United Nations Conference on Human Environment gave birth to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) in the year 1972. It is known as the coordinating body for the United Nations’ environmental activities. It identifies and analyses the global environmental problems by developing regional and international environmental programs and conventions, early warning and assessment of environmental policy implementation, technology,… Read More »

United Nations Conference on Human Environment gave birth to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) in the year 1972. It is known as the coordinating body for the United Nations’ environmental activities.

It identifies and analyses the global environmental problems by developing regional and international environmental programs and conventions, early warning and assessment of environmental policy implementation, technology, industry and ecosystem, regional cooperation, environmental law, conventions, communication and public information and global environment facility coordination- the seven divisions of this organ that work to influence the various aspects of environmental protection [1].

I. Introduction

In the year 2015, the United Nations adopted sustainable development goals with all its member states to eradicate poverty and ensure prosperity for all agreed by all countries unanimously.

These 17 goals are the agenda for sustainable development where the most important goals are climate crisis and working for the preservation of the environment.

They include:

  • The aim to develop environmental curricula and green collar skill sets to support universities with on-campus advocacy and the green campus network under SDG 4
  • Protection and restoration of freshwater ecosystem and supports countries with monitoring and reporting
  • It aims to improve energy efficiency and also trying to increase the use of renewable in their countries and cities under SDG 7.
  • It tries to do economic growth from resource depletion and environmental degradation under SDG 8.
  • It supports the development of low emission resilient and resources efficient urban areas under SDG 11.
  • Combat with marine pollution under SDG 14
  • Protection and restoration of wildlife and ecosystem and promote sustainable use of natural resources under SDG 15.
  • Combat with climate change and marine pollution also address the crisis of forest degradation under SDG 13
  • Enforcement of effective laws to prevent environmental crimes. [2]

II. UNEP: Success or Failure?

Though the United Nation Environmental Programme can claim to have some success, it is a failure more than a success. It is proved by the UNEP report that shows us despite having several environmental laws since the year of 1972, it totally failed in case of implementation and enforcement to mitigate the climate change reducing pollution and to prevent the extinction of species and widespread habitat loss.

The report also shows us a shocking picture that between 2002 to 2013, almost 908 people were killed in 35 countries who are responsible to protect the environment which includes forest rangers government inspectors, and local activists. Almost 197 environmental defenders were murdered only in the year of 2017. Lack of accountability, strong environmental governance, and respect for human rights for the sustainability of our environment is the main reason for this report according to one indigenous rights activist and environmental defender Joan Carlin from Philippines [3].

According to the United Nation Report of the year, 2007, the future generation is at risk for failing to address environmental problems including climate change. United Nation Environment Programme warns that governments are still failing to recognize the seriousness of these issues and the impact would be in the future. The study shows us that more than 1,400 scientists found that each person needs a third more land to supply their needs than a planet can supply. Now biodiversity is in such risk from human activity that about 30 % of amphibians, 23 % of mammals and 12 % of birds are under the threat of extinction [4].

At the end of the year 2013, this organization stated that it is now working upon to reduce emissions and efforts are inadequate so their current pledges are to limit warming to 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. As per the report prepared with the assistance of Germans, the annual emission needs to be cut 12 % in 2010 that is equivalent to 44 gigatonnes of CO2 by 2020. This is happening due to the rapid growth of industrial countries in the past decade that illustrates their key role to address climate change.

So to combat this issue, the UNEP stated that they need to reduce emissions by 7.6% every year from today up to 2030. It is important to prevent warming beyond 1.5 degree Celsius Because the reduction of emissions is impossible and can be the toughest job in the next 5 years. It increases 15.5% every year so the global temperature will rise beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius and it would be a devastating impact on coral reefs and so on. It also causes the rapid growth of wildfires that is near to 8100 in California but it breaches and causes 70 % of coral loss and rapid loss of polar bears [5].

Due to the rapid growth of wildfires, droughts and the increasing number of migrants driven from their homes by land degradation and food insecurity, it led to the destruction of forests but the forest restoration project of UNEP helped to restore 40 % of forests to use for the agricultural purpose. This can be considered as a great success of UNEP [6].

