UNEP News Center: Environmental sustainability is gaining traction on Panama’s political agenda. The announcement of the upgrade of the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) to ministerial status is being followed by a public debate on how to better integrate environmental considerations into public policies.
With presence in Panama since 2007, UNEP, as the leading global environmental authority, is well positioned to support the country as it charts a new pathway to sustainable development in the fields of environmental governance, green economy, sustainable tourism, sustainable consumption and production and climate change, among others.
The Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, undertook a two-day visit to Panama, where he met with the General Administrator of ANAM, Ms. Mirei Endara, and the Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Isabel de Saint-Malo, to discuss UNEP’s work in the country on critical environmental issues including deforestation, biodiversity, biosafety, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and chemical dietary exposure, among others, and explore further fields of cooperation.
The UNEP Deputy Executive Director said: “It is encouraging to see how Panama, a country gifted with great natural wealth, is making efforts to improve the sustainable management of its environment. Panama is not alone to face this challenge, which should also be seen as an opportunity for regional collaboration. Its partnership with various countries and organizations in the region has already provided positive results. UNEP is also ready to take further steps in its collaboration with Panama towards its sustainable development.”
One of the key areas of cooperation is the UN-REDD Programme. UNEP, together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is supporting the country in the launch of its national REDD+ strategy, aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, sustainably managing forests, and providing alternative livelihoods to communities. UNEP is assisting Panama in maximizing the monetary and non-monetary benefits from the conservation and sustainable management of forests through the application of economic analysis, spatial modeling and other tools for the design and implementation of REDD+ in the country. UNEP also supports Panama in developing options to ensure predictable financing for the conservation and sustainable use of forests.
Another exciting project that UNEP is working on with the Panamanian government and with other countries in Central America and the Dominican Republic focuses on the transition to efficient lighting and its environmental, social and economic benefits, through the en.lighten initiative and the REGATTA project.
According to estimates from national assessments, on average, with the transition, each participating country will see a decrease in its energy consumption for lighting by 34 per cent. These numbers represent energy savings of 2,500 GWh/year of electricity consumption for Central America, or some US$400 million. The environmental and energy benefits of the transition will equate to nearly one million tonnes of CO2 not being released into the atmosphere, in addition to mercury savings.
“Initiatives such as en.lighten and the pioneering work Panama is undertaking to reduce emissions through the more sustainable use of its forests – in partnership with UN REDD – are commendable. Panama can share its experience with other countries in the region that are intent on better adapting to, and mitigating, climate change threats,” concluded Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw.
The UNEP Deputy Executive Director also discussed with the General Administrator of ANAM, Ms. Mirei Endara, ongoing activities within a project funded by the Global Environment Facility, focused on the generation of information and promotion of public awareness on biosafety.
Another field of growing cooperation between the ANAM and UNEP is environmental education. UNEP has provided support to the organization of a National Network on Universities and Environment in Panama, to which nine universities have already committed, and which will allow them to work together with universities across the world, to engage in the objectives of the UNEP-GUPES (Global Universities Network on Environment and Sustainability) through the Environmental Training Network of Latin America and the Caribbean.
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