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Conferences, Conventions, Protocols in Environment and Ecology

What is the difference between a protocol, a treaty, and a convention?

The difference between a protocol, treaty, and convention is:

(1) Protocol: A protocol is an agreement that diplomatic negotiators formulate and sign as the basis for a final convention or treaty. The treaty itself may not be completed for many years.

(2) Treaty: A treaty is an agreement where the parties to it negotiate to reach common ground and avoid further conflict or disagreement. It is normally ratified by the lawmaking authority of the government whose representative has signed it. In the United States, the Senate must ratify all treaties.

(3) Convention: A convention begins as an international meeting of representatives from many nations that results in general agreement about procedures or actions they will take on specific topics (e.g., wetlands, endangered species, etc.).


Convention Name Year
RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands 1971
Stockholm Conference 1972
Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1972
CITES 1973
Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals 1979
World Conservation Strategy 1980
Nairobi Declaration 1982
World Charter of Nature 1982
Vienna Convention for Ozone Layer 1985
Montreal Protocol for ODS 1987
Helsinki Declaration 1989
Basel Convention on Hazardous wastes 1989
Earth Summit 1992
CBD 1992
UN Convention on Desertification 1994
Oslo Protocol on Further Reduction of Sulphur Emissions1994
Kyoto Protocol 1997
Aarhus Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants1998
Gothenburg Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone1999
Stockholm Convention on POPs 2000
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety2000
Johannesberg Declaration 2002
UN World Summit 2005
Bali Summit on Climate Change 2007
Nagaoya Protocol on Access to genetic resources2010
Paris Agreement 2016
Kigali Agreement 2016
Minimata Convention on Mercury 2017

Ramsar Convention

  • It was signed in 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar and is one of the oldest inter-governmental accord for preserving the ecological character of wetlands.
  • It is also known as the Convention on Wetlands.
  • Its aim is to develop and maintain an international network of wetlands which are important for the conservation of global biological diversity and for sustaining human life through the maintenance of their ecosystem components, processes and benefits.
  • Wetlands declared as Ramsar sites are protected under strict guidelines of the convention.
  • The RAMSAR Secretariat is based at the headquarters of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Gland, Switzerland.
  • World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2nd
  • The Convention uses a broad definition of wetlands.
  • It includes all lakes and rivers, underground aquifers, swamps and marshes, wet grasslands, peatland, oases, estuaries, deltas and tidal flats, mangroves and other coastal areas, coral reefs, and all human-made sites such as fishponds, rice paddies, reservoirs and salt pans.
  • At the time of joining the Convention, each Contracting Party undertakes to designate at least one wetland site for inclusion in the List of Wetlands of International Importance.
  • The inclusion of a “Ramsar Site” in the List embodies the government’s commitment to take the steps necessary to ensure that its ecological character is maintained.

Montreux Record:

  • Montreux Record under the Ramsar Convention is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.
  • It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List.
  • Currently, two wetlands of India are in Montreux record: Keoladeo National Park (Rajasthan) and Loktak Lake (Manipur).
  • Chilika lake (Odisha) was placed in the record but was later removed from it.

Why in news?

  • India has added 10 more wetlands to the sites protected by the Ramsar Convention.
  • These are:
  • Maharashtra: Nandur (state’s first).
  • Punjab: Keshopur-Miani, Beas Conservation Reserve and Nangal.
  • Uttar Pradesh: Nawabganj, Parvati Agra, Saman, Samaspur, Sandi and Sarsai Nawar.
  • The other 27 Ramsar sites are in Rajasthan, Kerala, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Tripura.
  • This addition will help in achieving India’s ambition mission ‘Nal se Jal’ which aims to provide piped water connection to every household by 2024.
  • Wetlands provide a wide range of important resources and ecosystem services such as food, water, fibre, groundwater recharge, water purification, flood moderation, erosion control and climate regulation.

Stockholm 1972

  • United Nations Conference on the Human Environment
  • It was first declaration of international protection of the environment
  • It was held in Stockholm, Sweden from June 5–16 in 1972.
  • The meeting agreed upon a Declaration containing 26 principles concerning the environment and development;
  • One of the seminal issue that emerged from the conference is the recognition for poverty alleviation for protecting the environment.
  • From India, Indian PM Indira Gandhi attended it
  • The conference let to increased interest and research collaboration which paved the way for further understanding of global warming, which has led to such agreements as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, and has given a foundation of modern environmentalism.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme has been established by the United Nations General Assembly in pursuance of the Stockholm Conference.

Convention of Migratory Species of Wild Animals

  • CMS is also known as the Bonn Convention. It is the only convention that deals with taking or harvesting of species from the wild. It currently protects 173 migratory species from across the globe.
  • Enforcement Year: The Convention came into force on November 1, 1983. The Secretariat that administers the Convention was established in 1984.
  • Parties: As of 1st November 2019, there were 130 Parties to the Convention– 129 countries plus the European Union. Maldives is the latest country to join it (November 2019).
  • Species Covered: Convention has two Appendices:
  • Appendix I lists migratory species that are endangered or threatened with extinction.
  • Appendix II lists migratory species which have an unfavourable conservation status and which require international agreements for their conservation and management.
  • Migratory Species: A migratory species is one that cyclically and predictably crosses one or more national jurisdictional boundaries due to factors like food, temperature, shelter, etc.

