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Activities under the Espoo Convention focused on Central Asia, for the period between the 7th and 8th sessions of the Meeting of the Parties (2017-2020)

Activities under the Espoo Convention focused on Central Asia, for the period between the 7th and 8th sessions of the Meeting of the Parties (2017-2020)

Technical advice to Kazakhstan (2017 - 2018)

The 2017-2020 workplan foresees the provision of technical advice and support to Kazakhstan with a view to introducing internationally sound institutional and legislative frameworks on EIA and SEA. Efficient implementation of the Convention and its Protocol in the country is seen as a valuable contribution to its on-going green economic reforms.
Further to the outcomes of the reviews of the  country’s national legislation vis-à-vis the Protocol and the Convention carried out in 2016 and 2017 respectively, the Ministry of Energy of Kazakhstan initiated comprehensive reforms of its environmental assessment system. It requested the ECE secretariat to provide technical support in shaping its environmental framework in line with international legal norms, in particular with the provisions of the Convention and the Protocol.
Further to this request, the secretariat’s technical support to Kazakhstan has consisted of the following:
  1. The development of a legislative basis for an environmental assessment system that is compliant with the two treaties;
  2. The pilot application of SEA in the Energy sector of Kazakhstan;
  3. Training for the national and local officials on the practical application of EIA and SEA.

The above activities were carried out with the support of international consultants to the secretariat and national experts in close cooperation with the Ministry of Energy of Kazakhstan, within the framework of the European Union-funded project “Supporting Kazakhstan’s Transition to a Green Economy Model”. To fully address all the requests of the Government of Kazakhstan related to the setting up of new EIA and SEA national systems, the secretariat raised additional funds from the Swiss Government and the OSCE Programme Office in Astana.

Summary of main activities and achievements
As a result of the technical assistance provided between November 2017 and November 2018 Kazakhstan was able to prepare the following draft legal documents:
  1. Draft amendments to the Environmental Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan, including chapters "Strategic Environmental Assessment", "Environmental Impact Assessment" and "Environmental Assessment in a Transboundary Context";
  2. Draft amendments to three by-laws, including on state planning, water management and forestry focused on the introduction of the SEA scheme;
  3. Draft subsidiary legislation, including on the SEA procedure, single SEA register and criteria for screening;

Further to consultations with the national stakeholders, including environmental and sectoral authorities and the public, the above draft legislation was submitted to the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in late November 2018.
To assess the feasibility of the application of SEA in Kazakhstan, between October 2017 and November 2018,  the secretariat supported the country in the pilot application of the proposed SEA scheme for the Concept on Fuel and Energy Strategy of Kazakhstan until 2030.

The pilot project helped Kazakhstan in:
  1. Determining key environmental aspects related to energy production and consumption patterns;
  2. Identifying main drivers impacting green economy considerations;
  3. Evaluating a wide range of likely environmental, including human health, impacts of the proposed Concept;
  4. Facilitating communication among the key stakeholders (central and sub-national governmental agencies, international initiatives, business sector) related to environmental impacts of the energy sector;
  5. Providing ample opportunities for public participation in the process.

The pilot project also assisted the Ministry of Energy in developing four energy mix scenarios, and in evaluating their environmental impacts. In addition, relevant mitigation measures of various energy production options were formulated. Before concluding the project in November 2018, the SEA project team recommended the Ministry of Energy to consider the results of the SEA pilot when finalizing the Concept (expected in early 2019). With a view to designing concrete measures to reduce environmental impacts of its proposed investment projects, Kazakhstan was also recommended to carry out detailed SEAs when developing plans and programmes subsequent to the Energy Concept.
Finally, the activities helped strengthening capacities of the environmental and sectoral authorities (including the Ministry of National Economy and the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan) on SEA and EIA in line with the Convention, the Protocol and the relevant EU legislation. A series of workshops and consultation meetings was organized with officials and the public within the legislative drafting process (15-16 November 2017, 15-16 February 2018, 25-26 April 2018, 5 September 2018) and the pilot project (8-9 November 2017, 5-6 March 2018, 14 November 2018)in order to allow immediately applying the new knowledge in practice. Besides improving the awareness of the SEA and EIA benefits, the roles of different stakeholders in SEA and transboundary EIA were clarified. Also, the detailed methodology on how to apply the SEA and EIA, including in a transboundary context, in line with the Convention and the Protocol was presented and discussed during the meetings.

