United Nations Environmental Programme


Welcome to the fall 2008 high school Model United Nations conference held at Baylor University! We are very happy to have you here and in the UNEP Committee. Conference can be a challenging time and succeeding will require hard work and dedication from all delegates. This conference will also be an exciting time as we simulate the diplomatic actions of the United Nations, and UNEP Committee.  This study guide is to aid you as you prepare to best represent your countries and solve global problems in the UNEP Committee.  The UNEP agency has been in existence since 1972 and is a very important part of the UN as it represents the environment with the system (“United Nations Environmental Programme”).  This year the topics for this committee are:

  1. What affects will global climate change pose for State health care systems?
  2. How can the UNEP help develop International cooperation methods to tackle environmental crime?
  3. How can the UNEP stop the exporting of hazardous waste or material from developed to developing nation states?

In the United Nation Environmental Programme Committee, you will be expected to be very knowledgeable on all three of these topics, how they are affecting the environment, as well as on how the State you are representing views these issues. We wish you the best at conference good luck in your research and preparation.

Sincerely yours,
The UNEP Committee Chairs

History of the United Nations Environmental Programme


The United Nations Environmental Programme was founded in 1972, at the UN Conference for Human Environment, due to the realization of the need for an agency within the UN (rather than just specialized agency outside of he UN)  to specifically address environmental issues, at both “global and regional levels”( “United Nations Environmental Programme”). This conference recognized the need for sustainable development, the large impact of environmental problems upon all people, and urged global leaders to support the development of policies and practice which protected the environment and therefore the lives of the people (“UNEP Organization Profile”).  UNEP works with various organizations, agencies, and governments, inside and outside of the United Nations to promote in order to fulfill its UNEP mission statement which is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations” (“UNEP Organization Profile”).

The global headquarters for UNEP is in Nairobi, Kenya, giving the agency a home where they can easily understand the environmental problems in developing countries as well as monitor the effects on the environment in these countries (“United Nations Environmental Programme”). There are also six regional offices for the UNEP, on in each of the following cities: Bangkok, Thailand (Asia/ Pacific), Washington D.C., USA (North America), Geneva Switzerland (Europe), Mexico City, Mexico (Latin America/Caribbean), and Manama, Bahrain (West Asia) (“United Nations Environmental Programme”).

 The General Assembly, which UNEP reports to through the Economic and Social Council, votes on the 58 countries on the governing council which serve four terms and have “equitable regional representation” (“UNEP Organization Profile”). The UNEP is also split into eight divisions “to promote and facilitate sound environmental management for sustainable development” which are: Early Warning and Assessment, Policy Development and Law, Environmental Policy, Implementation, Technology, Industry and Economics, Regional Cooperation, Environmental, Conventions, Communications and Public Information, and Global Environment Facility (GEF) Coordination (“United Nations Environmental Programme”).

Functions and Objectives

Through its various divisions, the UNEP helps create environmental policies and enlightens the international community, as well as individual governments and organizations, to the environmental problems arising, encouraging action be taken. The GEO or Global Environmental Outlook is one such example works produced with help by UNEP (“UNEP Organization Profile”). UNEP also helps develop international treaties governing the use and disposal of chemicals. An example of such a treaty was the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer ,which was created to protect the ozone layer  and agreed upon in 1987, being put into effect in 1989 (“UNEP Organization Profile”) . UNEP also has energy programs to deal with the consequences air pollution,  and climate change. The committee is addresses the issues to “renewable energy, energy efficiency, transport, energy finance, and policy issues” (“United Nations Environmental Programme”).  UNEP also makes environmental date available to both the public and private sector so that there is sufficient information in order to plan for sustainable development (“United Nations Environmental Programme”).

Important Changes and Highlights of UNEP Work

In the recent history of UNEP, one most important conferences it has held was the 1992 Conference on Environment and Development or  Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (“UNEP Organization Profile”). This conference was to examine progress made since previous conferences, such as the Stockholm conference, as well as find to way to promote and implement sustainable development in the environment. From this conference came UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity, and Agenda 21 which is the 21st century’s “action program for building sustainable development” and is a “groundbreaking synthesis of social, economic and environmental elements into a single policy framework” giving” new impetus and importance to the work of UNEP” (“UNEP Organization Profile”).

At the Millennium Summit in 2000 a list of “measurable targets” were created and called Millennium Development Goals. Environmental sustainability was a large underlying factor in the ability to reach any if all of the goals (“UNEP Organization Profile”).


As other agencies within the United Nations represent people, the UNEP represents the world as it cries out to be heard and protected. With the Millennium Goals in place as guidelines and goals for UNEP work, and sustainable development at the top of list, what can be done to solve the issues presented at this conference? What should be the main concern as far as environmental challenges? What action can be taken regionally or individually by nations and what needs to be addressed at a global level? Assessing the progress made, what policies can be implemented to  further protection and sustainable development? How can your country play its part in protecting the global and regional environment, and help UNEP reach its stated goals?


Topic I: What effects will global climate change pose for state healthcare systems?


Global climate change is a topic that has saturated the media throughout the twentieth century. It is an issue that has been highly politicized and debated on both the national and global level for numerous reasons. In attempts to determine and control the future severity of this issue, scientists in every field have worked tirelessly to determine possible causes for this phenomenon. One of the main causes associated with this increase in the median global temperature is the increased level of green house gas emitted into the atmosphere annually. Other scientist and geological historians argue that global temperature fluctuation is a natural occurrence, and any extinction derivative of this cycle is keeping with the tradition of the earth’s natural progression.

Regardless of one’s ability to embrace a physical cause for this event, we must address the way that the trend of global temperature increase will affect the health of the humans that inhabit this earth. The affects of climate change will undoubtedly differ from region to region. Also the proposed economic and technological capabilities of each state require consideration when attempting to place a value on the burden caused both directly and indirectly by climate change. Most vulnerable to any rise in the world’s average temperature are the impoverished developing nations of the global south. These countries will be disproportionately less capable of controlling and treating any disease whose transmission is strengthened by the lengthening of their warm seasons.

Addressing this issue

The reversion to a system of damage control is what the international community is left to when addressing the proposed causes of this global phenomenon. One of the primary causes, argued by leading scientists form all disciplines, is the level of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year. This is argued to be responsible for trapping heat in the atmosphere that would usually be expelled in a natural reflection. This causes a subtle convection process that gradually results in an increase in the global temperature average. Currently there is a trend in America towards energy conservation through the infiltration of Hybrid vehicle technology into mainstream America through increased affordability compared to the rising cost of fuel.

Another way that the UNEP has attempted to address the future imposed by an increase in temperature, is the recommendation of national healthcare reform. This serves to ensure that each nation will be equipped to address any logistical issues that may accompany the increased outbreaks of diseases or food shortages as a result of regional droughts. Countries are advised to take actions now that will limit the severity of such increases.

Kyoto Protocol

The most widespread multinational attempt at regulating this global climate change is a treaty called the Kyoto Protocol. This places prospective limits on the amount of carbon emissions a state may release into the atmosphere. This protocol is strengthened by the fact that it has been ratified by 170 nations. The United States rejected the ratification of this emissions restricting protocol citing the uneven economical burden faced by developed nations compared to the large undeveloped nations such as China and India. The Kyoto Protocol continues to be a heated issue dividing both scientists and economists. It is greatly weakened by America’s lack of participation, though the U.S. openly seeks to refine this instrument to level the global economic burden experienced by its parties.

Stanford University case study; Health and Amenity Effects of Global Warming

 Stanford University has released a study titled “Health and Amenity Effects of Global Warming,” it outlines some of the basic health issues that would be associated with an increase in the average global temperature. It places an emphasis on the effects that this increase would have on America and those countries that experience similar climates and economic systems. Some of the main problems addressed in this study are heat related illnesses, and a spike in insect born diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. Through studying the death rates of affected countries, they find a loose correlation with hot weather and the mortality rate. It actually claims a general health benefit associated with a gradual temperature increase. It states, however, that nations that lack development will need to equip themselves with a means to treat and control the increase in disease. That said, the relatively undetectable longer warm season will not prove to pose great effects upon the health of the adaptable human species.


Leading scientists have concluded that limiting the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the environment would drastically reduce the effects of global warming. Thus, the UNEP stresses the importance of the eventual development of a workable form of the Kyoto Protocol. This is a crucial factor in hindering the further warming of our earth’s atmosphere. Larger developed nations cite the portions of this treaty that hold the potential for hindering their economy while nations such as China continue unregulated. The establishment of equal parameters for all capable nations will allow countries to join free from the fear that they would be voluntarily placing themselves at an economic disadvantage. Respecting the sovereignty of each nation prevents the implementation of global healthcare reform of any kind. Addressing the affects of global climate change lies in the successful restriction of global carbon emission. Thus, the Kyoto Protocol offers the greatest potential for minimizing the effects humanity has on climate change.

Topic II: How can the UNEP help develop International cooperation methods to tackle environmental crime?

“The last three decades have seen the rapid development of a framework of multilateral environmental agreements.  Over 200 already exist, and several more are currently under negotiation at the global and regional levels.  During this period, UNEP’s primary focus, too, has been in the development of international environmental law; it has facilitated, inspired, spearheaded and played a catalytic role in the development of several soft law and hard law instruments.  Now UNEP’s important task will be the further advancement and enhancement of the implementation of agreed international norms and policies and monitoring and fostering compliance with environmental principles and international agreements” (“UNEP/GC.21/INF/5”).

Developing methods for tackling environmental crime is significant because it aims to ensure effective implementation of the existing multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) developed by Governments in the past several decades. This purpose is relevant to the UNEP because it is the voice of the environment in the UN and serves as a catalyst, advocate, educator and facilitator to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment (“About UNEP”). Criminal activities undermine the effectiveness of environmental agreements and national legislation. Hence there is a need to ensure effective enforcement of and compliance with multilateral environmental agreements and national legislation.  Only recently have provisions on monitoring and evaluation been included in international environmental agreements.  This is a trend bound to continue as new environmental agreements are developed.  In recent years, however, Governments have refocused their attention towards the implementation and enforcement of multilateral environmental agreements(“UNEP/GC.21/INF/5”).

Past efforts in addressing environmental crime

One of the most significant efforts toward the development of methods for tackling environmental crime was the Global Ministerial Environmental Forum held in Nairobi in February of 2001 (“Transnational Environmental Crime”). This summit produced the widest array of propositions for solving the problem of environmental crime. The discussion, however, did not entirely establish several key defining factors necessary to truly address the issue of crime. The primary problem discovered by the assembly was the inconsistency of laws within the individual states negatively impacting the ability for interstate relations to develop mutually honored laws (“Transnational Environmental Crime).

Building on Previous Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs)

Any viable solution to the problem of affective method for addressing environmental crime must take into consideration the variety and extent of international agreements that define the crimes that must be fought.  To build upon the foundation of the most significant MEAs developed to this point will fully rectify any questions of the definition of law and allow full freedom in the development of actions to combat the breaching of these agreements (“UNEP/GC.21/INF/5”).Certain states have not agreed to past multilateral agreements, so it is also necessary that one considers ways to encourage the acceptance of environmental law in addition to avenues in the persecution of the violation of these MEAs (“Transnational Environmental Crime”).

The most significant MEAs established by UNEP include those that impact each of the following primary facets of environmental concern:


Global Biodiversity

Chemicals and Wastes


Oceans, Seas & Water


The division of the international community in the development of solutions to environmental crime is primarily due to questions of economic strain issues (“UNEP/GC.21/INF/5”). In developing countries, there is hostility towards any perceived threat to the development of industry in the state. This concern extends also to well established countries, when there is a perceived harm to the economic situation of the state that looks to be imminent given any particular restrictions established out of environmental concern(“About UNEP”).Addressing these concerns is key to developing any methods of international cooperation, and must be fully resolved in order to stimulate any protection for the environment. In this way, developing international methods for tackling environmental crime is dependent on several defined issues that must be entirely resolved in order to institute any steps moving toward the future.

Topic III: How can the UNEP stop the exporting of hazardous waste or material from developed to developing nation states?

Issue History

Since early in the 20th century, due to the incredible growth in both industrial and scientific maturation, the international community as a whole has suffered from chemical exposures. 155 Since its formation The United Nations Environment Programme has been diligently working with the international community to improve the chaotic management of each member states chemical resources. 156 UNEP states that sub-par management of hazardous chemicals is predominantly a by-product of weak policies, in the both institutional and legal communities. Because chemicals play such a pertinent role concerning people’s living standards, particularly related to clean drinking water and many forms of disease eradication, chemical management has become a top priority in the UNEP. Moreover, the fundamental purpose of the UNEP is to promote a universally perpetuated clean environment. The UNEP’s Chemical Branch primarily focuses on the UNEP’s direct role dealing with containment and handling of hazardous chemicals. 158 There are three essential elements of Chemical Management that the UNEP’s Chemical Management Brach endorses to relay the magnitude of the situations potential. The three initiatives are the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management, Mercury Programme, and Lead and Cadmium. Each of these components plays a crucial role in bettering the lives of those suffering from disease or living conditions without clean drinking water.

155 Implementing the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals, 2006, Implementing SAICM: the importance of and responsibility for implementing SAICM

156 Ibid.

158 Ibid.

Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management

One of UNEP’s primary initiative concerning Chemical Management is the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM), which is founded on three core materials: the Dubai Declaration, the Overarching Policy Strategy, and a Global Plan of Action. Each of the mentioned texts laid the foundation of SAICM, with each playing a distinctive role. SAICM was decided on at the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM) 6 February 2006 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. SAICM acts as a guideline for the international communitys action addressing chemical hazards. Its creation was put forth so that by the year 2020, chemicals will be developed and handled through approaches that devolve significant lethal effects on the environment and on human health.

Mercury Programme Case Study

The UNEP’s Mercury Branch was established in 2006, its primary intention was to raise the awareness of mercury pollution hazards through regional workshops. 204 In addition to regional workshops, the UNEP’s Mercury Programme assists Member States to detect, comprehend, and apply actions to defuse mercury threats within their borders. The Global Mercury Assessment reports the toxicity level of mercury and its impacts can vary due to the mercury’s form. 205 However, no matter the toxicity of the mercury and the form that it is distributed; it has great impact both on human health and the environment. Various methods which mercury travels into the human body are through: consuming fish, using skin-lightening creams, and soaps that contains mercury. Based on the Global Mercury Assessment report, the Governing Council decided that the report maintained thorough evidence to show that mercury is hazardous to human health and the environment. Moreover, in considering the Assessment report, the council settled that the international community should lead action in the national, regional, and global arenas to holistically dampen short and long term implications.

Lead and Cadmium Case Study

The UNEP Chemical Management Branch decided in February of 2007 to take on a number of facets relating to lead and cadmium. 203 Prior to this arrangement, the Chemical Management Branch had exerted efforts in developing scientific data on lead and cadmium, particularly “focusing on long-range environmental transport in order to inform any future decisions of the Governing Council on the possible global action that are related to lead and cadmium.” 189 Proclamations by the UNEP’s Chemical Management Branch at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 concluded that the Programme the elimination of leaded petrol universally by 2008. 193 The 2006 Report of the First Meeting of the Lead and Cadmium Working Group reveals the scientific discoveries of the health affects of both lead and cadmium towards both the human body and the environment. 204 The report views evidence that both lead and cadmium are hazardous to the human body and the environment. Cadmium, which is a toxic chemical that affects the skeleton system of humans, is typically inhaled. 207 Lead based substances are also typically inhaled, but the severity of their implications has not been accurately assessed.


Evolution of technology and industry has lifted Chemical Management to one of the most pressing issues of the 20th and 21st century to be addressed.  The United Nations Environmental Programme takes on circumstances that effect the environment and the human body population. Bearing in mind the short-term and long-term implications of the three issues addressed, Delegates and Member States must exert greater effort to create much needed solutions to potentially destitute circumstances.

Works cited