The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is an agency of United Nations and coordinates its environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded by Maurice Strong, its first director, as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference) in June 1972 and has overall responsibility for environmental problems among United Nations agencies but international talks on specialized issues, such as addressing climate change or combating desertification, are overseen by other UN organizations, like the Bonn-based Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. UN Environment activities cover a wide range of issues regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance and green economy. It has played a significant role in developing international environmental conventions, promoting environmental science and information and illustrating the way those can be implemented in conjunction with policy, working on the development and implementation of policy with national governments, regional institutions in conjunction with environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs). UN Environment has also been active in funding and implementing environment related development projects.
UN Environment has aided in the formulation of guidelines and treaties on issues such as the international trade in potentially harmful chemicals, transboundary air pollution, and contamination of international waterways. Relevant documents, including scientific papers, are available via the UNEP Document Repository.
The World Meteorological Organization and UN Environment established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. UN Environment is also one of several Implementing Agencies for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol, and it is also a member of the United Nations Development Group. The International Cyanide Management Code, a program of best practice for the chemical's use at gold mining operations, was developed under UN Environment's aegis.
UNEP headquarters was established in Nairobi, Kenya, on 5 June 1972 as an outcome from the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment with a staff of 300, 100 of them professionals in a variety of fields and with a five‐year fund of more than $100 million. At the time, $40 million were pledged by the United States and the rest by 50 other nations.
The position was held for 17 years (1975–1992) by Dr. Mostafa Kamal Tolba, who was instrumental in bringing environmental considerations to the forefront of global thinking and action. Under his leadership, UN Environment's most widely acclaimed success—the historic 1987 agreement to protect the ozone layer—the Montreal Protocol was negotiated.
During December 1972, the UN General Assembly unanimously elected Maurice Strong to head UN Environment. Also Secretary General of both the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, which launched the world environment movement, and the 1992 Earth Summit, Strong has played a critical role is globalizing the environmental movement.
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UNEP's structure includes seven substantive Divisions:
UNEP's main activities are related to:
UNEP has registered several successes, such as the 1987 Montreal Protocol for limiting emissions of gases blamed for thinning the planet's protective ozone layer, or the 2012 Minamata Convention, a treaty to limit toxic mercury.
UNEP has sponsored the development of solar loan programs, with attractive return rates, to buffer the initial deployment costs and entice consumers to consider and purchase solar PV systems. The most famous example is the solar loan program sponsored by UN Environment helped 100,000 people finance solar power systems in India. Success in India's solar programme has led to similar projects in other parts of the developing world like Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia and Mexico.
UNEP sponsors the Marshlands project in the Middle East. In 2001, UN Environment alerted the international community to the destruction of the Marshlands when it released satellite images showing that 90 percent of the Marshlands had already been lost. The UN Environment "support for Environmental Management of the Iraqi Marshland" commenced in August 2004, in order to manage the Marshland area in an environmentally sound manner.
In order to ensure full participation of global communities, UN Environment works in an inclusive fashion that brings on board different societal cohorts. UN Environment has a programme for young people known as Tunza. Within this program are other projects like the AEO for Youth.
Glaciers are shrinking at record rates and many could disappear within decades, the U.N. Environment Programme said on 16 March 2008. The scientists measuring the health of almost 30 glaciers around the world found that ice loss reached record levels in 2006. On average, the glaciers shrank by 4.9 feet in 2006, the most recent year for which data are available. The most severe loss was recorded at Norway's Breidalblikkbrea glacier, which shrank 10.2 feet in 2006. Glaciers lost an average of about a foot of ice a year between 1980 and 1999. But since the turn of the millennium the average loss has increased to about 20 inches.
At the fifth Magdeburg Environmental Forum held from 3–4 July 2008, in Magdeburg, Germany, UN Environment and car manufacturer Daimler called for the establishment of infrastructure for electric vehicles. At this international conference, 250 high-ranking representatives from ce, politics and non-government organizations discussed solutions for future road transportation under the motto of "Sustainable Mobility–the Post-2012 CO2 Agenda".
UNEP publishes many reports, atlases and newsletters. For instance, the fifth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5) assessment is a comprehensive report on environment, development and human well-being, providing analysis and information for policy makers and the concerned public. One of many points in the GEO-5 warns that we are living far beyond our means. It notes that the human population is now so large that the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available.
Following the publication of Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in February 2007, a "Paris Call for Action" read out by French President Jacques Chirac and supported by 46 countries, called for the United Nations Environment Programme to be replaced by a new and more powerful "United Nations Environment Organization (UNEO)", also called Global Environment Organisation now supported by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to be modelled on the World Health Organization. The 46 countries included the European Union nations, but notably did not include the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China, the top four emitters of greenhouse gases.
In December 2012, following the Rio+20 Summit, a decision by the General Assembly of the United Nations to 'strengthen and upgrade' the UN Environment Programme (UN Environment) and establish universal membership of its governing body was confirmed.
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