The European Union and the United Nations Environmental Programme extended their existing partnership with a strategic agreement to 2013, the European Commission announced earlier today.
The agreement outlines a strategic partnership covering funding from the Commission to UNEP up to 2013. It identifies key areas of joint activities, including under the European Union’s “Thematic Programme for Environment and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources including Energy”. The new agreement builds on an existing partnership which, over the past three years, has provided UNEP and the Multilateral Environmental Agreements with over 50 million Euros for implementing close to 60 projects ranging from chemicals to biodiversity world-wide.
It also reflects the EU 2020 strategy on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth that dovetails with UNEP’s work on the Green Economy, the International Panel on Sustainable Resource Management and The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), for which the Commission is a long standing supporter.
Commissioner Potočnik said: “The European Commission and UNEP share many common priorities, from climate change and sustainable energy to environment and development. Sustainable management of natural resources, sustainable consumption and production and the Green Economy are among those key priorities. Today we are also announcing support to the Government of Kenya, through UNEP, towards rehabilitation and restoring one of Kenya’s and East Africa’s key pieces of natural infrastructure. The Mau forest complex is a living example of where economy and environment intersect and reflects not only our cooperative work with UNEP, but the Commission’s overall vision for a sustainable 21st century at home and abroad.”
The precise funding arrangements and potential projects to be started under the new strategic cooperative partnership will be discussed over the coming months.
Multi-million dollar project for the Mau forest in Kenya
The European Commission and the UN Environment programme (UNEP) have also announced a multi-million dollar project to assist the restoration of the north western part of the Mau forest in Kenya.
The project, supporting the strategy of the Government of Kenya to rehabilitate one of sub-Saharan Africa’s largest closed canopy forests, will help maintain nature-based assets worth an estimated $1.5 billion a year to the Kenyan economy.
The details were unveiled during the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum. The project will secure services generated by the flows of the Yala and Nyando rivers. These rivers, which feed Lake Victoria and are important for drinking water, also support 5,000 hectares of rice production important for local food security and the Kenyan economy.
The new, more than €2 million project for Mau, is being funded out of the existing agreement. It will cover the Nandi part of the forest where significant degradation of the indigenous forest and conversion into grassland has occurred, due in part to unsustainable patterns of settlement.
Industrial forest plantations in the area are also currently poorly managed, and part of the project will tackle this issue, including the establishment of wood lots for local peoples’ cooking needs.
The forest blocks targeted under the project for restoration are Northern Tinderet, Tinderet, Naboki, Timboroa and Londiani.
The loss and degradation of forest in this part of the Mau forest is endangering a range of businesses, development initiatives and biologically important sites.
The area is the upper catchment of the Yala and Nyando rivers that both flow into Lake Victoria and provide water for rice production with a market price in excess of one billion Kenyan shillings.
The area also supports river flows that are central to the success of a UNEP-Global Environment Facility funded project to reduce the electricity costs; power supply availability and greenhouse gas emissions linked with the tea industry.
The Yala and Nyando rivers also support key conservation areas, including ones designated Important Bird Areas. Bird watching is a key part of the Kenyan tourism industry.
What working together can achieve: ACP MEAS
Other collaborations already underway between the EU and UNEP demonstrate what can be done when these institutions work together. EU-funded Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries project are a case in point.
This four-year project, launched in 2009, aims at capacity building for the implementation of MEAs, and has already established three regional hubs that are implementing capacity building activities to enhance country capacity to negotiate and implement MEAs to promote environmental sustainability. The hubs are in Africa, the Carribean, and the Pacific.
Operating out of each region, the hubs’ work has enhanced national and regional capacity to participate in international environmental negotiations, e.g. through negotiation training.
The project also strengthens the capacity of target ACP countries to foster increased level of carbon financing through the Clean Development Mechanism, and is improving chemical management through additional funding to the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) Quick Start Programme.
The project also builds capacity for combating desertification and the management of obsolete pesticides through separate agreement with the UNCCD-GM and FAO, respectively.
Another joint example of collaboration of between the Commission and UNEP is the Knowledge from Science to SOcietieS (KNOSSOS) project.
The project – funded by FP7, the Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development – aims to bridge the gap between available scientific evidence and policy making in the environment field, on the grounds that a sound knowledge base will lead to more effective environment policies. KNOSSOS takes stock of EU environmental scientific research activities and makes pertinent information easily available to those at decision and policy-making levels.
The project is run in partnership with the ‘GLOBE EU’ and ‘GLOBE Europe’ networks of parliamentarians. KNOSSOS is about to launch an online platform that will facilitate access to information for policymakers. The platform will also be a tool for improved exchange and uptake of EU-research results related to the environment.
The project will also appoint Environmental Science Ambassadors who will raise public awareness about emerging environmental issues.
Parliamentarians will also benefit from the improved information flow. Steen Gade, Member of the Danish Parliament Environment Committee and GLOBE Europe President, notes “science and research should always be the very basis of our environment policy, and what a project like KNOSSOS delivers will ease our daily work by making available the latest reliable scientific data and bridging the gap between science and policy.”