On 16 and 17 December 2020, the UNDP Mauritius co-hosted a two-day consultative workshop on the national environmental policy along with the launching of the Human Development Report (HDR) 2020. The report shed light on the impacts of human activities on the environment and set the tone for the consultations that followed concerning the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the Assises de l’Environnement, and the review of the Environment Protection Act (EPA) 2002. In the opening speech, UNDP Resident Representative for Mauritius and Seychelles, Ms. Amanda Serumaga, highlighted the importance of partnerships in addressing environmental issues and affirmed UNDP's commitment to "journey with the government in ensuring that the country’s drive to high income does not come at a cost to mother nature.”
The Consultative Workshop on National Environmental Policy, which comprised six sessions, was an opportunity to discuss national environmental policies with the participation of various stakeholders of the environment sector. In the first session, the Nationally Determined Contributions, which embody efforts done by each country to reduce national emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change, were reviewed. Having signed and ratified the Paris Agreement, the Republic of Mauritius has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% by 2030. The country plans to finance 5.5 billion USD to achieve this goal, of which over 1.5 billion is directed towards mitigation measures and about 4 billion for adaptation. During this session, which was co-moderated by Mr. Jogeeswar Seewabaduth, Director of Environment of the Ministry of Environment, and by Mr. Satyajeet Ramchurn, Head of the Environment Unit at UNDP Mauritius, the latter stressed the importance of "using innovative technologies to enhance the NDC ambitions of Mauritius" and of "having an open mind in reviewing the Environment Protection Act".
Presentation of the UNDP Climate Promise Initiative for Mauritius
During the same session, Shakil Beedassy, Project Coordinator of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) project on Low Carbon Economy, and Madookur Desha, Project Coordinator under the engagement facility project at UNDP Mauritius, presented the UNDP Climate Promise Initiative for Mauritius. UNDP's proposal comprises various activities of Lot 1, including high-level discussions amongst the policymakers, strengthening institutional coordination mechanism, sector-specific dialogues, and educating people on the NDC commitments. A representative from the HEAT GmbH, an independent consulting firm that operates in the field of energy conservation and environmental protection, demonstrated key activities of Lot 2 consisting of an update on the National Adaptation Plan, including a specific study on land drainage & flash floods, and an assessment of the mitigation potentials of using Concentrated Solar Power and in the waste management sector.
Adjusting to contemporary environmental challenges
In session 2, the outcomes of the draft of the Master Plan for the environment were discussed by Dr. Zyaad Boodoo, Senior Environment Officer, and Mr. Jogeeswar Seewoobaduth, Director of Environment. Both speakers emphasised the urgency of having a Master Plan to shift our environmental policies, strategies and actions, and to adjust to contemporary environmental challenges as the formulation of the National Environment Policy (NEP) 2007 and the review of the National Environmental Strategies (NES) in 2008 were over a decade ago.
The Master Plan consists of two parts: Part Ⅰ includes an introduction (methodology and approaches), a review of global best practices, cross-cutting/overarching policy and strategic orientations, thematic policies and strategies for Mauritius and Rodrigues, and conclusions and way forward. Part Ⅱ includes an Action Plan for Implementing the Policy and Strategy Recommendations for both Mauritius and Rodrigues. The comments and concerns raised during the workshop were noted and will be taken on board by consultants to finalize the Master Plan, which is expected to be ready by the end of February 2020.
In session 3 to 5, the following themes under the draft of the Master Plan were presented: Pollution Control, Waste Management, Control of Plastic Pollution, Urbanism and Environmental Policy, Coastal Zone and Marine Environment, Biodiversity and Natural Resource, Climate Change, and Environment Culture. During these sessions, various gaps regarding the themes were identified and a detailed policy and strategy plan was laid out. The main objective of these sessions was to consult stakeholders and conduct a pre-validation exercise regarding the recommendations retained from the ‘Assises de l’Environnement’ and the post-Assises working sessions on the ‘Master Plan for the Environment in the Republic of Mauritius for the next 10 years’.
Review of the Environment Protection Act (EPA 2002)
In the last session, the public consultations on the in-depth review of the EPA 2002 were opened, led by Dr. N. Van Der Burgt, an international legal expert, and Mr. V. Cooshna, a national legal expert. According to the responses received, many participants were very concerned about the transparency of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) license application process. Some shared personal experiences in encountering difficulties when applying for an EIA license. Based on the outcomes of the gap assessment, the consultants will submit recommendations on options for either a new Environment Protection Bill or an Environment Protection (Amendment) Bill of the existing EPA 2002. The consultants will also look into the need for an additional legal framework for sustainable development.