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United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

New Agreement between EPA and UNEP

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director and Administrator Jackson, February 21, 2011.

Administrator Jackson signed the first Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between EPA and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) during the 26th Session of the UNEP Governing Council Meeting/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, Exit EPA disclaimerheld in Nairobi, Kenya in February 2011. The MOU identifies areas for strategic cooperation, including strengthening environmental governance and regulatory capacity in developing countries; creating healthy urban communities; facilitating the transition to a green economy; responding to global challenges such as climate change; and providing scientific leadership.

Full text of the MOU (PDF, 9 p, 2.4M).

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Exit EPA disclaimer, established in 1972, is the designated program addressing environmental issues at the global and regional level for the United Nations. UNEP’s mission 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 assesses global, regional and national environmental conditions and trends; develops international agreements and national environmental instruments; strengthens institutions for wise environmental management; integrates economic development and environmental protection; facilitates the transfer of knowledge and technology for sustainable development; and encourages new partnerships and mind-sets within civil society and the private sector.

UNEP’s Governing Council includes 58 members, elected by the General Assembly for four-year terms.  The Governing Council promotes international cooperation; provides general policy guidance; highlights emerging environmental problems; attends to the needs of developing countries; and reviews and approves UNEP programs and utilization of resources.

UNEP also hosts the secretariats of several environmental conventions of global environmental importance, including:


Current Projects

EPA has had a long and very successful relationship with UNEP, including numerous substantive partnerships.

Mercury Emissions Study

An intergovernmental negotiating committee will soon be convened to negotiate a legally binding global agreement on mercury. To inform the work of the intergovernmental negotiating committee, EPA is supporting UNEPs new Mercury Emission Study. The study is expected to be complete in early 2011.

The study will provide information on the sources and magnitude of mercury emissions and the cost and effectiveness of different options for control of mercury emissions. The main objectives of the study are:

  • To present information and current trends on mercury emissions for selected countries and sectors;
  • To provide an overview of the technical characteristics of the main sources (including approximate number, size of facilities, raw materials used, ownership structure) of mercury emissions in important sectors in the selected countries;
  • To provide an overview of current and planned mercury-control initiatives at the national, regional and global levels and how they may affect future mercury emissions; and
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  • To provide quantitative information on the effectiveness and costs of relevant and representative abatement measures in the selected sectors and a description of the factors that affect the estimates.

Information collected will be combined in a set of scenarios representing different degrees of ambition for mercury emissions control in the selected countries and sectors, including the estimate of cost of achieving a range of mercury emission reduction targets.  Seven countries will participate in this study: EU, Brazil, India, South Africa, Russia, China, and the United States. The output of this study will be presented to the negotiators to identify the best options for mercury control. 

Regional Seas

The UNEP Regional Seas Programme, Exit EPA disclaimerlaunched in 1974, aims to address the accelerating degradation of the world’s ocean and coastal areas through the sustainable management and use of the marine and coastal environment, by engaging neighboring countries in comprehensive and specific actions to protect their shared marine environment. Today, more than 140 countries participate in 13 Regional Seas programs.

EPA coordinates closely with 27 other countries in the Wider Caribbean Region, Exit EPA disclaimerworking through UNEP's Caribbean Environment Program (CEP), Exit EPA disclaimerwhich was launched in 1976. The Cartagena Convention, Exit EPA disclaimernegotiated in 1983, includes three protocols that have been adopted to address specific pollution or environmental resources:

The work of the CEP today focuses on serving member states and increasing member implementation of the protocols; information management and exchange; and environmental education and training. EPA staff provide expert advice on management of land-based sources of pollution, protection of human health, and protection of coastal and marine resources.

  • In 2001, EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs (OITA) was designated as the United States “Technical Focal Point” for the LBS Protocol.
  • OITA staff continue to serve this role, based on experience with tropical marine ecosystems, watershed management, and marine pollution.
  • EPA also provides review and consultation on the program components of CEP’s biennial work plans and budgets, with a specific focus on the Assessment and Management of Environmental Pollution (AMEP) Exit EPA disclaimerprogram.

Learn More


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For additional information on EPA's work with UNEP, contact:

Hodayah Finman
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
E-mail: finman.hodayah@epa.gov
(202) 564-6600

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