List of Important Environment Treaties, Conventions & Protocols

Here is a list of all major environmental treaties, conventions, and protocols that came into existence since the beginning of the 20th century. This will also help you to derive an idea about the development of major environment-related legislation in different countries of the world.

Environment Treaties, Conventions & Protocols
Name Signed Objective Additional Information
Paris Agreement 2015 It is a legally binding treaty on climate change. Its long-term aim is to limit the global average temperature to well below 2°Celsius (preferably 1.5°Celsius) above pre-industrial levels
  • It is an agreement within UNFCCC
  • It has been signed by 195 parties as of May 2021
  • The United States withdrew from the Agreement under Trump’s leadership in 2020. However, it rejoined in 2021 under Joe Biden’s government
Minamata Convention 2013 An international treaty designed for the protection of the environment and human health from the harmful effects of mercury and its compounds
  • Came into force in 2017
  • As of June 2021, 128 parties have signed this global treaty
  • This treaty comes under the aegis of United Nations Environment program (UNEP)
  • It deals with entire life cycle of mercury from its mining to trade, storage and disposal
Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 2010 As the name suggests, it deals with implementation of one of the three CBD objectives that is fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources leading to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity
  • Came into force in 2014
  • As of October 2020, 127 UN member countries along with European Union has ratified the protocol
Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants 2001 Eliminate or Restrict the Use and Production of Persistent Organic Pollutants
  • Came into force in 2004
  • Convention ratified by 183 countries & European Union
  • The convention initially recognized 12 POPs called the “dirty dozen” responsible for adverse effects on environment under its three categories-pesticides, industrial chemicals and by-products. In 2017, 17 more POPs were added
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety 2000 It is a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity which aims to protect the biological diversity from the risks posed by genetically modified organisms
  • Adopted as a result of significant bio-technological advancements
  • Deals with movement of Living Modified Organisms also called LMOs (developed using the modern technology) from one nation to another
  • Provision of Advanced Informed Agreement before agreeing to import LMOs
  • Setting up of Biosafety Clearing House (BCH) to enable information exchange on LMOs
Rotterdam Convention 1998 Promotion of shared responsibilities in relation to importation of hazardous chemicals. It promotes open exchange of information and calls on exporters of hazardous chemicals to use proper labeling, safe handling and dissemination of information to the purchaser regarding any restriction or ban
  • Came into force in 2004
  • As of October 2018, 158 UN member countries, Cook Islands, the State of Palestine, and the European Union
  • United States not a member state
Kyoto Protocol 1997 The treaty extended the objectives of UNFCCC. Set emission targets for state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Based on the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring and the human-made carbon dioxide is responsible for it
  • Came into force in 2005
  • 192 members (As of 2020)
  • Canada withdrew in 2012 & United States never ratified
  • It is based on the principal of common but differentiated responsibilities
Convention of Desertification 1994 To Combat Desertification and Mitigate the Effects of Drought through National Action Programs particularly in dryland areas where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and people are found
  • It is one of the three Rio Convention. Other two are Convention on Biological Diversity and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
Convention on Biological Diversity 1993 Three main Objectives:

  1. Conservation of Biological Diversity
  2. Sustainable Use of Components of Biological Diversity
  3. Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from genetic resources
  • Also known as Biodiversity Convention and key document on sustainable development
  • Under the aegis of UNEP
  • 196 States are party to this treaty
  • The most important treaty on biodiversity. It is responsible for conservation of biological diversity globally
  • Cartagena Protocol (2000) and Nagoya Protocol (2010) are supplementary agreements to this multilateral treaty
Agenda 21 1992 Action agenda for the UN that can be executed at local, national and global level
  • It is non-binding in nature.
  • Result of Rio Earth Summit 1992.
  • “21” in Agenda-21 denotes 21st Century.
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 1992 To Stabilize Greenhouse Gas Concentration in Atmosphere and combat dangerous human interference with the climate system
  • Came to force in 1994
  • Established a secretariat in Bonn (Germany)
  • Signed in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) at UN Conference on Environment & Development (UNCED), also known as Earth Summit
  • Kyoto Protocol was the first implementation under UNFCCC
Bamako Convention 1991 It bans the importation into Africa and the control of trans boundary movement and management of hazardous waste (including radioactive) within Africa.
  • Treaty of African Nations
  • Failure of Basel Convention (Reduction of movement of hazardous was in least developed countries) led to negotiation of Bamako Convention in Mali in 1991
Basel Convention 1989 To Reduce the Movements of Hazardous Waste between nations, specifically transfer of Hazardous Waste from Developed to Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
  • Does not address radioactive substances
  • As of 2018, 199 states and the SAARC are parties to the convention
Brundtland Report 1987 The report is credited for redefining “economic development” in terms of “sustainable development”.
  • It is officially titled as “Our Common Future”
  • Called Brundtland Report after the then chair of World Commission of Environment & Development which was responsible for publication of this report under the aegis of the United Nations
Montreal Protocol 1987 Agreement to Protect the Ozone Layer by phasing out Production and Consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) like Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) and Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC)
  • Structured around several groups of halogenated hydrocarbons responsible for depleting the ozone layer
  • All ODS under this protocol contains either chlorine or bromine. Substances with fluorine do not deplete ozone layer
  • Nitrous Oxide, despite being an ODS, not yet included under this protocol
Vienna Convention 1985 Established framework for international cooperation in addressing ozone depletion.
  • Multilateral Environment Agreement which was agreed in 1985 and eventually came into force in 1988
  • It laid down principles agreed upon by many parties but it did not take control actions for protection of ozone layer. Thus, the issue was in Montreal Protocol
Nairobi Declaration 1985 Agreement Between the Parties to work for the Prosperity of Western Indian Ocean Region
  • Came into force in 1996
  • UN Environment’s Regional Seas Programme
Bonn Convention 1979 Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals
  • Came into force in 1983
  • States and range states form where the migratory birds passes are brought together
  • Contains two appendixes – Appendix 1 deals with endangered species and Appendix 2 deals with species requiring conservation
UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 For Rights & Responsibilities of Nations for Use of Ocean Water and established Guidelines for Marine Natural Resources
  • Divides marine spaces into five maritime zones (Internal waters, terrestrial waters, Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone and High seas)
Barcelona Convention 1976 Protection of Mediterranean Sea from Pollution
  • Came into force in 1978
  • Amended and renamed in 1995 as C0nvention for the protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean
World Heritage Convention 1972 Defines the kind of natural & cultural sites which can be considered as World Heritage Site under UNESCO
  • Operational guidelines for implementation of the World Heritage Convention were issued in 1988
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands 1971 Framework for Conservation of Wetlands & their Resources, especially as Waterfowl Habitat
  • United Kingdom has largest number of Ramsar Sites (175)
  • Bolivia has largest area of listed wetlands
  • Ramsar Sites in India
Benzene convention 1971 Prevention from Toxic Substances arising from Benzene
CITES Convention 1963 CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora is a multilateral treaty for ensuring that international trade in specimens of wildlife animals and plants do not endanger their survival
Geneva Protocol 1925 Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare
  • Registered under League of Nations Treaty Series
  • Main elements of the protocol are now considered a part of customary international law
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