UNECE treaties stress role of environmental assessment in sustainable energy transition

21 December 2023

During meetings in Geneva of the Parties to the UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context and the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), ministers and high-level government officials emphasized the crucial importance of these instruments for the sustainable energy transition, as well as for the shift to a more resource-efficient circular economy and the mobilization of green financing to realize these changes. 

Some 50 European countries, international organisations and NGOs affirmed the importance of thorough environmental assessment of energy transition plans and projects both within and across national borders, using these two UNECE treaties to ensure these much-needed investments for the climate do not come at the cost of the environment and human health.

Parties and stakeholders highlighted the important role of strategic environmental assessment and environmental impact assessment in a transboundary context in helping countries to accelerate the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals - particularly SDG 7 on energy and SDG 13 on climate action - in the run-up to the UN Summit of the Future in 2024, and to tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental pollution.

The protocol on SEA is gaining ground as a key sustainability tool, acquiring additional applications and parties. For example, SEA is being actively applied to maritime spatial planning where many strategic interests, environmental goals and multi-sector issues intersect. These involve, for instance, exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons, pipelines, offshore wind energy and other renewable energy infrastructure.