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Regional News

UNEP and Albania partner in new GEF project to combat land degradation

A variety of national stakeholders from Albania have today gathered in the country’s capital to prepare a project proposal to fight land degradation with support from UNEP’s Regional Office in Vienna. 

The meeting for the project, titled ‘Promoting Sustainable Land Management In Albania Through Integrated Restoration Of Ecosystems,’ was organized by the Albanian Ministry of Environment with support from UNEP’s Vienna office.

Land degradation is a significant threat to Albania’s socio-economic and environmental wellbeing. The project is therefore designed to support the widespread adoption of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) activities in the country and will support the achievement of SDG15: Life on Land.

Today’s kick-off meeting brought together representatives from all relevant governmental, public and scientific institutions, international organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations to share experiences and discuss issues of relevance. Local, national, governmental and non-governmental stakeholders as well as academia worked on determining the project work plan and activities, including determining roles and responsibilities of all actors and their potential contribution and support.

The project will support integrated landscape management planning that balances development needs and environmental services, strengthen and harmonize legal and policy frameworks for land and resource management, build capacity and coordination to undertake SLM practices, and increase public awareness on land degradation threats.

On the ground, the work will involve examples of integrated land use planning and ecosystem restoration approaches that further SLM goals and showcase the project so that it can be replicated further.

Through these activities, the project will address the key elements of land degradation in Albania, including in particular deforestation, improper soil management and inappropriate crop management. In doing so, the project will help reduce the negative impacts of land degradation - including extensive soil erosion and sedimentation - and mitigate the effects of climate change on the provision of ecosystem services.

Land use change is leading to the deterioration of the physical and chemical properties of soils in the pan-European region, causing land degradation, water and air pollution, followed by losses of biodiversity, finds the Pan-European assessment of UNEP’s sixth Global Environment Outlook issued this month.

The project preparation phase is expected to last until end of 2016. During this time, participants will commit to building and extending its baseline and facilitate an enabling environment for project implementation.

The work shall run for three years and is due to be implemented from 2017. Its main objective is to strengthen the capacity and skills of national and local government institutions and promote sustainable land management practices in Albania through integrated ecosystem restoration.

The project is financed with a grant of US$ 867,580 under the sixth replenishment of the Global Environment Fund. UNEP is currently working on projects worth $70.5 million focusing on Sustainable Land Management worldwide.

For more information please contact:

Pier Carlo Sandei, Programme Officer at UNEP Regional Office in Vienna, or

Sonja Malicevic,

Former Norwegian Minister Erik Solheim Takes Reins at UN Environment Programme

Solheim pledges to tackle major environmental issues such as ocean and air pollution, climate change, and nexus between conflict, migration and the environment

Nairobi, 27 June 2016 - Erik Solheim, a former Minister of Environment and International Development in Norway, began his tenure today as Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, with the concurrent position of UN Under-Secretary-General. Mr. Solheim assumes his new role as chief of the global authority on the environment after three years as head of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In taking up office, Solheim pledged to work with countries around the world to tackle some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time, including ocean and air pollution, the destruction of ecosystems, climate change and the relationship between the environment and conflict and migration.

He also promised to focus on environment issues close to people, such as damage to human health from air pollution.

Solheim said, "There is an urgent need to fight climate change, halt ecosystem destruction, and reduce pollution for the benefit of all peoples everywhere. By protecting our planet, we protect ourselves and in the process can help bring every last person out of poverty. We all have a stake in a healthy planet."

He noted other urgent areas to address include the private sector investment needed for sustainable development, greening the finance sector and creating jobs and markets with clean and green technologies.

"Financing the preservation and rejuvenation of our planet cannot be the purview of governments alone. Private sector finance is both vital for sustainable development, and an opportunity for business. As never before, markets are rewarding investments in clean and green jobs and technologies."

Solheim also underlined that issues like climate change and sustainable development are issues that no one country or organization can solve themselves, and that the world must come together to tackle environmental challenges.

"With successes like the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, the world has achieved a lot in recent years when it comes to the environment. We can achieve a lot more. But the only way to do this is by working cooperatively. I look forward to working with member states and welcoming voices and efforts from all parts of society to tackle our common challenges.

"Our planet is vulnerable, but I'm optimistic we can resolve the environmental problems we face. There's little we can't achieve when we pull together with cooperation, collaboration and a can-do attitude."

