Europe throws its weight behind UNEP

German EU presidency helps secure funding package, supports leading role for UN body

The EU must give "strong signals" to support the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) "in being acknowledged as the leading global authority on the environment," German environment minister Jürgen Trittin said in Nairobi yesterday. Mr Trittin was speaking on behalf of the EU as UNEP's annual governing council meeting drew to a close.

The EU was one of the most vocal supporters of UNEP's recently appointed executive director Klaus Töpfer, who asked contributing governments at the start of February to approve a US$120m (euros 106m) budget for the next two years. The amount was approved in full this week. A UNEP spokesperson told ENDS Daily the organisation was delighted to have received such a vote of confidence in the form of an 11% increase in funding at a time when many international organisations are experiencing cutbacks.

The meeting also approved a restructuring package, based on a task force report on UN reform within the area of the environment. A key element is the formation of an environment management group. This will be an inter-agency instrument to improve the coordination of environmental issues within the UN system, reporting directly to the UN secretary general.

Mr Trittin hailed UNEP's new "cross-cutting approach" as a "tremendous step forward" which will help to regain the confidence of UNEP's donor community. He also strongly endorsed a proposal for an annual global ministerial forum to involve member states more closely in its work.

The EU would like UNEP's next priorities to include developing expertise in environmental law, work on trade and the environment and improving coordination between the different international conventions it administers. Mr Trittin said he would also like to see more initiatives concerning consumption patterns, possibly including work on how to internalise external costs.

Mr Töpfer thanked the meeting for granting him "everything I have asked for". He said he would very much like the governing council to consider a "pre-emptive life-cycle approach" establishing an early screening of chemicals before they enter the environment, as well as the support of the right of public access to environmental information.

Follow Up:
UNEP. tel: +254 2 623 084. References: A detailed report on the governing council meeting is available from Earth Negotiations Bulletin.

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