Towards Greener Economies

The industrialised states of Western Europe are nowadays keen to develop in a sustainable manner, combining economic growth with social justice and improved environment. Within this context, there is need for a transition to a new, efficient and climate-neutral ‘Green Economy’.

UNEP has defined a green economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. A green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.

In the green economy scenario, growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. To make this happen, significant policy reforms and regulations modifications need to be introduced. Since natural capital is a crucial economic asset and source of public benefits, especially for poor people whose livelihoods depend on nature. 

The UNEP-led Green Economy Initiative, launched in late 2008, consists of several components aiming at providing the analysis and policy support for investing in green sectors and in greening environmentally unfriendly sectors. 

Within UNEP, the Green Economy Initiative includes three sets of activities:
  • Producing a Green Economy Report and related research materials, which analysed the macroeconomic, sustainability, and poverty reduction implications of green investment in a range of sectors from renewable energy to sustainable agriculture and providing guidance on policies that can catalyse increased investment in these sectors. The Report stressed that by investing just 2% of the Global GDP governments can kick-start a transition to a Green Economy.
  • Providing advisory services on ways to move towards a green economy in specific countries.
  • Engaging a wide range of research, non-governmental organisations, business and UN partners in implementing the Green Economy Initiative.
Beyond UNEP, the Green Economy Initiative is one of the nine UN-wide Joint Crisis Initiatives (JCI) launched by the UN System's Chief Executives Board in early 2009. In this context, the Initiative includes a wide range of research activities and capacity building events from more than 20 UN agencies including the Bretton Woods Institutions, as well as an Issue Management Group (IMG) on Green Economy, launched in Washington, DC, in March 2010.

The Regional Office for Europe provides active support for the Green Economy Initiative, organising workshops, briefings, and conferences to improve governments’ knowledge on the concept of green economy and how the transition to it can be implemented.


Preserving Caspian Ecosystems (Kazakhstan)

The Caspian Sea, surrounded by the five coastal countries of Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation and Turkmenistan, is the largest land-locked body of water on earth. Situated in a natural depression, below mean sea level, it receives water from the Volga, Ural and the Kura rivers and numerous other freshwater inputs, but has no outlet to the world’s oceans. The Volga River, the largest in Europe, is the source of 80% of the Caspian’s freshwater inflow. The isolation of the Caspian basin together with its climatic and salinity gradients have created a unique ecological system with an impressive number of species endemic to the Caspian waters. Among the most famous are the Caspian sturgeon and the very rare fresh water seal.

What are the main environmental concerns in the region?

Booming exploitation of oil and gas resources, growing networks of pipelines and transport routes, industrial pollution from inflowing rivers and ground water, sea-level fluctuations, climate change and coastal desertification, and in particular the loss of biodiversity due to overexploitation of fish stocks and the introduction of invasive alien species – these are just some of the many environmental challenges that the Caspian Sea is facing. Since most of the problems are transboundary in nature, these challenges require cooperation between all Caspian states.

The Caspian region is also home to around 15 million people, who, to a large extent depend on the natural riches of the Caspian Sea. Therefore, protecting the Caspian environment is not only a matter of protection for the environment’s own sake, but is also a prerequisite for reducing health risks for the coastal population and for fostering sustainable economic development.

How is UNEP helping address these challenges?

The Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea, also known as the Tehran Convention, aims at protecting the Caspian Sea from pollution and at safeguarding its biological resources for present and future generations. Adopted and signed in 2003, it entered into force in August 2006. The Convention is the first regional legally binding agreement signed and ratified by all the five Caspian littoral states.

The Tehran Convention addresses all specific threats to the Caspian environment and notably calls the Caspian states to cooperate to prevent pollution and protect the marine environment as well as to support the countries and their population in securing a sustainable future. UNEP provides interim secretariat services to the Tehran Convention and assists Parties to the Convention with negotiating and developing related protocols.

