United Nations Environment Programme UNEP

the UN environment Programme (UNEP) coordinates all United Nations (UN) global and regional environmental activities, assists developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies, encourages sustainable development through sound environmental practices, reviews the status of the global environment, seeks consensus in environmental policy, and alerts the global community and governments of new and emerging threats to the biosphere. The UNEP officially divides its responsibilities into seven divisions: Early Warning and Assessment; Environmental Policy Implementation; Technology, Industry, and Economics; Regional Cooperation; Environmental Law and Conventions; Global Environment Facility Coordination; and Communications and Public Information.

The UNEP grew out of the June 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment, but its mandates and objectives are derived from UN General Assembly resolution 2997 (27) (December 15, 1972), as amended at the UN's 1992 Conference on Environment and Development, the 1997 Nairobi Declaration on the Role and Mandate of UNEP, and the Malmö Ministerial Declaration of May 31, 2000. The UNEP is headquartered in Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya, and has six regional offices and a number of country offices all under the governance of UNEP's Governing Council. Fifty-eight member states allocated according to geographical regions and serving three-year terms make up the council. The council has the primary responsibility for the developing UN policies and programs on environmental issues. The council attempts to mediate differences and promote cooperation between UN member states. The UNEP secretariat employs 890 global staff members and is funded by UN member states. The UNEP's executive director, as of June 2006, was Achim Steiner. Steiner was preceded in the position by Dr. Klaus Töpfer, who followed Dr. Mostafa Kamal Tolba, who held the position from 1975 to 1992.

goals and activities OF UNEP

UNEP activities span the spectrum of global environmental issues concerning the atmospheric, marine,

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and terrestrial ecosystems. The UNEP develops international and regional meetings on environmental issues, promotes a synergy of science and policy on environmental issues, funds and implements development projects related to the environment, works with environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and is responsible for coordinating and implementing responses to climate change, especially when those changes relate to undeveloped countries with little funding. The UNEP cosponsors and coor-ganizes regional workshops on the common problems of climate change and possible response strategies in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Asian-Pacific Basin, and the former Soviet Union.

UNEP also sponsors the development of member state solar loan programs and plays a pivotal role in restoring the Shatt al Arab marshlands that were virtually destroyed by Iraq's Saddam Hussein when the Marsh Arabs sided with Iran in the Iran-Iraq War. The UNEP estimated in 2001 that the marshes were reduced to no more than 386 sq. mi. (1,000 sq. km.). Restoration of the marshlands began in 2003, following the end of organized Iraqi military resistance to the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of Iraq to oust Hussein, and by 2007, the marsh was restored to approximately 50 percent of the area it made up before the Iran-Iraq War. In a similar vein, the UNEP helped/helps create guidelines and treaties relating to transboundary air and water pollution and international trade in harmful chemicals.

The UNEP plays an integral role in creating criteria and indicators for assessing ecological and economic vulnerabilities to climate change and developing regional responses and adaptation. The UNEP is creating a handbook on economical agricultural adaptive strategies to climate change and has published a handbook on climate change communications. The UNEP also plans and implements the Climate Change Outreach Programme, promoting climate change awareness at the national level and assisting governments in developing adaptive response strategies. Its Assessment of Impacts of and Adaptation to Climate Change in Multiple Regions and Sectors project, funded by the Global Environment Facility, seeks to create the scientific and technical capacity in over 45 mostly African countries to respond to climate change.

The discovery of a hole in the ozone layer of the atmosphere in 1985, coupled with the earlier detec tion of the warming of the Earth (1980), gave impetus to the idea that one of the causes is human-induced climate change (anthropogenic climate change) from man-made, ozone-depleting gases. The United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) responded by creating in 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and tasking it with studying the hypothesized phenomenon on a comprehensive, objective, open, and transparent basis. The IPCC determined that the Earth had warmed over the last 150-year period and that that warming was in part caused by human activity. The executive summary of the report concluded that most of the observed global warming experienced in the last 50 years is a result of the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. The IPCC and former U.S. vice president Al Gore were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 12, 2007, for their work on global warming.

The UNEP and the WMO provide the joint secretariat support to IPCC. The IPCC does not engage in research. Its assessments are based on peer-reviewed and published scientific/technical literature under guidelines set forth in the Principles Governing IPCC Work. The IPCC has three Working Groups and a Task Force. Working Group I assesses the scientific aspects of the climate system and climate change. Working Group II assesses the vulnerability of socioeconomic and natural systems to climate change, negative and positive consequences of climate change, and adaptive strategies. Working Group III assesses options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and ways of mitigating climate change. The Task Force on National Greenhouse Gas Inventories is responsible for the IPCC National Greenhouse Gas Inventories Programme and developed the methodology for calculating national greenhouse gas inventories.

After the IPCCs Fourth Assessment Report was issued in February 2007, 46 nations, led by France, signed the Paris Call for Action seeking the replacement of the UNEP with a new and more powerful United Nations Environment Organization. The top four greenhouse gas emitters, the United States, China, Russia, and India, did not sign.

SEE ALSO: Climate; Global Environment Facility (GEF); Greenhouse Gases; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); United Nations; World Meteorological Organization.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. United Nations, Basic Facts about the United Nations (United Nations, 2004); United Nations Environment Programme, www.unep.org (cited November 2007); United Nations Environment Programme, Natural Allies: UNEP and Civil Society (United Nations Foundation, 2004); United Nations Environment Programme, "Organizational Profile," www.unep.org/PDF/UNEPOrga-nizationProfile.pdf (cited November 2007).

Richard Milton Edwards University of Wisconsin Colleges

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