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Parties to UNECE Espoo Convention issue caution to Ukraine, recognize planning tool for greening the economy and examine nuclear energy projects

Parties to UNECE Espoo Convention issue caution to Ukraine, recognize planning tool for greening the economy and examine nuclear energy projects

The Parties to the Espoo Convention, meeting yesterday in Geneva, decided to caution Ukraine for its non-compliance with its obligations under the Convention with regard to the controversial Bystroe Canal Project. At the same time, the Parties to the Convention’s Protocol their commitment to the Protocol as a tool for integrating environmental and health considerations into planning and policymaking. In addition, in a panel discussion on nuclear energy-related projects, the role of Espoo Convention in ensuring transparency and adequate public involvement in decision-making in this contentious sector was highlighted.
For the first time under the Espoo Convention (Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context) a caution was issued to a Party due to its failure to comply with its international obligations. At the previous session of the Meeting of the Parties, in 2008, Ukraine was declared in non-compliance with the Convention but avoided a caution by committing to reconsider its decision to fully implement the project and by stating that it would not commence work on the second phase of the Bystroe Canal Project until its obligations under the Espoo Convention were satisfied. Though it attempted to fulfil some of those commitments, Ukraine did continue with the implementation of the project so breaching its obligations under international environmental law. The decision taken by the meeting requests the Government of Ukraine to report by the end of each year on steps taken to bring into full compliance the Bystroe Canal Project in the delta of the River Danube.

The declaration adopted in the Geneva meeting highlighted the possible role of strategic environmental assessment in the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. In his opening speech of the Meeting, UNECE Executive Secretary Ján Kubiš highlighted the importance of declaration in greening the economy: “Strategic environmental assessment is a unique and important instrument for planning and policymaking related to greening the economy, and you rightly wish to draw the attention of the Ministers meeting in Astana for the ‘Environment for Europe’ Conference to this.”
The concerns raised by the recent Fukushima Daiichi power plant disaster in Japan could be clearly sensed in the panel discussion on transboundary impacts of nuclear energy-related projects. Participants highlighted the importance of assessing environmental impacts of the full life cycle of planned nuclear energy projects including the assessment of severe accidents and of alternative proposals. The moderator, Georges Kremlis from the Directorate-General for the Environment of the European Commission, stressed in his conclusions the need to build confidence and social acceptance with regard to planned nuclear energy projects. He emphasized the role of Espoo Convention in this respect in ensuring transparency and public participation in the process. Mr. Kubiš later noted that “the Convention allows States to inform and possibly reassure their neighbours, to act transparently and to allow those neighbours to comment on planned power plants and storage sites that cause them concern”.
Note to editors The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, elaborated under the auspices of UNECE, was adopted at Espoo (Finland) on 25 February 1991 and entered into force on 10 September 1997. The Convention now has 45 Parties. The Espoo Convention stipulates that its Parties shall assess the environmental impact of certain activities at an early stage of planning. It also requires States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across borders.
More information about the Convention can be found at
The Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment to the Espoo Convention, signed by 35 Governments and the European Community back in May 2003 in Kyiv, Ukraine, entered into force on 11 July 2010. To date, the Protocol has been ratified by 22 States and the European Union. Though negotiated by UNECE member States and signed by European Ministers of Environment, the Protocol is open to all United Nations Member States, upon approval by the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol.
More information about the Protocol can be found at
In July 2006, a scientific group of experts set up under the Espoo Convention concluded that the Bystroe Canal Project (the Danube-Black Sea Deep-water Navigation Canal in the Ukrainian sector of the Danube Delta) would have “significant adverse transboundary effects” on the environment and that the provisions of the Convention should be applied. The first phase of the Project, aimed at boosting the local economy, was completed in August 2004. Much of the national and international controversy surrounding this project arises from its location in the second largest delta in Europe (after the Volga). The Danube Delta, spanning the border between Romania and Ukraine, includes UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and a World Natural Heritage site. It is a wetland rich in plants (over 1,000 species), birds (300 species, including the largest pelican colony in Europe) and fish (including several endangered species of sturgeon).
Ref: ECE/ENV/11/P27

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