Nairobi, 09 September 2013 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has signed a new agreement with one of the world's most respected global auditing bodies to track progress towards the implementation of international environmental agreements covering climate change, hazardous waste, biodiversity, and other issues critical to the future of the planet.
UNEP, under whose auspices most of the agreements were negotiated, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI - Working Group on Environmental Auditing, WGEA) to ensure that some 280 Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) dedicated to supporting the global environment are properly implemented.
The environmental agreements are intended to deliver numerous benefits in addressing food, energy and water security, ensure progress towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and support the post-2015 development agenda.
The new MoU was signed at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi by UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, and Auditor General of Estonia and Chair of the INTOSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing Alar Karis.
"Improving the monitoring and evaluation of actions taken by governments, or groups of governments, to honour environmental commitments will play a key role in global efforts to meet the range of internationally-agreed targets that can deliver inclusive sustainable development for all," said Mr. Steiner.
"This MoU paves the way for closer cooperation between UNEP and auditing institutions worldwide to evaluate whether government actions to tackle environmental challenges have produced the intended results, how gaps can be bridged, and whether environmental policies are being implemented in full compliance with international standards," added Mr. Steiner.
Despite the major success of some MEAs, such as the Montreal Protocol which has enabled reductions of over 98 per cent of all global consumption of controlled ozone-depleting substances, progress towards meeting other international targets has been slower.
UNEP's Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5) report, released last year, assessed 90 of the most critical internationally-agreed environmental goals and objectives, and found that significant progress had only been made in four.
Audits from SAIs can provide reliable information for elected officials about their government's performance in meeting environmental targets. In turn, this can assist elected officials in reviewing successes, and identifying priority areas for action.
Effective environmental audits have been linked to improved water quality in rivers, strengthened protection of flora and fauna, and reduced desertification and pollution. Benefits to environmental governance include the development of new legislation and regulations, and stronger compliance with those that already exist.
Improved environmental auditing can also assist in achieving the aims of new multilateral treaties, such as the Minimata Convention on Mercury which aims to reduce global emissions of the toxic metal. Negotiations - convened by UNEP - were finalized earlier this year and the treaty is set to be signed by member states at a conference in Japan in October.
INTOSAI - WGEA figures show that since UNEP first began working with 112 of its national audit offices six years ago, the number of environmental audits has grown significantly. The number of MEA-related audits carried out between 2009 and 2011 grew by roughly one third.
The new MoU with INTOSAI will support UNEP's mandate to promote the development and facilitation of international environmental law, governance and policy.
Through its Division of Environmental Law & Conventions (DELC), UNEP promotes inter-linkages among environmental conventions and agreements, supports MEA Secretariats and UN member states in implementing their treaty obligations, and encourages government participation in regional and global environmental fora.
Notes to Editors
UNEP Publication: Auditing the Implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs): A Primer for Auditors
UNEP Division of Environmental Law & Conventions