It has been reported in the year 2013 in Nairobi that environmental crimes are increasing rapidly from the illegal trade in wildlife and timber and smuggling of ozone-depleting substances to the illicit trade that is affecting all sectors of society but mostly the exploitation of indigenous community, money laundering corruption and international criminal syndicates.

The study found that USD 15 TO 20 $ are only coming from wildlife crime alone which is recognized as the most successful illegal trade after drugs, human trafficking and trade armaments among the world. To prevent this INTERPOL and UN bodies such as the UN Office of Drugs and Crime have started to work on and UNEP is supporting their activities and the evolution of rule of law into the realm of environment and sustainability [7].

After this incident, in Johannesburg, the largest ever conference took place for world wildlife named as 17th Conference of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora to combat against illegal wildlife trade which not only includes species but their parts and ivory [8]

Due to the lack of proper implementation of the CITES, the major United Nations meeting held on wildlife that addresses critical threats to migratory species in Gandhi Nagar, Gujarat, it has been discussed to adopt a new biodiversity strategy for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework [9].

The ocean is now being degraded by human activities that harm the marine life and the coastal communities. Recently the Mauritius oil spill cases destroy a number of coral reefs marine lives etc. Just two months before, the UNEP initiated the International coral reef initiative and adopted a recommendation to safeguard the future of coral reefs. As per recent data, it supports almost at least half a billion people and about a quarter of all marine life with food security. It can give a service of about 2.7 million dollars. Now coral reefs come under the endangered species due to climate crisis and human activities [10]

III. Conclusion

UNEP is one of the younger institutions of the United Nations so it requires time to establish itself and get proper attention amongst other organisations. They need to set their own specific goals so that it is clear to other organizations what their main purpose is. UNEP needs to stop itself from being overburdened with more responsibilities. They need to focus on a particular problem first and solve it.

The main reason for its failure is the rapid growth of environmental laws with a lack of proper implementation. This causes environmental degradation and countries are also not following the guidelines of UNEP. It is quite obvious that laws, regulations and organizations cannot work alone if we as responsible human beings of this world are not able to implement those properly so to some extent we are also responsible

On the other hand, this organization should allow working independently, needs to get proper financial aid and support from the governments because as a newborn establishment, it does not have proper access with all fields of environmental issues and proper connection so it needs to connect with external stakeholders to help develop strategies and use them to their full potential. They need to create an awareness program and organise some training program with local participants and declare it as a mandatory task for every state. They need to implement strict penalty in case of violation of any given guidelines and if any member state is engaged with any activities that lead to environmental degradation

We all need to remember that as an organ of the United Nations, the UNEP is its greatest failure only because of us. We are the ones who can help this organ by providing all its necessary means so that we all can be a part of this beautiful journey, the journey towards a beautiful world [11].


[1] Brenna Gates: An Analysis of the UNEP Research Gate

[2]Available Here (https://www.unepenvironment.org/unga/our-position/unep-and-sustainable-development-goals (Last accessed on 17/11/20, at 3:15 pm)

[3] Available Here (Last accessed on 17/11/20 at 3:19 pm)

[4] Martin Hodgson, Environmental failures put humanity at risk TG 26th Oct 2007

[5] ED King, UNEP: Efforts to slow global warming are failing CLH NEWS 5/11/2013

[6] Available Here (Last accessed on17/11/2020, at 3: 40 pm )

[7] 5 Winners Take Home Environmental Enforcement Awards Service, Available Here (Last accessed on 17/11/2020 at 3:44 pm)

[8] Available Here ( Last accessed on 17/11/2020, at 3:52 PM)

[9] Major UN meeting on wildlife to address critical threats to migratory species, Available Here (Last accessed on 17/11/2020 at 3:54 pm)

[10] (Last accessed on 17/11/2020 at 4:13 pm )

[11] Supra Gates

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Updated On 6 Jan 2021 1:51 AM GMT
Saptaparni Raha

Saptaparni Raha

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