The environment is one of the five pillars of Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and is also playing an increasingly central role within the United Nations. Below is a brief introduction to this policy theme.
Consideration for the environment began at an international level with the Stockholm Conference of 1972 ("United Nations Conference on the Human Environment"). At this first major international conference on the environment, it was decided, among other things, to set up the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (for more information about UNEP, see this page).
Another important summit followed twenty years later with the “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (“United Nations Conference on Environment and Development”). At this summit, heads of state and government adopted the important Rio Principles, which remain valid to this day and are reflected in the work of the UN.
These include, among others:
- the right to development (paragraph 3)
- environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process (paragraph 4)
- common but differentiated responsibilities for environmental policy (section 7)
- the elimination of unsustainable patterns of production and consumption (paragraph 8)
- public participation (paragraph 10)
- precaution (P15)
The summit also provided the basis for the following major international treaties:
- United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the framework treaty under which the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement were later negotiated (for more information on these climate treaties, see this page);
- United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), the basis for international biodiversity policy (for more information on biodiversity issues, see this page); and
- United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which works on combatting desertification (for more information on this, see this page).
Twenty years after the Earth Summit, the Rio+20 Summit in Rio de Janeiro followed in 2012 ("United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development") followed, a milestone in the further progress of sustainable development and the environment at an inter-governmental level. This summit decided on a number of important measures and reforms which were included in the vision text "The Future We Want":
- The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were commissioned to replace the existing Millennium Development Goals. This eventually resulted in Agenda 2030, which was adopted in 2015. It was also decided to set up a High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which now provides the annual monitoring of Agenda 2030. For more information on this, see this page.
- The strengthening of the environmental pillar within the UN (UNEP) was mandated, inter alia, by establishing universal membership for UNEP, establishing the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) within UNEP and endorsing this organisation's standard-setting role within the UN system. For more information about UNEA, see this page.
- It was decided to develop a framework for financing sustainable development. This resulted in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for Financing for Development.
- A global programme on sustainable patterns of production and consumption has been established (the "10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns").
- Furthermore, there was a call for the development of a technology transfer facilitation mechanism.
- Finally, impetus was also given for the evaluation of our economies "beyond GDP" (GDP = gross domestic product).
Within the FPS Foreign Affairs, the MD8 multilateral environment debate is monitored by the MD8 directorate, which also monitors the same theme from the perspective of development cooperation.
The growing global pressure on limited natural resources and fragile ecosystems, combined with the effects of climate change, poses enormous new challenges to the world as a whole, but especially to the most vulnerable in developing countries.
The new Law on Development Cooperation of 19 March 2013 states that any intervention by the Belgian Development Cooperation should integrate "the protection of the environment and natural resources, including the battle against climate change, drought and global deforestation".
Moreover, Belgium has committed itself under various multilateral environmental treaties to helping developing countries meet their obligations under these treaties.
This objective is made concrete, among other things, in the environmental strategy paper by the Belgian Development Cooperation.
For more information on a number of specific environmental themes monitored by the FPS Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, see:
- Strategy note "Environment in the Belgian Development Cooperation"
- The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
- United Nations Environment Assembly
- Biological diversity
- Management of chemical products
The Belgian Development Cooperation collaborates through the following partners and funds for this purpose:
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
- Global Environment Facility (GEF)
- Green Climate Fund
- Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol
- Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS)
You can always take a look at the relevant organisations' websites too: