Up to the task

REC experience, expertise on display in Belgrade

March 21, 2009 | By Pavel Antonov

In opening a ministerial plenary session on environmental finance, Brigita Schmognerova of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) stated that governments do not bear sole responsibility for carrying out such activity. Schmognerova called instead for public-private partnerships and structured funding. In response, Gunner Oleson of the European ECO-Forum coalition of NGOs cautioned that, while private investment is important, it can shift the focus toward optimising profits-particularly in the monopoly industries of heat, gas and water supply.

As of January 1, 2008, one less country will be using leaded petrol. FYR Macedonia's decision to phase out lead was the first good news to emerge from Partnerships for Better Air Quality through Cleaner Fuels and Vehicles, a conference side event held on October 10. However, three other Balkan nations (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia) will remain on the 'black list' of leaded petrol users.

Two more countries in the pan-European region still need to phase out leaded petrol (Tajikistan and Turkmenistan), and unless political action is taken immediately, there is a danger that these countries will not meet the end-2008 deadline set by the global Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, which hosted the Belgrade event. The REC is offering high-level commitment and support for ensuring cleaner fuels and vehicles in all UNECE member countries, said the REC's clean fuels project manager, Ruslan Jetchkov.

The governments of Armenia, Belarus and Moldova proposed a voluntary initiative on strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for East Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA). The initiative, aimed at promoting sustainable development in the region, was announced at another conference side event: Review of Implementation of the UNECE Protocol on SEA — from Kiev to Belgrade and beyond. The event was co-organised by the REC, UNECE and UNDP.

EECCA countries should take advantage of CEE knowledge drawn both from the 1995 Sofia Initiative on SEA and during the EU integration process, said REC Executive Director Marta Szigeti Bonifert. Initiating countries expect that this initiative will enhance SEA procedural integration into existing environmental assessment structures and planning processes throughout the EECCA region, added REC project manager Ausra Jurkeviciute.

The REC's climate change programme teamed with REC Country Office Serbia, Serbia's Ministry of Science and Environmental Protection, and the Serbian Hydro-meteorological Service in preparing a background document on the so-called Belgrade Initiative to enhance regional SEE cooperation in the field of climate change. The initiative is to be implemented through a mechanism of coordinated SEE regional action planning.

During a side event on October 10, a climate change framework action plan for the SEE region was adopted. Also established was a sub-regional, virtual climate change-related centre for research and systematic observation education, training, public awareness and capacity building. All activities received financial support from the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.


On the RECord: The REC in Belgrade

The REC's reusable, recyclable and 100% environment-friendly exhibition was a favourite among conference delegates. Photos: Zsolt Bauer
Local support: The REC presented support programmes for local communities during Roadmap for Local Sustainability-Local Initiatives in South Eastern Europe, a side event held on October 10.

Green Pack Junior: The REC's latest multimedia education kit, produced with support from Toyota Motors Co., was launched in Belgrade. The new tool is geared for primary school teachers and younger children.

The Adriatic Sea Partnership, launched on October 11, aims at enhanced international legal cooperation concerning the Adriatic Sea.

SEARCH: Preventing and Reducing Respiratory Diseases was the title of a REC-hosted side event that examined, among other things, the implementation of European Environment and Health Policy Action Plans.4.4BulletinBelgrade1_copy

Assessing civil society: Outcomes from the civil society assessment conducted by the REC in 2006 were presented by the REC (together with the Swedish International Cooperation and Development Agency and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) at a side event entitled Civil Society Organisations in Central and Eastern Europe: Trends, Challenges and Barriers in Leadership towards Sustainability.

Aarhus chronicles: 'Lessons, Experiences and Remaining Challenges in Implementing the Aarhus Convention: Common Approaches and Best Practices' was an October 11 side event during which practitioners and analysts shared recent Aarhus Convention-related efforts and experiences.

4.4BulletinBelgrade2_copyThe SEE Joint Statement on Education for Sustainable Development, coordinated by the REC, was read by the Montenegrin Minister of Environment. The statement contained requests and needs of a various and serious nature, remarked REC civil initiatives director Robert Atkinson.