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Chapter: 12th Political Science : Chapter 12 : Environmental Concerns and Globalisation

Multilateral Conferences on Environment

Environmental diplomacy has become an important subset of internationalism in the 1970s.

Multilateral Conferences on Environment

Environmental diplomacy has become an important subset of internationalism in the 1970s. Numerous efforts, formally and informally, have been afoot to protect the environment at the international level. The United Nations (UN) remains the main impetus and driver of incorporating environmental concerns in this direction. A series of the important conferences as follows:


Ramsar Convention, 1971

The Convention on Wetlands, also called the Ramsar Convention, is an international treaty calling for “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world”. It was adopted at Ramsar, Iran in 1971 and came into force in 1975. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is the depository of the Convention. The Secretariat of Ramsar Convention is functioning within the headquarters of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Gland, Switzerland. On 21 August 2015, the Contracting Parties approved the Four Ramsar Strategic Plan for 2016-2024. The World Wetlands Day is celebrated on 2nd February every year. The Montreux Record is “a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference”. It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List. Under the three pillars of the Convention, the contracting parties commit to: 

1) Work towards the wise use of all their wetlands

2) Designate suitable wetlands for the list of Wetlands of International Importance (the “Ramsar List”) and ensure their effective management;

3) Cooperate internationally on trans-boundary wetlands, shared wetland systems and shared species.


The World Heritage Convention, 1972

The World Heritage Convention in 1972 sought to identify and protect the world’s natural and cultural heritage considered to be of Outstanding Universal Value. It defines the criteria for the selection of natural and cultural sites to be inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The enforcement of the Convention is carried out through the Operational Guidelines, which reflects the procedures for new inscriptions, site protection, danger-listings, and the provision of international assistance under the World Heritage Fund. Moreover, the Convention is administered by the World Heritage Committee supported by the UNESCo World Heritage Centre, which is the secretariat of the Convention based at Paris. The Committee is also assisted by the three technical advisory committees – IUCN, ICOMOS and ICCROM.


UN Conference on the Human Environment (1972)

The UN Conference on the Human Environment or the Stockholm Conference was the first major multilateral conference on environmental issues. It was held at Stockholm in Sweden from June 5-16, 1972. The conference, which was attended by delegations from 114 governments, was a breakthrough by scripting a new discourse on environmental politics by laying the foundation of a global environmental governance regime based on international cooperation. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was also an institutional innovation of the Stockholm Conference


Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild flora and fauna (CITES), 1973

As an output of the 1973 resolution of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the CITES, which took place at Washington, seeks to control or prevent international commercial trade in endangered species or products derived from them. It is not a direct attempt towards the protection of the endangered species but aims to reduce the economic incentive that triggers the poaching of endangered species and the destruction of their habitat. Hence, the Convention seeks to eliminate this illicit market by decimating the end-user demand. The CITES, also called the Washington Convention entered into force in 1975.


Convention on Migratory Species, 1979

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, also known as the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) or the Bonn Convention, which came into force 1983, seeks to “conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range”. It proposed strict protective measures for endangered migratory species. Besides, multilateral agreements for the conservation and management of migratory species along with cooperative research activities which constitute the mandate of the Convention. Appendix I of the Convention deals with the list of migratory species that are categorized as endangered which requires immediate international cooperation to mitigate the same. On the other hand, Appendix II is a composite of other species that require significant attention or benefit from international agreements under the Convention.


Vienna Convention for the Protection of Ozone Layer, 1985

The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer is a multilateral environmental agreement, which kick-started global cooperation for the protection of Earth’s ozone layer. It was adopted on 22 March 1985. Subsequently, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was adopted on 16 September 1987 which came into effect in 1989. This international treaty looks into eliminating the use of ozone- depleting substances (ODS). The Ozone Secretariat located at Nairobi, Kenya is the Secretariat for both the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol.


