Time Line of major initiatives on the environment

Major international initiatives on the environment

  • 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. This set up the International Whaling Commission (IWC) which attempts to preserve Great Whales by upholding an international moratorium on whaling.

  • 1950 World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established as a specialized agency of the UN for meteorology (weather and climate) and related geophysical sciences.

  • 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which set aside Antarctica, Earth’s only continent without a native human population, as a scientific preserve.

  • 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) in Stockholm, which laid the foundations for environmental action at an international level and prepared the way for the launch of the UN’s Environmental Programme (UNEP).

  • 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which aimed to ensure that international trade in wildlife and plants does not threaten their survival.

  • 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which defined the rights and responsibilities of countries in their use of the world’s oceans and established guidelines for businesses, the environment and the management of marine natural resources (entered into force in 1994).

  • 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, which confirmed the existence of the Arctic ‘ozone hole’, and attempted to reduce the use of CFC gasses (entered into force in 1987).

  • 1987 Brundtland Commission Report, which highlighted the idea of sustainable development.

  • 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which provided for the phasing out of CFCs with the goal of the ozone layer having recovered by 2050.

  • 1988 International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) established, which reports on the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC).

  • 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro and commonly called the ‘Earth Summit’, which included conventions on climate change and biodiversity and established the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).

  • 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the FCCC, which established a legally binding commitment by developed states to limit greenhouse gas emissions in a phased process. (Entered into force in 2005 with the first commitment period being 2008–12).

  • 2009 The UN Climate Change Conference, commonly known as the Copenhagen Summit, convened to formulate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

  • 2016 UN Climate Change Conference/Paris COP 21 Summit : the agreement was the first to achieve commitment from all states to cut carbon emissions. Fewer differences were allowed between developed and developing states. The agreement was partly legally binding and partly voluntary. States agreed to an ambitious pledge to prevent global temperature from rising above 2°C this century. There was more funding to help developing states play their part in tackling climate change.

  • 2021 Glasgow COP26, was the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference: On 13 November 2021, the participating 197 countries agreed a new deal, known as the Glasgow Climate Pact, aimed at staving off dangerous climate change. The final agreement explicitly mentions coal, which is the single biggest contributor to climate change. Previous COP agreements have not mentioned coal, oil or gas, or even fossil fuels in general, as a driver, or major cause of climate change, making the Glasgow Climate Pact the first ever climate deal to explicitly plan to reduce unabated coal power.