Gathering around 600 delegates from 56 countries, the Eighth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference was held 8-10 June in Georgia. It has resulted in the Batumi Action for Cleaner Air, the commitment of Ministers and high-level representatives of participating countries and organizations to combat air pollution over the next five years on local, national and, most importantly, at the regional level. The conference participants have also agreed to make a move towards a Green Economy by 2030, committing to actions related to food waste, ecosystem services and green public procurement. Supporting the process and looking forward to the commitments delivery, IUCN played a prominent role in the conference contributing with two high-level events, on Nature-based solutions (NBS) and forest governance.
IUCN was one of the first organizations to recognize the role of nature in tackling ever growing world challenges such as climate change or ensuring food, nutrition and water security, and to advocate the positioning of nature-based solutions at the forefront of global and regional environmental policy and action. Today, NBS are fully embedded in the SDGs and embraced by UN and European environmental policy. IUCN keeps providing evidence on the importance of healthy and sustainably managed ecosystems for human wellbeing. “We cannot afford to see Nature-based solutions as a concept only any longer. They need to drive the way we shape policies, develop strategies and action plans, and allocate resources. Nature-based solutions are to be applied in the full range of options they provide,” said Boris Erg, Director of IUCN’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Through the ENPI FLEG Programme IUCN is supporting governments, civil society, and the private sector to develop sound and sustainable forest management practices, and to reduce the incidence of illegal forestry activities. The event organized during the Ministerial Conference was a good opportunity to summarize the results achieved during the FLEG in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine, to talk about lessons learned, and to look into the future of the process. It was unanimously recognized that FLEG has been helping shape national policy, improving governance patterns, and strengthening regional cooperation. The event concluded with a strong plea for the continuation of the process. “FLEG provided substantial support to the state forest sector of Georgia. This support covered diverse topics, including legal and policy reform, such as updating and/or developing the new forest legislation; addressing challenges related to providing rural populations with firewood; incorporating forest certification into state forestry policy documents; and provision of technical assistance related to forest pests and diseases. The baseline created by the FLEG Program can be used to build on many kinds of forest related projects and initiatives. The Ministry strongly supports continuation of this type of a program that helps enable Georgia to move towards sustainable forestry in the country," said Besarion Abashidze, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia.