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Regional News

Icherisheher keeps the lights on and paves way for major emission cut

Baku, Azerbaijan, 30 June 2015 – With UNEP’s support, a demonstration project for replacing inefficient public street lights provides example of how historic reserve of Icherisheher could go on to take major step towards its climate target

Some of the 600 LED lights that are replacing public street lights in Icherisheher were presented to the public in Azerbaijan’s capital city today, launching a demonstration project coordinated by UNEP showing how the reserve could take a big step towards achieving its 2020 climate goal.

The move to replace inefficient street lights with LED ones comes under one of the ambitious climate action plans that UNEP is coordinating as part of the European Commission’s ‘Covenant of Mayors (COMO) Going East’ programme. Icherisheher has been a signatory to COMO since 2012.

Outdoor lighting accounts for 70% of total emissions in Icherisheher, the historic core of Azerbaijan’s capital city Baku. If not only 600 but all of the reserve’s approximately 2000 luminescent, metal halide and high pressure sodium bulbs were to be replaced with LED ones, 303,900 kWh of electricity would be saved each year - equivalent to 271 tons of CO₂ - compared to a baseline year of 2011.

Replacing all inefficient light bulbs would represent 48% of the reserve’s CO₂ reduction target to reduce emissions by 20% by 2020 compared to 2011.

At an inaugural event for the COMO demonstration project in Azerbaijan’s capital today, LED light bulbs replacing public street lights were presented to the media, local residents, students, Baku and Icherishsher Administration municipality representatives and national NGOs.  

Under the COMO programme, UNEP supported the reserve by contributing to technical support on street lighting –far more complex than that within buildings - through a workshop organised with the Enlighten initiative, a partnership between the public and private sector for shifting to efficient lighting. UNEP also purchased the LED bulbs, which Azerbaijan’s Communal Housing Department has been replacing inefficient street lights with as of this week.  

The light bulb replacement project comes after Icherisheher developed a Sustainable Energy Action Plan for calculating and reducing emissions in a range of sectors that was approved by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

Outdoor lights operate for 13 hours a day in Icherisheher.  LED bulbs are proven to have up to 30,000 hrs of lifespan and are the most efficient technology available in the market.  All-LED based outdoor lighting will consume only 170,000 KW hours of electricity compared to 473,900 Kwh consumed in 2011.

The light bulb presentation is just one of the demonstration activities taking place to raise awareness among the general public and Icherisheher residents on climate change, energy-saving measures and the Covenant of Mayors initiative.  


The European Commission’s Covenant of Mayors sees EU towns, cities and regions volunteer to reduce their CO₂ emissions beyond the bloc’s climate targets:

·         a 20% reduction in CO₂ emissions compared to 1990

·         a 20% increase in the share of renewables in the energy mix

·         a 20% cut in energy consumption

The COMO Going East programme helps three partner cities in countries that are not members of the EU to also go beyond the targets.

In this regard, Icherisheher in Baku,  the Ukrainian town of Vinnytsia and Beltsy in the Republic of Moldova took part in the COMO ‘Sustainable energy planning for cities: Eastern Europe and South Caucasus’ project, which was coordinated by UNEP for Eastern European, Caucasus and Central Asian countries and took place between January 2012 and April 2015.

Other than the light bulb switch, under its Sustainable Energy Action Plan Icherisheher also aims to promote itself as a car-free town, while Vinnytsia plans to reduce its energy consumption by over 20% a year for example. Such activities are also helping secure funding for future work on climate change.

UNEP’s technical support for the light bulb switch project in Icherisheher came in the form of a workshop held on Energy Efficiency and Street Lighting together with the reserve, the Covenant of Mayors (COMO) and Enlighten initiative in Baku on 2 and 3 September 2014. The workshop raised awareness among local and national authorities on energy saving potentials and available solutions for street lighting and policy options.

Full details on the full sustainable energy planning project can be read in this e-book. More detail on the COMO East project can be read here, and further information on the Enlighten initiative can be found here.  

Icherisheher is a state Historical-Architectural Reserve located in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku and is the country’s first place to be registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

For more information, please contact:

Isabelle Valentiny, Head of Communications, UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe, +41 79 251 82 36, isabelle.valentiny@unep.org

Sustainable consumption and production policies are emerging in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus – UNEP report

A new UNEP report launched in Chisináu, Moldova this week can provide a platform for the exchange of regulatory best practices on sustainable consumption and production (SCP) for the entire region.

Recommendations are also made in the paper for furthering work in specific fields and how to best organise bodies in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine that deal with SCP.

The study, titled ‘Sustainable consumption and production policies and initiatives in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus,’ was presented to policymakers from Eastern Europe and the Caucasus this week by Rie Tsutsumi, Programme Officer for the UNEP Regional Office for UNEP.

Moves towards a green economy

One of the challenges faced by countries wishing to transition to a green economy are the knowledge gaps on economic, social and environmental challenges and the policies or regulations that can be designed to tackle them. 

Yet thanks to the new report, some of this knowledge can be filled for six countries taking part in the 'Greening Economies in the Eastern Neighbourhood' programme, sponsored by the EU and other donors.

All six have a lasting industrial legacy from the Soviet era, yet also a bounty of natural resources and unique ecosystems. In order to protect and capitalise on the latter, new ways of producing and consuming goods are needed.

In order to do so, each country requires a tailored mix of long and short term policies supporting sustainable consumption and production. Exchanging lessons learned is a vital way for ensuring this.

On energy efficiency for example, the report shows how Moldova is attracting investment for 85 projects to renovate hospitals, schools and other buildings. Like several other countries in the region, Moldova relies heavily on energy imports, while electricity prices in the country rose by 50% between 2007 and 2014 – meaning energy efficiency moves can protect economic growth in the country and ensure savings.

Ukrainian policy provides another best practice supporting sustainable consumption. Waste management services there are developing rapidly, with about 270 million batteries estimated to be imported each year. The report describes a ‘Throw well’ programme launched by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, which has seen special green boxes installed in public spaces. These boxes will help measure the amount of battery waste and inform a decision on whether domestic processing facilities will be built.

Meanwhile, in Armenia, a local organic certification company, ECOGLOBE, has been accredited by the German and US authorities, the report reveals. As a result, manufacturers certified by the company can now sell produce on the US and EU organic market, where demand is expected to continue to rise.

Gaps and recommendations

Current regulation gaps on food, housing and transportation are meanwhile also identified for furthering the transition to a green economy. A system for measuring the sustainable development of the food sector is for example missing in all six countries, while work towards indicators for measuring knowledge capital is also lacking.

In terms of recommendations, the report suggests that government focal points be designated for dealing with green economy and SCP issues, so as to ensure greatest efficiency and avoid any communication or coordination problems. 

Economic mechanisms and incentives furthermore need to be elaborated so that the full benefits of a green economy can be reaped by all, the report indicates.

Following high level meeting of Central Asian countries, UNEP steps up its support for enhancing regional cooperation on sustainable development

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, 18 June 2015 - UNEP is to step up its support to Central Asian countries on a range of sustainable development topics following a meeting of ministers and high-level country representatives from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Eight decisions for furthering cooperation on sustainable development among Central Asian countries were taken at a Interstate Commission on Sustainable Development of Central Asia (ICSD) meeting taking place on 16-18 June in Turkmenistan.  UNEP has consequently pledged support on mountains, waste management, moves to a green economy in light of the upcoming Batumi conference, and legislative and institutional support, among other areas.

Immediately prior to the meeting, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon completed a visit of all five Central Asian countries during which he called for enhanced regional cooperation on  sustainable development and environmental protection - including climate change and water issues - outlining a clear pathway for ICSD’s further work.

The ICSD is one of the three bodies of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, together with the Executive Committee and the Interstate Commission on Water Cooperation. These three organs are the only formal structures facilitating sub-regional cooperation and negotiations in the field of environment and sustainable development in the five Central Asian states. The ICSD meets biannually and is chaired on a rotating basis. In the wake of adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the ICSD can assist in their implementation at regional and country levels.

Following an ICSD ministerial meeting last November, waste management, climate change adaptation and green economy were confirmed as the main drivers of a reinforced collaboration between Central Asian countries and UNEP.

Represented at the conference by the Regional Director for Europe Jan Dusik, and the newly-appointed Head of UNEP’s Sub-regional Office for Central Asia Natalia Alexeeva, UNEP has now been invited by the Central Asian countries to extend its support to ICSD work in promoting the shift towards a green economy in the region; improving the management and exchange of environmental data (upgrading the current Ecoportal system and linking it to UNEP Live); advancing waste management on different levels; assessment of the climate change impacts on mountain ecosystems at the regional level; and providing overall support in ICSD’s decision-making and functioning.

The high-level meeting in Ashgabat also displayed renewed commitment to complete ratification of the Framework  Convention on Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development for Central Asia, adopted in Ashgabat in 2006, which could also serve to help implement the SDGs. After taking over the ICSD chairmanship from Tajikistan following the meeting, Turkmenistan furthermore hopes to hold the first Conference of Parties of the convention during its tenure. During the two years that the Republic of Tajikistan chaired the ICSD, UNEP’s support to the regional body ranged from strengthening regional environmental governance to climate change adaptation, and from strategic guidance to practical capacity building.

In late spring 2016, the eighth Environment for Europe Conference will take place in Batumi, Georgia, while the second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly of UNEP will occur in Nairobi, Kenya. The two ministerial conferences “can serve as a platform to present achievements of Central Asian environmental cooperation and transition to a green economy. UNEP as the United Nations’ environmental authority can provide a link between sub-regional, regional and global environmental agenda and facilitate exchange of best practices between Central Asian countries and the rest of the world,” Jan Dusik underlined in Ashgabat. 

For more information, please contact:

Isabelle Valentiny, Head of Communications, UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe

Tel. +41 79 251 82 36 or isabelle.valentiny@unep.org

Natalia Alexeeva, Head of Sub-regional Office of UNEP for Central Asia

Tel +77272582643, +77778466907 or natalia.alexeeva@unep.org

For UNEP global news, click here
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