Frequently Asked Questions - What are the main international policy spaces for environmental sustainability?

There are a number of policies, processes and initiatives working on issues relating to environmental sustainability at the global level. These include the UNFCC, which hosts the Conference of Parties (COP), the FAO, the UNDP, UNESCO, the Basel Convention, the UNDP,and UNEP, which together with the World Meteorological Organization, founded the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In June 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), also referred to as Rio+20, will be held, with key themes of ‘the green economy’ and developing an ‘institutional framework for sustainable development’.

A list of international environmental agreements can be found here.

The UNFCC is an international environmental treaty produced at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) also known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio, 1992.

Since the UNFCCC entered into force, the parties have been meeting annually in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change, and beginning in the mid-1990s, to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol to establish legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Green Climate Fund is an initiative intended to aid developing nations deal with climate change. The Fund intends to gather pledges from developed countries to provide money for developing countries dealing with the costs of climate change. Sources of financing are still under discussion and private entities may be included as contributors.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is an initiative that seeks to reduce GHG emissions. The guideline aims at reductions through protection of forested areas from deforestation (the permanent removal of trees) and forest degradation (other damage done to forested areas). Although GHG emissions are the primary goal, REDD+ also encourages protection of biodiversity, and poverty alleviation.

Essentially, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) allows developed countries to offset their carbon emissions by funding projects that would reduce emissions in developing countries. In this way, developing countries may develop more sustainably, while developed countries meet their emission targets. Since its inception, the CDM has been criticized for its overall efficiency, as well as for funding unsustainable and sometimes fraudulent activity. There have also been concerns over the exclusion of forest conservation, which led to the development of REDD+.

Carbon credits are part of the carbon market, traded using emissions trading schemes (ETS). The intention is to allow market forces to guide corporate entities to actions that would reduce their emissions, as opposed to imposing regulation.

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