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Parties to UNECE Treaties Adopt Declaration on the Application of EIA Procedures to Nuclear Energy Issues

Monday, 30 June 2014
The sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in a Transboundary Context was held, in conjunction with the second session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), in Geneva, from 2 to 5 June 2014*. Interestingly, UNECE provided the setting for the negotiation of the Espoo Convention and its Protocol on SEA and now serves as the Secretariat for the two treaties.

In the light of the recent Fukushima Daiichi power plant disaster occurred in Japan, nuclear energy related projects were at the core of discussions convened at back to back sessions with the Meetings of the Parties to the afore-mentioned treaties.

As part of UNECE efforts to promote good practice in assessing transboundary environmental impacts and to enhance the cooperation between the neighboring countries, the participants organized a joint High-Level Session primarily dedicated to energy and, in particular, to  nuclear energy issues. During this session a high-level panel underlined the key role of the Espoo Convention in establishing rules for domestic action and international cooperation to prevent, reduce and control significant adverse transboundary — and long-range — environment impacts in the field of nuclear energy. The Protocol on SEA, for its part, was declared to be an essential instrument to ensure assessment of the environmental, including health, effects of plans and programmes, including in the nuclear energy-related field.

As a result, the Parties to the Espoo Convention and its Protocol on SEA adopted a joint declaration on the application of these instruments to nuclear energy issues. In this context, the participants argued that there is a room for improved implementation of environmental impact assessment procedures in the energy sector. Panellists emphasized that the Environmental Impact Assessment scope should cover the full life time of the planned project, include risk assessment and take into account the impacts on climate. International cooperation among States and organizations in this regard, notably with the International Atomic Energy Agency, was also highlighted.

To support the practical application of the Convention and the Protocol in the field of nuclear energy, the Parties adopted a decision to elaborate good practice recommendations on the application of the Convention to nuclear energy-related activities.

The Meeting of the Parties to the Convention, convening in separate session, also endorsed the findings of the Convention’s Implementation Committee that three Parties were in non compliance with the Convention with respect to nuclear energy activities: Ukraine was found to be in non-compliance with its obligations under the Convention for not having carried out a transboundary EIA procedure when extending the lifetime of its Rivne nuclear power plant (NPP); Armenia was found to be in non-compliance with its obligation to notify about the planned construction of its NPP in Metsamor; and Belarus was found to be in non-compliance with some of its obligations concerning the construction of the Ostrovets NPP.



Note:
The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo, 1991) is the only international instrument under the umbrella of the United Nations that offers a legal framework to ensure international cooperation in assessing and managing environmental impacts of planned activities, in particular in a transboundary context. In force since 1997, it has 45 Parties, including the European Union. The Convention has been applied over a thousand times to date and is applied more and more often. This growth reflects the increase in the number of Parties, but also indicates that States find transboundary environmental assessment a valuable procedure for informing and consulting the authorities and the public of neighbouring countries.

The following countries are Parties to the Espoo Convention: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The European Union is also a regional integration organization member.

In 2003, the Convention was supplemented by the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment. Since its entry into force in 2011, the Protocol concretely has been helping to lay the groundwork for sustainable development: it ensures that Parties integrate environmental, including health, considerations and public concerns into their plans and programmes, and to the extent possible also into policies and legislation, at the earliest stages. To date, the Protocol counts 26 Parties, including the European Union.

The following countries are Parties to the Convention’s Protocol: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The European Union is a regional integration organization member.


Sources: UNECE
For Further Information:
http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=35710


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