Between January and December 2010, eleven meetings were organised by the interim secretariat. Related achievements include the finalisation of two protocols to the Convention, which have passed national approval procedures and are ready for adoption and signature (1. Regional Preparedness, Response and Cooperation in Combating Oil Pollution Incidents; 2. Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context). Two additional protocols are nearly finalised:

1. Conservation of Biological Diversity and
2. Against Land-Based Sources of Pollution.

A Unified Reporting Format and the Caspian Regional Public Participation Strategy were also finalised and will be adopted at the Third Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to take place in 2011.


Promoting Biodiversity Conservation (PEBLDS)

UNEP actively promotes the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in the Pan-European region by, inter alia, servicing the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS) and providing expert and technical assistance to countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia.

To monitor and reduce the degradation and loss of biodiversity resources in Europe, several national and international organizations developed the PEBLDS in 1994. UNEP and the Council of Europe have shared the joint Secretariat of the PEBLDS since 1995.

The principal aim of the Strategy is to ensure the sustainability of the European natural environment with special emphasis on concerted European action under all existing initiatives, particularly the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). PEBLDS presents an innovative and proactive approach to stop and reverse the degradation of biological and landscape diversity values in Europe.  The Strategy reinforces the implementation of existing measures and identifies additional actions that need to be taken. It also provides a framework to promote a consistent approach and common objectives for national and regional action to implement the CBD.

As Coordinator of PEBLDS, UNEP is responsible for servicing the Strategy by organizing and facilitating meetings and preparing related documents.

Recent activities include the organization of the Investing in Biodiversity and Maximizing the Benefits of the Green Economy Expert Workshop in Gabala, Azerbaijan, from 5 to 6 July 2010, and the Pan-European High Level Conference on Biodiversity, on the theme on the theme Biological Diversity and the Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals held in Gabala, Azerbaijan, on 7 July 2010. The Conference prepared a pan-European input to the high level event on biodiversity held on 22 September 2010 on the eve of the opening of the 65th Session of the General. During this high level event, During this high-level event, the world’s 192 heads of state were called to renew and strengthen their commitment to achieve the three objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.


Fighting Poverty Through Improved Environment

The Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is a joint global UN-led programme that supports country-level efforts to mainstream poverty-environment linkages into national development plans and processes, from policymaking to budgeting, implementation and monitoring.

With both financial and technical support, UNDP and UNEP assist decision-makers and a wide range of other stakeholders to manage the environment in a way that improves livelihoods and leads to sustainable growth. The Initiative works with key government partners to raise awareness, influence policy making and strengthen the mainstreaming of poverty-environment into budget processes, sector programmes and sub-national planning. The overall aim is to bring about lasting institutional change and to catalyze key actors to increase investments in pro-poor environmental and natural resource management.

The Initiative:
  1. was formally launched in 2005 and significantly scaled-up in 2007 at the UNEP Governing Council meeting
  2. works in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean
  3. operates through a global Facility, four regional teams and the UN country teams
The Regional Support Programmes offer guidance on strategic planning and information about poverty-environmental mainstreaming issues in the region; define a set of priority services, including trainings and knowledge management services for countries in the region; allocate funds for country programmes and provide advisory services, and support for the regional communities.

The Poverty and Environment Initiative in Europe:

The initiative was formally launched in December 2008 with an inception workshop in Bratislava, Slovak Republic. During the workshop participants discussed poverty-environment linkages and opportunities for mainstreaming and explored in detail the PEI concept, methodology and implementation modalities and its application potential in the European and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) regions.

Based in Geneva, Switzerland, and Bratislava, Slovak Republic, the regional PEI team manages the PEI Europe & CIS Programme; provides support to governments and UNDP country offices to facilitate PEI implementation; and promotes the sharing of knowledge and lessons learnt from the different countries in the programme.

A PEI country programme was launched in Tajikistan in May 2010, and a PEI national programme was officially signed in February 2011 in Kyrgyzstan. In addition, the regional team also provides technical support to Armenia.


Contact: nara.luvsan@unep.ch