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Environment Under Review
Contributing to sustainable development and improved well-being through empowering stakeholders at global, regional and national levels; by providing open web platforms, services and access to timely, substantiated knowledge about the environment and emerging issues; and by strengthening capacities to make use of substantiated knowledge in decision-making.

Regional News

Countries move towards deal to further phase down global warming-inducing chemicals

Parties to the Montreal Protocol have come closer to a deal to further control potent global warming-inducing chemicals in a move that would provide a powerful push to help achieve the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Thanks to the Protocol, countries have already eradicated chlorofluorocarbons and are on track to eradicate hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCs) – climate-harming chemicals found in refrigeration, air conditioning and foams. HFCs are often used as a replacement for CFCs and have a global warming effect up to thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide.

At their meetings held in Vienna on 15-23 July, the 197 parties to the Montreal Protocol considered potential freeze dates for HFCs and schedules for reducing their production and consumption in both developed and developing countries, and forwarded them for further discussion in future meetings scheduled for October.

Countries agreed on a menu of solutions to specific challenges. They furthermore agreed on a study to examine the climate benefits of a phase-down of HFCs and to examine the finance needed to enact it.

The Paris Agreement commits states to limiting the increase in global temperature compared to pre-industrial levels to two degrees by 2100 and to pursue efforts to limit this increase to 1.5 degrees. An amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down HFCs could meanwhile save a potential 0.4 degrees of global warming by the end of the century.

New challenge

Action taken under the Protocol has enabled the ozone layer to heal by an area equivalent to the size of India, UNEP Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw told delegates at the Extraordinary Meeting of the Parties held 22-23 July, which was attended by ministers or high-level officials from over 30 countries. “It is no accident that the Protocol is quoted again and again as an example of what can be achieved when 197 parties put their minds to it,” he noted.

Yet while they do not harm the ozone directly, the most commonly used HFCs hold a global warming potential that is thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide.

In November 2015, countries therefore agreed on a ‘Dubai Pathway’ whereby solutions would first be generated to challenges before an amendment to curb HFCs can be finalised.

 “Well on way” to climate win

After seven years of talks, countries have moved closer to an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to control HFCs, with further talks scheduled for the next meetings of the parties in Kigali, Rwanda in October.

Countries are “well on their way” to achieving “a very big win” in the fight against climate change, said US State Secretary John Kerry at the meeting, cheering on the progress being made.

The amendment would contribute towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production, which aims to achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycles. In line with a Green Economy, action on HFCs can protect the planet and its inhabitants, but also foster business.

The Montreal Protocol, which is administered by UNEP, entered into force in 1989 and is the world’s first universally-ratified environmental treaty. Without it, an extra two million people could be diagnosed with skin cancer every year by 2030, while the benefits to agriculture, fisheries and materials are estimated to be worth $460 billion by the middle of the century.

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Image: UNEP Environment Deputy Chief Ibrahim Thiaw delivers an opening statement during Friday's ministerial roundtable. Photo credit: IISD 

GEO-6 Assessment for the pan-European region presented in Lisbon

The pan-European regional assessment under UNEP’s sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) has been presented to the Portuguese Minister of Environment and other government officials.

Following its launch last month, outreach work has continued with a presentation of the report’s process and key findings at an open event organized by the General Secretariat of Portugal’s Environment Ministry in Lisbon, Portugal on 28 June 2016.

The report identifies air pollution and climate change as now being the two major threats to human health in the pan-European region and was presented in the Portuguese capital following World Environment Day – UNEP’s biggest event for awareness raising on the environment.

The Secretary General of Environment Alexandra Carvalho opened the session, which was attended by around 40 people at the General Secretariat of Portugal’s Environment Ministry, including government staff and representatives of the media.

In a keynote address, the Portuguese Minister of Environment Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes highlighted the importance of sharing information and lessons learned through processes such as GEO. In a video message, UNEP’s Regional Director for Europe Jan Dusik noted how the report comes at a time when the world is on a new course to combat climate change and unleash actions and investment towards a low carbon, resource-efficient, resilient and sustainable future. However, “living within our planetary boundaries will require fundamental transitions in energy, food, mobility and urban systems,” he underlined, adding: “the GEO assessment forms a basis for policymakers to take action”.

The UNEP Regional Office for Europe  focal point for the science-policy interface was joined by the Scientific Co-Chair of the GEO-6 Assessment for the pan-European region – Prof. Diana Mangalagiu from Oxford University –and they delivered the technical presentations and participated in the discussion panel that took place during this half-day session in Lisbon. They presented the key findings from the assessment and informed participants on the details of the process for developing the report based on expert and intergovernmental consultations and a sound peer review process. 

At the discussion panel that followed the presentations participants actively engaged with the presenters, asking questions and taking part in a rich discussion. Highlights of this dialogue included the use of regional data by the team of authors, transnational cooperation and the importance of countries’ engagement in the GEO assessment process, and the use of the assessment findings at national level.

Other topics discussed were the relation between air pollution and health, green growth and the circular economy vis-a-vis the outcomes of the Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference in Batumi, Georgia where the GEO-6 regional assessment was launched in June. In order to view the report please click here and note the errata here.

GEO is a consultative and participatory process that builds capacity for conducting integrated environmental assessments and reporting on the state, trends and outlooks of the environment. GEO is also a series of products that informs environmental decision-making and aims to facilitate the interaction between science and policy. Using the integrated environmental assessment (IEA) methodology, UNEP has produced five global GEO reports thus far, which have analyzed environmental state and trends at the global and regional scales, described plausible outlooks for various time frames and formulated policy options. Each GEO report builds on the assessment findings of its predecessor and draws from lessons learnt. The GEO-6 Assessment for the pan-European region is one of the building blocks for the production of the forthcoming Global Assessment under the GEO-6 process.

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Watch Bertrand Piccard deliver an inspiring message to environment ministers

As the Solar Impulse plane completes its journey around the globe without fuel, watch one of its pilots and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Bertrand Piccard deliver an inspiring live video message to environment ministers here.  

Mr Piccard was speaking to ministers at the eighth Environment for Europe Conference taking place in Batumi, Georgia on 7-9 June. There, over 100 pledges for a Green Economy on topics such as food waste and energy efficiency were made by countries and organisations

“Be ambitious and use the solutions we have today,” he stressed, calling for the legal framework to be put in place "to change the world" and slash global emissions.  

“Normally at conferences we would not speak of pledges, we would only repeat problems. Yet now we have the opportunity to speak of solutions - and this is exactly what we need,” said Piccard, speaking from New York before flying over the Statue of Liberty. The solar flight "shows that solutions exist," he stressed.

The view the pledges made, forming the Batumi Initiative on Green Economy (BIG-E), please click on the BIG-E here

The pledges represent the first regional commitment to translating the Sustainable Development Goals into action on the ground. For more information please click here.

UNEP defines a Green Economy as one where human wellbeing is improved and inequalities reduced in the long-term without exposing future generations to significant environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

For UNEP global news, click here
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