Photos: Sara Moarif, Brazil 2014, Spain 2014.
A brief history
By the early 1990s, OECD governments had enacted a wide variety of environmental laws and signed up to a multitude of environmental treaties and declarations. It became clear that mechanisms were needed to ensure that governments were keeping their environmental promises.
To meet this challenge, Environment Ministers called on the OECD to review environmental performance in member countries. This mandate was confirmed by the OECD Council meeting at Ministerial level in June 1991, and supported by the London G-7 economic summit in July 1991.
The Environmental Performance Review (EPR) programme was launched in 1992. Reviews are conducted within a peer review framework, which is one of the OECD’s core working methods. To date, the OECD has conducted about 70 country reviews, including reviews of key partner countries like Brazil, China and South Africa. The reviews occur in cycles, and OECD countries are now being reviewed for the third time.
>> See the complete list of Environmental performance review, by country
What’s in the reviews?
In the third cycle, each review contains some common elements so that countries can compare themselves with others. These elements are presented in three standard chapters :
- Key environmental trends describes the country’s progress in using energy and natural resources efficiently; reducing the carbon intensity of its economy; managing its natural asset base; improving the environmental quality of life.
- Policy-making environment reviews the country’s environmental governance system, co-ordination mechanisms, and how the country integrates and evaluates the environmental impact of its sectoral policies.
- Towards green growth presents the country’s efforts to mainstream environment into the country’s economic policy and to promote the greening of the economy, for example through the use of taxes and other pricing instruments.
- Each country also chooses two specific topics of particular importance to them for a more in-depth focus. Countries have selected issues such as climate change, biodiversity, sustainable management of waste and materials, and environmental technologies.
>> Browse the in-depth chapters, by theme
How are the environmental performance reviews prepared ?
The preparation of an Environmental Performance Review (EPR) begins with a preliminary mission by the Secretariat to the country under review to agree on the scope of topics to be examined.
The Secretariat then assembles a review team (8-10 members), which typically includes experts from two or three reviewing countries, Secretariat staff and consultants. Non-member countries engaged in the policy dialogue with the OECD may also participate in review missions as observers.
An important part of preparations involves data and information gathering by the Secretariat, in co-operation with the reviewed country, as well as from other sources within and outside the OECD. The OECD Working Party on Environmental Information (WPEI) supports the EPR process by providing internationally harmonised environmental data.
>> Meet the EPR team
The review team meets with environment and other ministry officials, representatives of industry, trade unions, NGOs, independent experts and local governments. Building on the information collected, discussions focus on the evaluation of environmental performance and how it could be improved.
Photos: Sara Moarif, Getting ready to explore Chapado dos Veadeiros, Brazil 2014;
Nils-Axel Braathen, Meeting in Rotterdam, Netherlands 2014.
The draft report is presented and discussed at meetings the OECD Working Party on Environmental Performance (WPEP), usually held at the OECD headquarters in Paris.
A full day of the WPEP meeting is allocated to the peer examination of a given country. The reviewed country delegation is headed by a high level government official, usually the Minister or the Secretary of State, and consists of several members representing the Environment Ministry and other relevant government agencies. The reviewing countries take the lead in opening the discussion. All countries participate in the debate and can ask questions. At the end of the meeting the WPEP approves the Assessment and Recommendations. As a result, the Assessment and Recommendations reflect the collective views of OECD members.
In addition to providing specific recommendations to the reviewed country, the exchange of views helps other countries better understand the issues at stake in the reviewed country and to identify good practices that could be applied more widely.
The launch and publication of the EPR report is often a high-profile event, sometimes involving the OECD Secretary General and Heads of State or ministers. The review is disseminated widely to decision makers, as well as the general public and non-government organisations. The reviewed governments often respond publicly through press declarations on the review’s findings and recommendations.
Photos: Launch of the Assessment and recommendations of the EPR of Sweden 2014, Swedish ministry of Environment/Flickr.
>> Read the press and Twitter reviews for Sweden , Iceland and Colombia
What impact do the EPRs have ?
The peer review process and the participation of international experts are an important opportunity for the reviewed country to assess its own achievements and challenges from a different perspective and compare itself against experiences in other countries. Countries are encouraged to prepare progress reports on the implementation of the recommendations at mid-term between two cycles, like Ireland did in 2014. The reports are presented and discussed at the WPEP meetings. The subsequent EPR also examines what the reviewed country has done to implement the recommendations presented in the previous review.
Broadening the EPR process
In addition to reviewing selected partner countries, the OECD secretariat has worked with other international organisations to support them to develop their own environmental performance review programmes. As a result, the UN Economic Commission for Europe has established its own EPR programme for its members that are not also members of the OECD. The OECD secretariat has also cooperated with the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean in preparing EPRs of Chile, Colombia and Brazil.
>> Environmental performance review of Colombia 2014
1 Dr Klaus Töpfer is Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and former Minister of Environment in Germany, in office when the first EPR was prepared.
Environmental Performance Reviews