World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987

The World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), also known as the Brundtland Commission after its chairperson Gro Harlem Brundtland, helped chalk out the strategies for environmental conservation and sustainable development. Its final report titled Our Common Future, published in 1987 underscores the interdependence of environmental protection with other factors like economic development and energy production and have become the lynchpin of the international environmental law until now. The idea of sustainable development received the first-ever official definition under this initiative.


Basel Convention on Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes, 1989

The Basel Convention which came into force in 1992, was a response to NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard) syndrome, that grappled the industrialized world in the 1980s with regard to the heightening concerns about the hazardous wastes and the public resistance to it resulting in an upsurge of disposal costs. It created a market for hazardous wastes particularly in the environmentally-less-conscious Least Developed Countries (LDCs) which offered cheap disposal alternatives. The Convention sought to reduce the trans-boundary movement of hazardous wastes by taking necessary steps to minimize the creation of such wastes along with measures to prohibit the shipment of such substances from the developed world to the LDCs.


United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, 1992

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, which also earned fame as the Earth Summit, was held on during 3-14 June 1992 at Rio de Janeiro. The Summit which is credited to be the biggest international conference in the history of international relations, focussed on myriad issues ranging from patterns of production to alternative sources of energy, public transportation and the growing need for environmental awareness. Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the Statement of Forest Principles, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity are the documental results of the two-week summit. The Rio process also triggered the constitution of a couple of follow-up mechanisms such as the Commission on Sustainable Development, Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development, and the High-level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development. The conference was also regarded as the ‘Parliament of the World’.


UN Convention to Combat Desertification, 1994

As the only legally binding international agreement connecting environment and development on lines of sustainable land management, the 1994 UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) aims to address a range of most vulnerable ecosystems, particularly the arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands. The newly adopted UNCCD 2018-2030 Strategic Framework, through its Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) measures, is a bid to restore the productivity of the degraded lands along with improving the livelihood of people in these regions. The Secretariat of the Convention, established in 1999, functions at Bonn in Germany. Since 2001, the Conference of Parties (COP), which is the supreme decision-making apparatus, meets biennially and have had 13 sessions till date. The Ankara and Changwon Initiatives are the latest the agenda launched by the UNCCD.


General Assembly Special Session on the Environment, 1997

In a bid to review the progress of the post-Earth Summit environmental regime, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) convened a Special Session on Implementation of Agenda 21 during June 23-27, 1997. The session sought to scrutinise the trajectory of the success of Agenda 21 and attempted to evolve a new narrative on the environmental conservation by intensifying the commitment of member states. The special session, which is also known as “Earth Summit + 5”, adopted “Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21, including Statement of Commitment”.


Kyoto Protocol, 1997

The Kyoto Protocol, adopted on 11th December 1997, is an international environmental treaty that enhances the scope of the UNFCCC (1992) that imposed legal commitment on the ratified State Parties to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It came into force on 16th February 2005. Considering the historical responsibility of the developed world for the high levels of GHG footprint, the treaty places a stringent mandate on them under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”. The COP 7 held at Marrakesh in Morocco in 2007 adopted the detailed framework for the protocol. It is usually referred to as the “Marrakesh Records”. After the first commitment which began in 2008, the protocol was amended on 8 December 2012 at Doha, Qatar.

The Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol endorsed a second commitment to the Annex I countries starting from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2020. Along with a series of changes on certain Articles, the protocol now requires the State Parties to report a revised list of GHG for the period second commitment. Unlike the first commitment target of reducing emissions to an average of five per cent below 1990 levels, a minimum eight per cent reduction against the same year benchmark is expected under the second commitment. The three market-based mechanisms identified by the Kyoto Protocol to meet the targets are International Emissions Trading, Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation, which help support green investment and provide cost-effective means to realize the emission targets.


World Summit on Sustainable Development, 2002

The UN-backed World Summit on Sustainable Development took place at Johannesburg, South Africa during August 26 – September 6, 2002. The Convention which was informally referred to as Earth Summit 2002 went on to resuscitate the spirit of its prequel by tabling new challenges and concerns that affect the environmental realm. This renewed environmentalism in the new format offered a sustainability-driven roadmap in addressing the problems of the millennium. The Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development, the documental by-product of the summit, reemphasized the basic tenets of the multilateral initiatives in the past with more force. It postulated the necessity of a time- bound structure of actions expected from the member states over an array of agreements including Agenda 21. Moreover, the Convention succumbed to severe castigations from various quarters over its inability to bring any new arrangement of its own.


