International Environmental Agreements

The state's attempts to quickly industrialize and modernize itself have resulted in a variety of environmental issues, including resource depletion, global warming, ozone layer deterioration, industrial pollution, deforestation, air pollution, and ocean pollution, among others. To accomplish the intended common goals, all nations must act collectively on these global, transnational, and transboundary concerns. All nations have long accepted that they cannot solve the world's most pressing environmental issues on their own, even the industrialized ones.

Therefore, international environmental agreements are important because they allow nations from various settings to unite on a single platform and work together to address complicated ecological concerns. In other words, the nations (including industrialized ones) quickly realized that because environmental challenges are global in scope, they must be tackled as a group. The international forums give all the nations a venue to reflect on environmental challenges, discuss them, and choose a coordinated action plan through international accords.

What is the meaning of International Environmental Agreements?

An International Environmental Agreement, also known as an Environmental Protocol, is a form of treaty that is enforceable under International Law and enables parties to pursue environmental objectives. In other terms, it is defined as an intergovernmental instrument designed to be legally enforceable with the major declared objective of avoiding or regulating human effects on natural resources.

International environmental agreements are divided into two types: bilateral environmental agreements (agreements between two countries) and multilateral environmental agreements (agreements signed by three or more countries).These conventions, which are mostly issued by the United Nations, address topics including air policies, freshwater policies, hazardous waste and substance policies, the marine environment, nature conservation policies, noise pollution, and nuclear safety.

List of International Environmental Agreements

The following section provides a chronological overview of significant international environmental treaties addressing various ecological issues −

Stockholm Conference (UNCHE, 1972)

In June 1972, Stockholm, Sweden hosted the United Nations Conference on Human Environment (UNCHE), also known as the Stockholm Conference. The occasion is widely regarded as the first significant global effort to address and maintain the human environment. The meeting served as the setting for the first global environmental accord, which acknowledged that the United Nations system is best equipped to handle environmental issues of wide global significance. To put it another way, the Stockholm conference brought environmental issues to the forefront of discussions taking place across the world, especially those involving UN-related issues. International organizations were forced to take action in order to address environmental issues, particularly those of global scope. Since then, international organizations have signed a number of environmental accords intended to preserve and improve the human environment. They have also successfully staged international events.

One of the major outcomes of the Stockholm Conference was the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The General Assembly principally established this worldwide environmental organization in December 1972 to coordinate environmental initiatives inside the United Nations system. This organization's principal responsibilities include encouraging scientific research and initiatives, guiding other UN environmental agencies, coordinating UN operations relating to the environment, and monitoring global environmental management. Additionally, it seeks to instill environmental education through sponsored television and radio programs, as well as increase public awareness of the risks associated with environmental change and degradation.

Montreal Protocol (1987)

The "Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer," or Montreal Protocol, This international agreement, which was created to safeguard the stratospheric ozone layer, is the first of its type in the history of environmental protection. It calls for a reduction in ozone-depleting chemical production, use, and emissions on a worldwide scale within a given time frame. However, the Montreal Protocol was negotiated within the parameters established by the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (1985), which acknowledges governments' obligations to safeguard the environment and public health from the harmful consequences of ozone depletion. Thus, the protocol was approved on September 16, 1987, but it didn't go into effect until January 1, 1989, and it was later changed several times.

The Montreal Protocol acknowledged the global release of a number of chemical compounds that have the potential to significantly weaken or otherwise alter the ozone layer of the planet, with potentially harmful effects on both the environment and human health. Therefore, it was intended to control the production and use of ozone-depleting substances (ODSs), including methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, halons, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The signatories to the Protocol committed to phase out the use of Halon by 1992 and to reduce the manufacturing and consumption of CFCs by half of their baseline levels by 1998.

Rio Conference (1992)

The Earth Summit or Rio Conference, also known as the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), was held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. The landmark Stockholm Conference, held in 1972, was commemorated by this international occasion on its twentieth anniversary. Environmental concerns including biodiversity, climate change, pollution, forest management, poverty, and the sustainability of resource use were all discussed during the Rio Conference. The main objective of the conference, however, was to create a paradigm for sustainable development that would balance the need for environmental conservation with ambitions for global growth. The potential of future generations to satisfy their own wants is not compromised by development that generally satisfies the demands of the present generation.

