Environmental Science 101
International Environmental Agreement
a.k.a. Environmental Protocol
Bilateral agreements – treaty between two nations
Multilateral Agreement – treaty among three or more nations
International law treaty with the purpose of preventing and/or managing human impacts on natural environment or resources.
Primarily produced by the United Nations
Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, Vienna 1985
Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, Montreal 1987
1974 first published scientific hypotheses that chemicals we produced could harm the stratospheric ozone layer.
Ozone layer protects Earth against excessive ultraviolet radiation
Later confirmed that Chlorofluorocarbon gases (CFCs), could migrate to the stratosphere, remain intact for decades to centuries, and by releasing chlorine, break down the ozone layer.
States agree to cooperate in relevant research and scientific assessments of the ozone problem, to exchange information, and to adopt “appropriate measures” to prevent activities that harm the ozone layer.
Contain no specific limits on chemicals that deplete the ozone layer.
Controls production and consumption of specific chemicals:
CFCs, halons, fully Halogenated CFCs (HCFCs), methyl bromide, and similar chemicals.
Sets specific targets for reduction and a timetable.
All UN nations have ratified these Protocols, except Kosovo and Palestine.
Impact of Montreal Protocol
Atmospheric levels of CFCs and related chlorinated hydrocarbons have leveled off or decreased.
Total ozone depletion has slowed significantly, but continues to decline.
Reasons for this are unknown, but may be related to global warming or emissions of unknown short-lived ozone depleting chemicals.
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), New York, 1992
Goal to achieve: “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” (Article 2)
Developed countries listed in Annex I commit themselves to the objective to limit anthropogenic emissions of GHGs with the aim of returning individually or jointly to their 1990 levels of emissions.
UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol, Japan 1997
Introduced market-based mechanisms for Annex I Parties to meet the new rigorous commitments.
Joint Implementation: transfer of emission reduction units between Annex I Parties.
Clean Development Mechanism: financing of emission reduction projects in non-Annex I Parties.
Emission Trading: emission trading for the purpose of fulfilling their commitments.
Implementation and regular review of national policies aimed at energy efficiency, protection and enhancement of [carbon] sinks, and the promotion of sustainable forms of agriculture.
Emission limitation commitments of 6 greenhouse gases
Carbon dioxide (C02)
Nitrous oxide (N20)
Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)
UNFCCC Paris Agreement, France 2015
Article 2: Enhancing the implementation of the UNFCCC
(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;
(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.
Non-legally binding emphasis on consensus-building,
Allows for voluntary and nationally determined targets.
Climate goals are thus politically encouraged
There are no legal mitigation or finance targets
The agreement is considered an "executive agreement rather than a treaty".
Because the UNFCCC treaty of 1992 received the consent of the Senate, this new agreement does not require further legislation from Congress for it to take effect.
If the goals are voluntary, why did Trump file a petition for withdrawal from the Agreement?
Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Under Water, 1963
Undertakes to permanently prohibit and prevent any nuclear weapon test explosion, or any other nuclear explosion in the atmosphere, in outer space, under water, or in any other environment if such explosion causes radioactive debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the State under whose jurisdiction or control such explosion is conducted.
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, 1996
Bans all nuclear weapon test explosions.
U.S. signed the treaty, has not yet ratified the treaty.
Wildlife & Habitat Initiatives
Antarctic Treaty, Washington DC, 1959
Sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation and bans military activity on the continent.
World Heritage Convention, 1972
World Heritage Site must be unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance.
Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), Washington DC, 1973
Aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species in the wild.
International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW), Washington, 1946
Provides for the proper conservation of whale stocks. It governs the commercial, scientific, and aboriginal subsistence whaling practices of fifty-nine member nations.
Marine Pollution Initiatives
Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention), London, 1972
Agreement to control pollution of the sea by dumping. It covers the deliberate disposal at sea of wastes or other matter from vessels, aircraft, and platforms.
International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, 1978
An effort to minimize pollution of the oceans and seas, including dumping, oil and air pollution. The objective of this convention is to completely eliminate pollution by oil and minimize accidental spillage.