UN Conference on Sustainable Development, 2012

The UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, was held at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 20-22 June 2012. With its uncompromising stand on rolling out an affirmative sustainable development plan, the member states focussed on evolving a process for the development of Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs)thatcombineswithMillennium Development Goals (MDGs). Moreover, the adoption of ground-breaking guidelines for green economy policies was another result of the Rio+20. The conference also sought to constitute an inter-governmental process under the General Assembly to frame a strategy concerning finance vis-à-vis sustainable development. An agreement to establish a high-level political forum for sustainable development was also achieved. The report of the conference was themed “The Future We Want”.


UN Sustainable Development Summit, 2015

As a high-level plenary meeting of the UNGA, the UN Sustainable Development Summit, which spanned over 25- 27 September 2015 at the UN Headquarters in New York, adopted the post-2015 agenda titled “Transforming our World: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. It is a composite of a Declaration, 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets. The SDGs came into effect in 2016 and will guide the discourse on sustainable development until 2030.


The Sustainable Development Goals adopted are as follows

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development


Paris Agreement, 2016

The Paris Agreement (L’accord de Paris in French) is a multilateral agreement within the precincts of the UNFCCC. It provides an enhanced framework for the mitigation of greenhouse gases emission, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. It was opened for signature on 22 April 2016 and came into force on 4 November 2016. As an instrument to combat climate change, the Paris Accord aims to keep global temperatures “well below” 2.0 C (3.6 F) above pre-industrial times and “endeavour to limit” them even more to, 1.5 C. It also helped reach a consensus on limiting the human-driven greenhouse gases emission to the levels naturally absorbable by trees, soil and oceans, between 2050 and 2100.

Apart from the mandatory periodical review every five years to assess the contributions of the State Parties, the treaty also ensures that the developed countries shall help LDCs in adapting with the climate change through “climate finance” to enable them to switch over to renewable energy. Until now, 184 out of the 197 State Parties have ratified the treaty

India’s Commitment to Paris Deal

·           In anticipation of this moment, countries publicly outlined what post-2020 climate actions they intended to take under the new international agreement, known as their Intended Nationally Determined contributions.

·           In its INDC, India has pledged to improve the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 below 2005 levels. It has also pledged to increase the share of non-fossil fuels-based electricity to 40 per cent by 2030. It has agreed to enhance its forest cover which will absorb 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2, the main gas responsible for global warming) by 2030 INDCs.

·           India has also reiterated its need for international finance and technology support to meet its climate goals. In this regard, it has said it would require at least US $ 2.5 trillion (at 2014-15 prices) to meet its climate change actions between now and 2030.



Explore how the application of Artificial Intelligence can help conserve environment better.


Explore the concept of Blue Economy and its relevance.


Must watch Documentary film

Director Davis Guggenheim eloquently weaves the science of global warming with former USA Vice President Al Gore’s personal history and lifelong commitment to reversing the effects of global climate change in the most talked- about documentary of the year.

An audience and critical favorite, “An Inconvenient Truth” makes the compelling case that global warming is real, man-made, and its effects will be cataclysmic if we don’t act now. Gore presents a wide array of facts and information in a thoughtful and compelling way: often humorous, frequently emotional, and always fascinating. In the end, An Inconvenient Truth accomplishes what all great films should: it leaves the viewer shaken, involved and inspired.


Read about the most important environmental movements at the national and state levels.


Have a discussion on why is international agreements an necessary for the reduction of greenhouse gases.


Make a copy of diagrams complete it by naming eight types of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Discuss - Why is it important for future generations that development should be sustainable?


US President Donald Trump has announced withdrawl from Paris deal. In the context the students are requested to discuss the world response regarding post Kyoto to reduce globe warming.

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