At a time when major oil and gas exploration continues, UNEP is supporting regional cooperation for the Caspian Sea and protecting its environment by administering the Tehran Convention – the first legally-binding regional agreement signed by all five Caspian littoral States.
UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe administers the interim Secretariat of the Convention, which former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has described as an important contribution to peace and stability for the region.
Five Protocols drawn up under the Convention with support from UNEP aim to steer a common approach among the Caspian states towards addressing oil spill incidents, protecting and restoring biological diversity, preventing and mitigating pollution from land-based sources, assessing the environmental impact of economic activities as well as monitoring and sharing information on the state of the environment.
The Aktau Protocol for example covers regional preparedness, response and cooperation in combating oil pollution incidents in the Caspian Sea. It is the latest to have been ratified by all Parties – Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan - and will enter into force on 25 July 2016.
As a result of the Protocol, national oil spill contingency plans are already being coordinated and aligned with a draft regional plan to respond to spills. For example, it regulates procedures on how the Parties may render each other assistance in case of oil pollution incidents and that they are to maintain a minimum level of equipment in order to be able to deal effectively with spills.
In all five countries, plans are in place to ensure that the obligations of the Convention and the Protocols will be applied in national policies. These all include engaging with civil society to ensure they can contribute to protecting and safeguarding the Caspian Sea environment and coastal zones. Civil society organisations are strongly involved in the public events and activities taking place annually on August 12 – commemorating the entry into force of the Convention - to raise awareness on the waterbody’s unique ecosystem and biodiversity and importance of their protection.
Efforts are also underway towards engaging the private sector - in particular the oil and gas industry - in the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols with the aim of cooperating for a better environment. The industry is central to the economy, development and welfare of people around the Caspian Sea; its participation as a data provider, supporter and actor in protecting the waterbody’s marine environment is essential.
A new Protocol on environmental data collection and sharing is currently being negotiated with support from UNEP. The Protocol will bind the states to collect, release and exchange data and information on the protection of the Caspian Sea’s marine environment.
The Parties decided to set up a permanent Tehran Convention Secretariat in the region, administered by UNEP, starting in Baku, Azerbaijan this year. The Convention’s potential as an instrument for sub-regional cooperation, environmental management and conflict prevention in the Caspian Sea is considerable.
For more information on UNEP’s work for the world’s largest enclosed body of water please click here.