Multilateral Environmental Agreements


Multilateral Environmental Agreements

International legal instruments for the regulation of activities affecting the environment form an essential framework for practical efforts by the international community to reduce environmental degradation and promote sustainable development. They are a concrete manifestation of the global community’s commitment to achieving sustainable development and environmental protection (UNEP, 2005). There are over 500 international treaties and other agreements related to the environment, of which over 320 are regional. Since 1972 over 300 agreements were negotiated (UNEP, 2001). The core environmental conventions and related international agreements are generally divided into five thematic clusters: the biodiversity-related conventions, the atmosphere conventions, the land conventions, the chemicals and hazardous wastes conventions, and the regional seas conventions and related agreements.

On these pages, ieg-dossier will report on issues related to: MEA Regime Development; Synergies, Clustering and Interlinkages among MEA; and Financing MEAs.

MEA Regime Development

Climate Change: Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, the focus has shifted to the issues of the future of the Protocol/Convention processes past the year 2012, when the first emission reduction commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol ends. In April the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for “development of a more inclusive international framework beyond 2012, with broader participation by all major emitters and both developed and developing countries, to ensure a concerted globally defined action, including through technological innovation, to mitigate climate change, taking into account the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.” The eleventh Conference of the Parties (COP 11) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which also served as the first Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP 1), was held in Montreal, Canada from 28 November to 10 December 2005. Some of the most significant conference outcomes related to future action to address climate change under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. Under the Kyoto Protocol a process was set in place to begin discussions of future commitments for developed countries after 2012, when the first commitment period ends, and work on this will begin in May 2006. Simultaneously, under the Convention, a dialogue was launched on strategic approaches for long-term global co-operative action to address climate change. This latter process will involve a series of workshops to develop a range of actions that can be taken.

Biodiversity: At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, governments agreed to “negotiate within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity, bearing in mind the Bonn Guidelines, an international regime to promote and safeguard the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.” Discussion on the new regime took place at the eight conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in March 2006 and Parties adopted a decision (UNEP/CBD/COP/8/L.34) which includes sections on: the international regime; the Bonn Guidelines; other approaches, including consideration of a certificate of origin/source/legal provenance; measures to support compliance; and access and benefit sharing indicators in the framework of the Strategic Plan. On the international regime, the COP decision instructed the Working Group to complete its work at the earliest possible time before COP-10 in 2012.

Synergies, Clustering and Interlinkages among MEAs

One of the key aspects of the international environmental governance review under UNEP was to promote an attempt by governments to cluster conventions, simplifying the structure of the conventions by classifying and grouping them into specific areas. At the 23 UNEP Governing Council, member States agreed that “UNEP should work to achieve improved and enhanced communication, cooperation, coordination and synergies with other UN organizations, international financial institutions, regional development banks, MEA secretariats, civil society and relevant stakeholders, in order to ensure optimum use of limited financial and human resources, strengthen regional and country level activities and provide a platform for multilateral approaches and consistency.” In 2005, the UN Secretary-General released his report ‘In Larger Freedom’ in which he argued that “it is now high time to consider a more integrated structure for environmental standard-setting, scientific discussion and monitoring treaty compliance. This should be built on existing institutions, such as the United Nations Environment Programme, as well as the treaty bodies and specialized agencies. Meanwhile, environmental activities at the country level should benefit from improved synergies, on both normative and operational aspects, between United Nations agencies, making optimal use of their comparative advantages, so that we have an integrated approach to sustainable development, in which both halves of that term are given their due weight.” In addition the SG recommended that the General Assembly “recognize the need for a more integrated structure for environmental standard-setting, scientific discussion and monitoring, and treaty compliance that is built on existing institutions, such as UNEP, as well as the treaty bodies and specialized agencies, and that assigns environmental activities at the operational level to the development agencies to ensure an integrated approach to sustainable development.” A number of options exist for cooperation among MEAs, such as co-location of clusters; review of regional conventions, joint secretariat functions, joint meetings of the Bureaus within a cluster, joint meetings of the heads of the scientific and technical committees within a cluster and, when relevant, between clusters, and appointment of an overall Head of each cluster, introduction of knowledge management (KM) within clusters and between clusters, and agreement of a methodological framework for indicators to enable measurement of enforcement and compliance.

First meeting of the Heads of Agencies Task Force on the 2010 Biodiversity Target
Rome, 13 September 2006
The first meeting of the Heads of Agencies Task Force on the 2010 Biodiversity Target took place in Gland, Switzerland on 15 September 2006.

Financing MEAs

Although financing has consistently been the highest developing country priority in international sustainable negotiations, the trends since 1992 have been dismal. The key entity for the transfer for financial resources from North to South is the Global Environment Facility (GEF). There is no doubt to the significance of a multilateral institution on financing sustainable development such as the GEF, however, after 15 years, a closer inspection of the problems and challenges facing the GEF are in order. Since the GEF-restructuring process in 1994, reforms to the GEF’s work have been undertaken simultaneously with the replenishment negotiations. In other words, as part of concluding a 4-year replenishment package, the donor countries, agree to institute a series of management reforms as part of overall agreement on the level of financing to provide to the GEF. The need to address the current GEF ‘governance deficit’ is highlighted by a number of concerns related to two sets of overarching issues. The first set of issues deal with an internal governance deficit within the GEF’s decision making processes and structures. Among the concerns, primarily raised by developing countries, include: limited and restrictive participation in Council decisions and replenishment negotiations for developing countries; unbalanced voting procedures; limited political or legal leverage under the Conference of Parties to ensure compliance by the GEF Council; and over politicisation of the GEF decision making process by certain countries.

The second set of issues relate to a governance deficit concerning the GEF’s broader role in financing for sustainable development discussions. Concerns voiced by developing countries regarding their representation and voice within the GEF should not be separated from the broader discussion of the reform of the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Second, the donor driven GEF reform measures are part and parcel of the international processes on financing for development such as the Monterrey Consensus. Concerns have been raised that while successful MEA funding arrangements exist, which include democratic replenishment negotiations, donor countries favour of the centralised control-model of the GEF which places decision making authority in hands of financing countries has over-shadowed debates on innovative financing mechanisms for sustainable development. There is also need to further investigating the role of the GEF in relation to strengthening and/or creating a more coherent institutional framework of international environmental governance. Similarly consideration of the relationship between the GEF and the Implementing Agencies, as part of the broader General Assembly process on system-wide coherence and UN structures at the country level, is required.

UN agency IFAD receives largest funding increase in two decades
Rome, 12 September 2006
The Member States of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have set the target level for its Seventh Replenishment of Resources at US$720 million.

World Environment Body Gets a US$ 3.13 Billion Boost; New Funds will Combat Environmental Degradation
Cape Town, South Africa, August 28 2006
The world’s largest environmental funding body—Global Environment Facility (GEF)—received its biggest ever financial boost today with 32 governments agreeing to contribute US$ 3.13 billion to finance environmental projects over the next four years.

South Africa calls for GEF Reforms
Cape Town, 29 August 2006
In statement delivered to third Global Environment Facility Assembly, South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, outlined South Africa’s concerns and proposals for a reformed GEF.

Belgium Statement on the GEF-4 replenishment
Cape Town, 28 August 2006
Belgium joined this GEF-4 replenishment process, as we did in the past, with a view to fortifying the Global Environment Facility as the unique mechanism we consider it is to address global environment issues.

United States Statement on GEF-4 Replenishment
Cape Town, 28 August 2006
The United States welcomes the historic GEF-4 replenishment agreement.

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