The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace prize, has played a major role in making international policy-makers aware of the urgency of meeting the challenge of climate change. It was set up in 1988 by two UN bodies, the United Nations Programme for Development (UNDP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). Its work was the basis for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed in 1992 and supplemented by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which sets out differentiated objectives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels.
The United Nations’ mobilisation on the climate question is exemplary. The Secretary-General has offered to coordinate United Nations action and has involved himself personally by convening a high-level meeting to invite world leaders to take action against climate change. The United Nations has been the main forum for concluding agreements on climate (climate change, desertification, ozone layer, forests, and biodiversity, to name the most important). Recent UNDP work has stressed the consequences of climate change for human development.
The adoption of the Copenhagen Agreement, negociated on December 18th 2009 by around thirty heads of States and governments only took note of the UN’s mobilisation . The session Bonn session (May 31st - June 11th 2010) is considered a key step towards a global treaty on climate, in particular with regards to the preparation of the Cancun Summit, from November 29th to December 10th, 2010.
Environment and sustainable development
The creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1972 was the institutional recognition of the need to protect the environment. The various conventions that have been signed reinforce the necessity for global environmental governance (GEG). UNEP fosters cooperation in protecting the environment. Its task is to inspire and inform States and citizens and enable them to ensure their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. The United Nations was also behind the Global Environment Fund.
During the 1990s, in addition to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, two major conventions to protect the environment were adopted and the concept of sustainable development was asserted in Rio. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity aims to protect animal and plant species and their habitats. It obliges States to preserve their biological diversity and ensure a fair access to and benefit-sharing of genetic resources. The Convention to Combat Desertification deals with improving soil quality and managing land and water resources.
Global Environmental Governance (GEG)
Today’s international environmental governance still has potential in increasing its effectiveness in meeting the challenges posed to the global environment. The large number of multilateral agreements on the environment and absence of a strong steering mechanism also make it difficult to ensure consistency in any measures taken.
In his address to the ILO conference on 15 June 2009, President Sarkozy stressed the fact that “once we have reached (...) an ambitious agreement on climate, a genuine World Environment Organisation capable of enforcing any commitments made will have to be created.”
It is with this in mind that France is supporting the proposal for a WEO. It is arguing for the broad outlines of the organisation to be adopted at the Rio+20 summit, one of the main themes of which will be the “institutional framework for sustainable development”
Such an organisation would in particular be based on the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Update : July 2010
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