United Nations Environment Programme

Established in 1972 by the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the principal UN body that:

  • sets the global environmental agenda
  • promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the UN system

UNEP works on seven cross-cutting priorities:

  1. climate change
  2. chemicals, wastes and air quality
  3. healthy and productive ecosystems
  4. environmental governance
  5. resource efficiency
  6. resilience to disasters and conflicts
  7. environmental monitoring and review

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) is the governing and oversight body of UNEP and includes all 193 UN Member States (universal membership). UNEA was created in 2012 at Rio+20 and meets every 2 years to make strategic decisions and to instruct the UNEP Executive Director to act in priority areas. UNEA includes a ministerial segment and stakeholders’ participation.

UNEP has been instrumental in developing major international environmental instruments. It hosts the secretariats of several multilateral conventions, including:

  • Convention on Biological Diversity
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
  • Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer
  • Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
  • Basel Convention on Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes
  • Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in Trade
  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
  • Minamata Convention on Mercury

UNEP has also been instrumental in the creation of science-policy platforms like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) or the International Resource Panel and produces periodic flagship assessments like the Sixth Global Environment Outlook launched in 2019. UNEP also supports global voluntary initiatives, such as hosting the Secretariat of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, and establishes trust funds enabling contributors to allocate financial resources for international environmental work.

Canada actively engages with UNEP in many areas including plastics, biodiversity, chemicals, climate change and air pollution. Canada is a major contributor to both the CCAC and the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol and the host country for the Secretariats of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Multilateral Fund of the Montreal Protocol. In 2018, Canada was the 10th largest contributor to the voluntary Environment Fund of UNEP.

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