United Nations Environment Programme

United Nations Environment Programme

United Nations Environment Programme
UNEP logo.svg
Org type Programme
Acronyms UNEP
Head Achim Steiner
Status Active
Established 1972
Headquarters Nairobi, Kenya
Website www.unep.org

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) coordinates United Nations environmental activities, assisting developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was founded as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has its headquarters in the Gigiri neighborhood of Nairobi, Kenya. UNEP also has six regional offices and various country offices.

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.[1]


Executive Director

UNEP's current Executive Director is Achim Steiner, who succeeded previous director Klaus Töpfer in 2006. Dr Töpfer served two consecutive terms, beginning in February 1998.

On 15 March 2006, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, nominated Achim Steiner, former Director General of the IUCN to the position of Executive Director. The UN General Assembly followed Annan's proposal and elected him.

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.

# Picture Name
Nationality Took office Left office
1 Maurice Strong Maurice Strong[2]
 Canada 1972 1975
2 Mostafa Kamal Tolba
 Egypt 1975 1992
3 Elizabeth Dowdeswell  Canada 1992 1998
4 Klaus Töpfer Klaus Töpfer
 Germany 1998 2006
5 Achim Steiner Achim Steiner
 Germany 2006 present


UNEP's structure includes six substantive Divisions:

  • Division of Early Warning and Assessment (DEWA)
  • Division of Environmental Policy Implementation (DEPI)
  • Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE)
  • Division of Regional Cooperation (DRC)
  • Division of Environmental Law and Conventions (DELC)
  • Division of Communications and Public Information (DCPI).

International years

The year 2007 was declared (International) Year of the Dolphin by the United Nations and UNEP.

(International) Patron of the Year of the Dolphin is H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, with Special Ambassador to the cause being Nick Carter, of The Backstreet Boys.[3]

2010 was designated the International Year of Biodiversity and presented an opportunity to enhance knowledge of ecosystems and their services.

Currently we are celebrating the International Year of Forests and preparing for 2012, which has been designated the International Year for Sustainable Energy for All.

(See international observance and list of environmental dates.)


UNEP publishes many reports, atlases and newsletters. For instance, the fourth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4) 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-4 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. Humanity’s environmental demand, or ecological footprint, is 21.9 hectares per person while the Earth’s biological capacity is, on average, only 15.7 ha/person.

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.[4]


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.[5]

Main activities

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

  • climate change;
    • including the Territorial Approach to Climate Change (TACC);
  • disasters and coflicts;
  • ecosystem management;
  • environmental governance;
  • harmful substances; and
  • resource efficiency.

Famous world projects

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 helping 100,000 people finance solar power systems in India.[7] Success in India's solar program has led to similar projects in other parts of developing world like Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia and Mexico.

UNEP sponsors the Marshlands project in Middle East that helps to protect the largest marshland in 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.[8]

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 vibrant programme for young people known as Tunza. Within this program are other projects like the AEO for Youth.[citation needed]

Glaciers shrinking

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.[9]

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 industry, science, politics and non-government organizations discussed solutions for future road transportation under the motto of "Sustainable Mobility–the Post-2012 CO2 Agenda".[10]

See also


Further reading

External links

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