Solheim arrives after having served as Chair of the DAC of the OECD since 2013. Since that time, he has also served as UN Environment Programme's Special Envoy for Environment, Conflict and Disaster. Known as the 'green' politician, he held the combined portfolio of Norway's Minister of the Environment and International Development from 2007 to 2012, and served as Minister of International Development from 2005 to 2007.

Having spent most of his career fighting for the environment in national and global politics, including through non-governmental organizations and during his combined ministerial portfolio, Mr. Solheim has focused on the challenge of integrating environmental and developmental issues. During his ministerial tenure, Norway reached 1 per cent of its GDP for overseas development assistance and passed the unique Nature Diversity Act. He initiated the process leading to the global coalition to conserve and promote sustainable use of the world's rainforests - the UN REDD - gaining invaluable diplomatic and organizational experience.

Holding an undergraduate degree in history and social studies from the University of Oslo, Mr. Solheim has received several awards for his work on climate and environment, including UN Environment Programme's "Champion of the Earth" award, and contributed to a number of peace and reconciliation efforts, most notably as the chief negotiator of the peace process in Sri Lanka.

Born in 1955, he is married, with four children.

An extended biography of Erik Solheim can be found here.

For media interviews and press matters concerning the Executive Director, please contact:

UN Environment Programme Newsdesk

Nairobi, Kenya



For other matters concerning the Executive Director, please contact:

Executive Office

United Nations Environment Programme

P.O. Box 47074 - Nairobi 00100 - Kenya

Phone: +254 (0)20 762 4148

Fax: +254-20-7624006/7624275


Electric car rally reaches Geneva

Europe’s largest electric vehicle rally has made a pit stop at the Palais des Nations in Geneva after travelling 1300 km in a bid to spur action and ambition for the fight against climate change.

The rally was initiated by UNEP Champion of the Earth Louis Palmer and the welcoming of cars in Geneva on 3 June was led by UNDP.

Around 100 electric cars travelled from the German town of Bremerhaven and parked in front of the Palais to form the number ‘1.5’. The Paris Agreement  on climate change last year bound countries to “pursue efforts” to  limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times.

“140 participants with 70 cars have visited 50 cities to deliver a simple but powerful message - yes, we have a problem with climate change and fossil fuels, but we have many pioneering solutions, and we can indeed limit warming at 1.5C,” stressed Mr Palmer – founder and organiser of the World Advanced Vehicle Expedition (WAVE).

Maria Luisa Silva, Director of the UNDP Office in Geneva, described the rally as being “very symbolic,” showing that the needed change really can happen, especially after the Paris Agreement.

The environmental adventurer, Ms. Silva and other speakers addressed a crowd from the back of a vintage electric pick-up truck. A number of retrofitted electric cars and vans were also present, as well as electric motorcycles and bicycles.

The Canton of Geneva itself has a master plan for charging infrastructure to support electric vehicles, said Luc Barthassat, State Councilor for the Environment, Transport and Agriculture - as well as measures to support cars running on other alternative fuels such as hydrogen.

Nick Beglinger, CEO of the Cleantech21 Foundation, meanwhile referred to the “elephant in the room” - pointing to a giant black cube situated in the middle of the square symbolising the 200kg of CO2 that an average car would have emitted completing the rally.

Keeping warming below 1.5C is also a fundamental human right, stressed Ambassador H.E. Elayne Whyte Gómez, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations. Legislative action and financial as well as fiscal tools are needed to encourage people to shift towards alternative fuels and electric cars, she underlined.

Actions such as the rally “can promote political pressure and inform the public to make a change,” underlined Wolfgang Jamann, Secretary General and CEO of the humanitarian organisation CARE International.

New IPCC reports

Meanwhile, in order to better guide policymakers tasked with fighting climate change, a briefing was organised by the Geneva Environment Network on 16 June ahead of upcoming reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

One of the papers will be on the impacts of global warming of 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, with a greater focus on regional and national impacts than previously documented.

Rie Tsutsumi – Programme Officer and focal point for climate change at UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe - welcomed participants at the event, which included a question and answer session with Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC.

UNEP supports countries in addressing climate change through adaptation measures and by building resilience. UNEP also supports countries’ transition towards low carbon societies and the Green Economy, as well as efforts contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

UNEP’s flagship Emissions Gap report - launched last November - spelled out the ambitions needed from countries to stave off the worst effects of climate change, and laid out options for doing so

For further details on the WAVE initiative please click here.

For more information write to

For UNEP global news, click here
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