Environment and sustainable development

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was established by the General Assembly in 1972. In 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established and four years later the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), in 1992. The same year, 1992, the UN “Earth Summit” produced the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a first step in addressing the climate change problem.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

According to the declaration from the United Nations first Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, "Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations." 

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was established by the General Assembly in 1972.

Work of the UNEP

The United Nations Environment Programme has the following mission:

  • to advocate and promote sound environmental management for sustainable development
  • to coordinate United Nations environmental activities.

United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)

Fifteen years after the Stockholm conference, the report Our Common Future was published. It is a landmark document integrating protection of the environment with peace, security and development launching the principle of Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD).

The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was established in 1992 to improve the UN activities in the field of environment and development.

INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE (IPCC)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established in 1988 by WMO and the UNEP. The purpose was to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic research related to climate change.

IPCC reports are widely cited by the media and in the debate related to climate change.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

In 1992, the UN “Earth Summit” produced the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a first step in addressing the climate change problem. Today, 197 countries that have ratified the Convention are Parties to the Convention. The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention. All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP. The COP meets every year, unless the Parties decide otherwise.

The ultimate aim of the Convention is to prevent “dangerous” human interference with the climate system.

World Conferences on the Human Environment

The United Nations has organized major world conferences on the human environment and climate change:

  1. The United Nation Conference on the Human Environment at Stockholm in 1972
  2. The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Nairobi in 1982
  3. The United Nations on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992
  4. The World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002
  5. The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali in 2007 (COP13)
  6. The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan in 2008 (COP14)
  7. The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP15) in 2009
  8. The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun 2010
  9. The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban in 2011 (COP17)
  10. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development - Rio+20 in Rio de Janeiro in 2012
  11. UN Climat Change Conference in Doha 2012 (COP 18).

Special Session about the Rio Conference 1997

In 1997, the General Assembly held a Special Session ot the General Assembly to Review and Appraise the Implementation of Agenda 21 (Earth Summit +5), New York, 23-27 June.

The Plan of Action of the Rio Conference, Agenda 21. Environment and Development. Rio de Janeiro, 14 June 1992, and the Final Declaration, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, are posted online at the UN website section United Nations Environment Programme.

World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002

In September 2002, the General Assembly convened the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg to review the outcome of the earlier conferences.

Summit on Climate Change in New York 2009

The Summit on Climate Change was convened in New York on September 22, 2009. The objective was to mobilize the political will and vision for a agreement at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen that same year.

More on environment and sustainable development

  1. Report of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm 5-15 June 1972 is available as UN Sales no. E.73.II.A.14. A collection of sales number publications is held by the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, Uppsala, and the Libraries at UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva.
  2. Documents from the Stockholm Conference are posted on the UN website, section United Nations Environment Programme.
  3. Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992 is available as UN document A/CONF.151/26 in the UN collection of the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, Uppsala, and the Libraries at UN Headquarters in New York and Geneva.
  4. The Plan of Action of the Rio Conference, Agenda 21. Environment and Development. Rio de Janeiro, 14 June 1992, and the Final Declaration, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, are posted online at the UN website, section United Nations Environment Programme.
  5. Reports and documents from the Earth Summit +5 - Special Session of the General Assembly to Review and Appraise the Implementation of Agenda 21, New York, 23-27 June 1997, are posted at the UN website.
  6. Information about the World Summit on Sustainable Development with relevant full text documents is posted at Johannesburg Summit 2002.  
  7. Background information and documentation from the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali 2007 and from the United Nations Climate Conference in Poznan 2008 are posted at their websites.
  8. Full text reports and documents from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are posted at the IPCC website.
  9. Programme and statements from the Summit on Climate Change in New York 2009 can be accessed through the UN website.
  10. Reports and documents from the Copenhagen conference are posted at the the website UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen COP 15/CMP 5 7 to 18 December.
  11. The Copenhagen outcome document - The Copenhagen Accord -has been published as advance unedited version and draft text (pdf).
  12. Reports and documents from the Cancun conference 2010 are posted at UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun.
  13. Background information, reports and documents from the Rio+20conference are posted at its website. The outcome document The Future We Want can be accessed in all official UN languages.