Further activities
In 2019, Kazakhstan plans to carry out intergovernmental consultations on draft amendments to the Environmental Code prepared with the help of secretariat. It preliminary indicated that the following additional support may be needed: 
  1. To promote the adoption of the proposed legislative amendments through a series of awareness raising events with participation of relevant decision-makers;
  2. To draft EIA related by-laws (list of activities subject to EIA, rules of public participation, criteria for consultants preparing EIA/SEA reports, instruction on conducting EIA).

Partial funding to support drafting of the EIA related by-laws has been under consideration by the OSCE programme office in Astana.

Technical advice to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (2018–2019)

The workplan for 2017-2020 foresees pre-accession technical legislative advice to countries wishing to join the Protocol and/or the Convention to review national legislation for the implementation of the Protocol and/or the Convention and to draft primary or secondary legislation or propose amendments.
In 2018, the Governments of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan requested the secretariat to assist them in reviewing their national legislative frameworks vis-à-vis the Convention and the Protocol and in developing recommendations on how to align the current legislation with the two treaties. The request was further to the countries recognizing the potential of SEA for greening economies, including in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative, and further to the outcomes of the preparation of the Revised Guidelines on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context for Central Asian Countries. The activities in the two countries have been implemented with financial support from Germany (for SEA) and Switzerland (for EIA) from August 2018. The project implementation period for the project extends form August 2018 to February 2019.

Summary of main activities and achievements
The activities in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan included the following:
  1. Reviewing national regulatory and legislative frameworks for environmental assessment systems and making recommendations to the Governments on how to align the frameworks with the provisions of the Convention and the Protocol;
  2. Organizing two workshops in each country to present the scope and the results of the reviews, to raise awareness of the national decision-makers about the benefits of transboundary EIA as well as SEA and its practical application;

The target audience of the activities included high- and middle level officials from environmental, health and sectoral authorities of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, project developers, SEA specialists, relevant representatives of financial institutions, academia and non-governmental organisations.
Initial awareness raising workshops to promote the benefits of transboundary EIA and SEA and discuss the draft reviews of the national legislation vis-s-vis the provisions of the Convention and the Protocol were carried out in Uzbekistan on 26 and 27 August 2018 and in Tajikistan on 22 and 23 November 2018.
Based on the outcomes of the draft reviews presented to the Government of Uzbekistan during the initial awareness-raising workshop, the Government expressed its interest in initiating a comprehensive legislative reform with a view to aligning its EIA system with the provisions of the Convention and to introducing an SEA system in line with the Protocol. It requested the secretariat to provide relevant support, which it could to some extent do by readjusting the planned project activities.
Subsequently, the activities in Uzbekistan were complemented with additional ones, including:
  1. Organising a national working group meeting on drafting amendments to the Law on Ecological Expertise (Tashkent, 24–25 October 2018);
  2. Developing – in consultation with the State Committee for Ecology and Environmental Protection and representatives of the Parliament – a Concept note on legislative reform of environmental assessment system, including alternatives for various elements of possible EIA and SEA schemes (November 2018);
  3. Preparing by the ECE consultants of a first draft amendments to the Law in line with the proposed concept note for consideration of the Committee (December 2018).

Further activities
The reviews of legislative framework of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan including recommendations to the Government for aligning it with the Convention and the Protocol will be finalised in February 2019 further to the outcomes of the discussion with the national authorities scheduled to take place in Dushanbe on 18 January 2019 and in Tashkent on 22 January 2018. During the discussions in Uzbekistan, the ECE consultants will provide the Government with clarifications regarding the first draft amendments to the Law on Ecological Expertise.
Uzbekistan has requested for further legislative assistance for completing the drafting of the legislative amendments. The secretariat is in the process of exploring the availability of resources for the further support.