United Nations Environment Programme

United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Abbreviation UNEP
Formation 5 June 1972
Type Programme
Legal status Active
Headquarters Nairobi, Kenya
Norway Erik Solheim
Parent organization
United Nations
Website www.UNEP.org

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 its headquarters in the Gigiri neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya. UNEP also has six regional offices and various country offices.

UNEP has overall responsibility for environmental problems among United Nations agencies but talks on addressing global warming are overseen by the Bonn-based Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.[1] Its 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). UNEP has also been active in funding and implementing environment related development projects.

UNEP 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.

The World Meteorological Organization and UNEP established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. UNEP 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.[2] The International Cyanide Management Code, a program of best practice for the chemical’s use at gold mining operations, was developed under UNEP’s aegis.


UNEP headquarters were established in Nairobi, Kenya, in the late 1970s 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.[3]


Executive Director

UNEP's current Executive Director Erik Solheim succeeded the previous director Achim Steiner in 2016.

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, UNEP'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 UNEP. 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.

List of Executive Directors

# Picture Name
Nationality Took office Left office
6 Erik Solheim
(born 1955)
 Norway 2016 Present
5 Achim Steiner
(born 1961)
 Germany 2006 2016
4 Klaus Töpfer
(born 1938)
 Germany 1998 2006
3 Elizabeth Dowdeswell
(born 1944)
 Canada 1992 1998
2 Mostafa Kamal Tolba
 Egypt 1975 1992
1 Maurice Strong[4]
 Canada 1972 1975


UNEP's structure includes seven substantive Divisions:



UNEP's main activities are related to:[6]

Notable achievements

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.[7]

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 UNEP helped 100,000 people finance solar power systems in India.[8] Success in India's solar program 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, UNEP 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 UNEP "support for Environmental Management of the Iraqi Marshland" commenced in August 2004, in order to manage the Marshland area in an environmentally sound manner.[9]

In order to ensure full participation of global communities, UNEP works in an inclusive fashion that brings on board different societal cohorts. UNEP has a programme for young people known as Tunza. Within this program are other projects like the AEO for Youth.[10]

Glaciers shrinking

Further information: Retreat of glaciers since 1850

Glaciers are shrinking at record rates and many could disappear within decades, the U.N. Environment Programme said on March 16, 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.[11]

Electric vehicles

At the fifth Magdeburg Environmental Forum held from 3–4 July 2008, in Magdeburg, Germany, UNEP 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".[12]


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.

In June 2010, a report from UNEP declared that a global shift towards a vegan diet was needed to save the world from hunger, fuel shortages and climate change.[13]

International years

(International) Patron of the Year of the Dolphin was H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, with Special Ambassador to the cause being Nick Carter, of the Backstreet Boys.[14]

(See international observance and list of environmental dates.)


Main articles: International Sustainable Energy Agency, UNEO, and IRENA

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.[15]

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 (UNEP) and establish universal membership of its governing body was confirmed.

See also


  1. Alister Doyle (February 17, 2013 ), Reformed U.N. formula for making planet greener to get first test Reuters.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 11, 2011. Retrieved May 15, 2012.
  3. Gladwinn Hill (October 20, 1975), U.N. Environment Effort: A Start, a Long Way to Go New York Times.
  4. Schrijver, Nico (2010). Development Without Destruction: The UN and Global Resource Management. United Nations Intellectual History Project Series. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. p. 116. ISBN 978-0-253-22197-1.
  5. "UNEP Offices". UNEP.
  6. "United Nations Environment Programme". unep.org. November 2011. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
  7. Alister Doyle (February 17, 2013 ), Reformed U.N. formula for making planet greener to get first test Reuters.
  8. Solar loan program in India
  9. UNEP Marshland project in Middle East Archived October 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. AEO-for-Youth Archived December 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. U.N.: Glaciers shrinking at record rate
  12. "UNEP and Daimler Call for Infrastructure for Electric and Fuel-cell Vehicles". Climate-L.org. 4 July 2008. Retrieved June 16, 2010.
  13. Felicity Carus UN urges global move to meat and dairy-free diet, The Guardian, 2 June 2010
  14. Newswise Science News | Pop Superstar Nick Carter to Help Wild Dolphins and Oceans
  15. Doyle, Alister (2007-02-03). "46 nations call for tougher U.N. environment role". Reuters.

Further reading

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