The following are the principal pacts and documents signed at the conference −

Declaration on Environment and Development

This agreement, popularly referred to as the "Rio Declaration," was adopted during the Earth Summit and contained 27 principles that reaffirmed the Stockholm Declaration and outlined the duties of state and non-state actors in preserving the environment.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

This agreement, commonly known as the "Biological Treaty," is yet another important success for the Rio Conference. The idea behind the convention is that biodiversity exists in many different forms on Earth, including ecosystems, plants, animals, microbes, fungus, and genetic variation. The agreement compels the states to take action to safeguard and sustainably utilise biological variety because it acknowledges the crucial role that biological diversity plays in maintaining the biosphere's life-supporting systems.

Statement of Principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests

The objective of this agreement, which is not legally enforceable, is to preserve and save the world's rapidly disappearing tropical forests. It advised the nations to keep an eye on how their development processes were affecting the resources found in forests, and it urged them to take quick action to repair any harm done to those resources as well as to adopt policies to lessen the negative effects of development on those resources.

Agenda 21

Agenda 21 is the most significant agreement signed at the Earth Summit. It is widely recognized as an international blueprint or global plan of action for achieving sustainability in the twentieth century. Agenda 21 outlines the actions that the international community, governments, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, civil society, and communities can take to realize the aim of a sustainable world. It also recognizes the importance of everyone, including governmental agencies, NGOs, civil society, and local organizations, among others, in building a sustainable future.

Paris Agreement (2015)

The twenty-first Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change saw 195 countries approve the Paris Agreement, also known as the Paris Climate Accord or the Paris Climate Agreement, on December 12, 2015. (UNFCCC). It establishes a new universal, legally enforceable framework for tackling the global threat of climate change and enhancing internationally coordinated efforts to build a sustainable future beyond 2020.

The following are the main components of the Paris Agreement −

  • Acknowledging the constraints faced by poor nations, rich nations promise to quicken the pace of emission reduction efforts in order to attain the target temperature.

  • In order to help developing nations create their mitigation and adaptation strategies, the European Union and other rich nations agree to continue providing them with financial and technological support.

  • The governments have committed to implementing the necessary steps to increase society's ability to cope with the effects of climate change.

  • The agreement recognizes the important contribution that non-state players, or non-party stakeholders, such NGOs, civil society, private organizations, and multinational corporations, make to the fight against climate change.

  • The parties must keep each other and the public informed of their progress in achieving their goals in order to guarantee strong transparency and accountability.

  • The agreement has a non-punitive compliance system that is overseen by the Committee of Experts (COE).

  • The deal won't go into effect until 55 nations—who together account for at least 55% of global emissions—have filed their ratification procedures.

  • The parties agree to hold meetings every five years to assess development, establish more challenging goals based on science, and present revised climate plans.

  • It describes the "Pre-2020 Action" that the parties must do in order take carry out the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period through 2020.


The International Environment Agreement included goals that will be carried out in order to represent equality, the idea of shared but distinct duties, and individual capacities in light of various country conditions. In other words, the Paris Climate Agreement acknowledges various obligations for nations, requiring wealthier nations to take the lead in combating climate change and aiding underdeveloped nations with plans for mitigation and adaptation. In this approach, the agreement emphasizes the need for justice and fairness, which the developing nations highlighted.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the main idea of international environmental policy?

Ans. International environmental policy covers a number of issues, such as climate protection, the preservation of biological diversity, sustainable energy policy, and the conservation of forests, seas, and soils.

Q2. What is the most successful international environmental agreement?

Ans. The most successful treaty is the Montreal Protocol because it discussed the most severe global environmental threats the world has faced—the destruction of the stratospheric ozone by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

Q3. Why did the Kyoto Protocol fail?

Ans. The Kyoto Protocol failed because it did not include the world's largest and fastest growing economies and it excluded most of the developing countries (including the People's Republic of China) from binding targets, and the USA did not ratify it.

Q4. What has replaced the Kyoto Protocol?

Ans. The Paris Agreement has, in effect, superseded the Kyoto Protocol as the principal regulatory instrument governing the global response to climate change.

Updated on: 13-Mar-2023


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