Multilateral Environmental Agreements
Multilateral Environmental Agreements
Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) are international agreements that are intended to promote international cooperation to address global environmental challenges that the world is facing today like climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution and waste. They are based on the understanding that, just as the causes and the consequences of environmental issues are global in nature, so too must be the solutions.
Multilateral Environmental Agreements are negotiated and agreed upon by member states of the United Nations at the international level, and each country is responsible for implementing the agreement at the national level. One of the most well-known Multilateral Environmental Agreements is the Paris Climate Agreement, which is a treaty of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or the UNFCC.
With its unique role as the peak environmental body of the United Nations, the UN Environment Programme leverages its convening power to play a leading role in developing, negotiating, and implementing a wide range of international environmental conventions and treaties and currently hosts 15 Multilateral Environmental Agreements.
Sustainable Consumption and Production across Multilateral Environmental Agreements
Unsustainable consumption and production is the underlying cause of the global crises that are being addressed by existing multilateral environmental agreements, namely climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution and waste.
There is no dedicated multilateral environmental agreement for sustainable consumption and production, however it is a cross-cutting area for many other agreements. There is the potential for sustainable consumption and production to facilitate work across different multilateral environmental agreement, including the Paris Agreement and the post-2020 global frameworks for both biodiversity and chemicals and waste.
The 10-Year Framework of Programmes, as well as SDG 12 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, provide the foundation for the multilateral cooperation needed to support the shift to sustainable patterns of consumption and production.
The importance of shifting to patterns of sustainable consumption and production is referenced within a number of Multilateral Environmental Agreements:
- Paris Climate Agreement, 2015, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
- “…sustainable patterns of consumption and production, with developed country Parties taking the lead, play an important role in addressing climate change..."
- Aichi Biodiversity Target 4, 2011-2020, Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD)
- “By 2020, at the latest, Governments, business and stakeholders at all levels have taken steps to achieve or have implemented plans for sustainable production and consumption and have kept the impacts of use of natural resources well within safe ecological limits.”
- Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, 1989
- “..the reduction and/or elimination of production of hazardous wastes and other wastes…”
Achieving Multilateral Environmental Agreement Targets through Sustainable Consumption and Production
References across international agreements illustrate a recognition of the need for sustainable consumption and production to address the planetary crises of climate, biodiversity and pollution.
Equally, the mandate of the global agreement of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes makes explicit reference to how cooperation on sustainable consumption and production should contribute to the implementation of targets and goals under Multilateral Environmental Agreements:
- 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production, 2012, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development
- “The 10-year framework should affirm a common vision that […] serves as a tool to support […] the implementation of targets and goals agreed under relevant multilateral environmental agreements”
The synergy is clear: achieving sustainable consumption and production contributes to overcoming these planetary crises and addressing these environmental threats can only be achieved through transitioning to sustainable consumption and production.
The results of the One Planet network annual reporting demonstrate this synergy between the goals of achieving sustainable consumption and production and achieving the targets of Multilateral Environmental Agreements.
A large number of the tools and solutions on sustainable consumption and production that are developed and applied across the One Planet network support the implementation of Multilateral Environmental Agreements. The annual SDG 12.1.1 reporting by Member States also shows that many sustainable consumption and production policy instruments are contributing to the achievement of multilateral environmental agreements.
Of sustainable consumption and production policy instruments reported by countries under SDG 12.1.1:
- Over 50% contribute to SDG 13 on climate change
- Over 30% contribute to SDG 15 on biodiversity and ecosystems
- 23% contribute to SDG 14 on oceans, seas and marine resources
- Circular economy & waste reduction are high on the agenda with numerous policy instruments, 30% of which target plastic pollution
Mainstreaming Sustainable Consumption and Production across international environmental frameworks
Multilateral Environmental Agreements offer a valuable opportunity to mainstream sustainable consumption and production approaches and solutions, including circular economy and resource efficiency, to achieve internationally-agreed objectives.
Embedding resource efficiency and circular economy policies into nationally-determined contributions (NDCs), for example, can advance the ambition of the Paris Agreement, while circularity and waste prevention and reduction can contribute to achieving national chemical and waste strategies. Targeted initiatives with Multilateral Environmental Agreements could help achieve SDG 12 on 'ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns' and its targets.
The 10-Year Framework of Programmes provides a common space to enhance implementation through: distributing knowledge such as policies and tools; building on the work of the One Planet network programmes; and engaging with other key alliances, initiatives and platforms.