement these commitments in contribution to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration and related climate action.  National Policy Guiding Principles developed by UNECE offer a further tool for countries’ Forest Landscape Restoration policies, strategies and laws.     

  • Food loss and waste is responsible for 8% of global GHG emissions. To provide policy guidance and help to quantify loss and waste, a Code of Good Practice for Reducing Food Loss in Handling Fruit and Vegetables has been developed along with a food loss and waste measuring methodology for fresh produce supply chains. This is further complemented by Minimum Quality Specifications for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables.     

  • GHG emissions from textiles production amount to 1.2 billion tonnes annually, which is more than the emissions of all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Until now, lack of transparency in complex global value chains has remained a barrier to improving sustainability in the sector. UNECE has developed an industry-ready normative framework and a technical standard for full traceability of sustainable and circular value chains in the garment and footwear sector, as part of an EU-funded project. Harnessing new technologies to enable transparent, open, efficient and innovative value chains, the toolbox is currently piloted in a blockchain system developed by the project, with more than 50 industry actors from 20 countries across the globe, covering the entire garment and footwear value chain, from field to shelf and beyond.   

  • 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; 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.  

  • Wood, trees and forests contribute to climate action in urban areas in the region. UNECE/FAO supports policy and action to advance urban trees and forests as a nature-based solution to lower energy consumption by reducing air conditioning and cooling needs by up to 25%; to promote the use of wood in construction, which offers a material with carbon emissions 40% lower than concrete and 30% lower than steel; and has developed a digital tool for cities to reduce food waste.