Other environmental issues

 

Multilateral environmental treaties are the pre-eminent instrument for safeguarding the environment at the global level. Among other things, these treaties must protect biodiversity and ecosystems, combat surface water and atmospheric pollution, stop climate change caused by greenhouse gases, and limit to the greatest extent possible the environmental impact of chemicals and waste material.

At the global level, Belgium is an active proponent of enhancing the role played by the United Nations Environment Programme. The programme’s ministerial meeting, the Global Ministerial Environment Forum, already plays a certain policy steering role within the UN as regards environmental matters. An increasing number of environmental treaties and new global environmental challenges mean that there is an ever-greater need for mutual political leadership and coordination, including for UNEP’s activities and those of various specialised UN institutions. All this further emphasises the fact that international environmental policy must be steered at a high level. As one could expect, Belgium is a significant UNEP contributor.

In addition, Belgium is also taking part in discussions on the possible creation of a United Nations Environment Organisation. Belgium supports establishing such an organisation in the long term provided that this takes place gradually and that the structure is based on and set up further to the reinforcement of the UNEP. Another important condition is that the UNEO’s objectives, so the normative ones and especially the foreseeable operational ones in the field, are properly coordinated with other UN players. In the meantime, it is important for international environmental policy to be consolidated through short-term measures such as greater synergy between environmental treaties or by basing policy options on more complete scientific foundations.

For Belgium, the Environment for Europe process is the best forum for initiating a dialogue regarding the development of policy instruments with countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia which are not part of EU enlargement plans. Such instruments include pan-European environmental treaties and environmental reporting designed to contribute to the inclusion of an environmental component in those countries’ various policy sectors. Around 50 countries are involved in this pan-European environmental forum, and it is in this context that the four-yearly ministerial conference took place in Belgrade in October 2007. The next conference has been scheduled for 2011 in Kazakhstan.

One of the topics discussed at this conference was the Environment and Security Programme put forward by the UNEP, UNDP, NATO and OSCE. This initiative seeks to defuse potential environmental conflicts involving, for example, water resources or cross-border environmental pollution at an early stage or to prompt the parties in a dispute to work together for the benefit of the environment, thereby leading to better relations. Foreign Affairs supports a number of Environment and Security (ENVSEC) projects, such as one concerning the River Sava, a tributary of the Danube flowing through various countries in the former Yugoslavia, and a project to clean up dangerous chemical waste in Moldavia which poses a region-wide threat.

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