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UNECE Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment Becomes a Global Instrument

Thursday, 02 October 2014
Τhe Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context* is now open to all United Nations Member States through the entry into force on 26 August 2014 of its first amendment**. “This opening will fill an important gap in international law and will further advance environmental impact assessment as an important tool for sustainable development. I therefore call upon all Parties to ratify this amendment as soon as possible” said Christian Friis Bach, UNECE Executive Secretary.

Since its entry into force in 1997 as a regional instrument under UNECE auspices, the Espoo Convention has considerably helped countries to develop national environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedures and has forged international cooperation to prevent, manage and mitigate adverse environmental impacts. One notorious example of the concrete impact of the Convention has been its application to the complex Nord Stream offshore natural gas pipeline connecting the Russian Federation to Germany through the Baltic Sea. The substantial impact of the Convention on the development of national and international environmental law is also widely accepted, and it has been cited by the International Court of Justice as representing a good international practice. Its Parties, recognizing the benefits derived from the application of the Convention four years after its entry into force, adopted in 2001 an amendment to Art. 17 to share these benefits with the global community.

To date, 24 States have ratified, approved or accepted this amendment, including the European Union. Non-UNECE countries will be able to accede to the Convention once all States, that were Parties when the 2001 amendment,, have ratified it. The Parties that still have to ratify this amendment are: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. At their last session in June 2014, the Parties urged these States to ratify the amendment to article 17*** as soon as possible****. At the same meeting, Parties also unanimously decided to simplify the future accession to the Convention by non-UNECE countries, by lifting the requirement for their prior approval.

*The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, adopted in Espoo, Finland, in 1991, is in force since 1997, and counts 45 Parties, including the EU. 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. In 2003, the Convention was supplemented by the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment, which entered into force in 2011. The Protocol lays 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, into policies and legislation, at the earliest stages. To date, the Protocol has 26 Parties, including the EU.
**On 28 May 2014, the conditions for the entry into force of the above-mentioned Amendment were met, as Malta ratified the first and the second amendment to the Convention and became the 24th Party to both amendments. Accordingly, the Amendment entered into force on 26 August 2014 in accordance with article 14(4) of the Convention which read as follows: "Amendments to this Convention adopted in accordance with paragraph 3 of this Article shall be submitted by the Depositary to all Parties for ratification, approval or acceptance. They shall enter into force for Parties having ratified, approved or accepted them on the ninetieth day after the receipt by the Depositary of notification of their ratification, approval or acceptance by at least three fourths of these Parties. Thereafter they shall enter into force for any other Party on the ninetieth day after that Party deposits its instrument of ratification, approval or acceptance of the amendments.
*** ESPOO Convention Art. 17(3) states: “Any other State, not referred to in paragraph 2 of this Article, that is a Member of the United Nations, may accede to the Convention upon approval by the Meeting of the Parties. The Meeting of the Parties shall not consider or approve any request for accession by such a State until this paragraph has entered into force for all the States and organizations that were Parties to the Convention on 27 February 2001”, as amended by the decision II/14 taken at the second meeting of the Parties.
****See Decision VI/5–II/5 (ECE/MP.EIA/SEA/2014/L.2) (p. 34-35) at:

Source: UNECE
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