India and the CMS

  • India has been a party to the Convention since 1983.
  • India has signed a non-legally binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CMS on conservation and management of Siberian Cranes (1998), Marine Turtles (2007), Dugongs (2008), and Raptors (2016).
  • With 2.4% of the world’s land area, India contributes to around 8% of the known global biodiversity.
  • Indian subcontinent is a part of a significant bird flyway network, i.e, Central Asian Flyway that covers areas between the Arctic and Indian Oceans with at least 279 populations of 182 migratory waterbird species (including 29 globally threatened species).
  • India also provides temporary shelter to several migratory species including Amur Falcons, Bar-headed Geese, Black-necked Cranes, Marine Turtles, Dugongs, Humpback Whales, etc.
  • India will host the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS COP13)
  • A major United Nations wildlife conference
  • Theme“Migratory species connect the planet and together we welcome them home”.

CMS- COP 13:

  • The Logo of COP 13 was inspired by ‘Kolam’– a traditional art form Southern India used to depict key migratory species in India like Amur Falcon, and Marine Turtles.
  • It highlighted the importance of ecological connectivity (unimpeded movement of species and flow of natural processes) to better protect migratory wildlife and their habitats.
  • CMS has focused on the connectivity concept to be integrated into the new Global Biodiversity Framework (which will be adopted in 2021 in China).

COP 13, proposes to include ten new species for protection under CMS viz.:

  • Three Indian Species: Asian Elephant, Bengal Florican, Great Indian Bustard.
  • Other 7 from around the world: Jaguar (proposed by Costa Rica, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay), Whitetip shark (Brazil), Little Bustard (EU Nations), Urial (Tajikistan, Iran, Uzbekistan), Antipodean Albatross (New Zealand, Australia, Chile), Smooth Hammerhead Shark (Brazil), and Tope Shark (EU Nations).

Conventions related to Ozone depletion:

  • The 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer was an international agreement in which United Nations members recognized the fundamental importance of preventing damage to the stratospheric ozone layer.
  • The 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and its succeeding amendments were subsequently negotiated to control the consumption and production of anthropogenic ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) and some hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
  • Ozone depletion is caused by human-related emissions of ODSs and the subsequent release of reactive halogen gases, especially chlorine and bromine, in the stratosphere.
  • The Montreal Protocol’s control of ODSs stimulated the development of replacement substances, firstly hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and then HFCs, in a number of industrial sectors. While HFCs have only a minor effect on stratospheric ozone, some HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases (GHGs).
  • ODSs include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), bromine containing halons and methyl bromideHCFCscarbon tetrachloride (CCl4), and methyl chloroform.
  • These ODSs are long-lived (e.g., CFC-12 has a lifetime greater than 100 years) and are also powerful GHGs.
  • The adoption of the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol will phase down the production and consumption of some HFCs and avoid much of the projected global increase and associated climate change.

Kigali Amendment

  • In 2016, more than 170 countries agreed to amend the Montreal protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in Kigali/Rwanda.
  • The Kigali Amendment aims for the phase-down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by cutting their production and consumption.
  • Given their zero impact on the depletion of the ozone layer, HFCs are currently used as replacements of hydro chlorofluorocarbons(HCFCs) and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), however they are powerful greenhouse gases.
  • The amendment has entered into force on 1 January 2019 with a goal to achieve over 80% reduction in HFC consumption by 2047.
  • The impact of the amendment will avoid up to 0.5 °C increase in global temperature by the end of the century.
  • It is a legally binding agreement between the signatory parties with non-compliance measures.
  • The amendment has divided the signatory parties into three groups-
  • Group I –consists of rich and developed economies like USA, UK and EU countries who will start to phase down HFCs by 2019 and reduce it to 15% of 2012 levels by 2036.
  • Group II –consists of emerging economies like China, Brazil as well as some African countries who will start phase down by 2024 and reduce it to 20% of 2021 levels by 2045.
  • Group III –consists of developing economies and some of the hottest climatic countries like India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia who will start phasing down HFCs by 2028 and reduce it to 15% of 2024-2026 levels till 2047.
  • The Technology and Energy Assessment Panel (TEAP) will take a periodic review of the alternative technologies and products for their energy efficiency and safety standards.

World Commission on Environment and Development 

  • It was started by the UN General Assembly resolution in 1983 and based on a four-year study entitled “Our Common Future”, also known as the Brundtland report in 1987 was put out.
  • It developed the theme of sustainable development. It was the first time Sustainable Development was officially defined;
  • This commission is also called as the Brundtland commission.

Basel Convention —  Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal:

  • opened for signature on 22 March 1989
  • entered into force on 5 May 1992
  • Parties — 187.
  • Haiti and the United States have signed the Convention but not ratified.
  • It is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs).
  • It does not address the movement of radioactive waste.
  • The Convention is also intended to minimize the amount and toxicity of wastes generated, to ensure their environmentally sound management and to assist LDCs in environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate.

Examples of wastes regulated by the Basel Convention:

  • Biomedical and healthcare wastes.
  • Used oils.
  • Used lead acid batteries.
  • Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP) wastes.
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs).
  • Thousands of chemical wastes generated by industries and other consumers.

However, the Convention is not legally binding on the member countries.

India and Basel convention:

Recently the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to Basel Convention was held.

The theme of the 2019 meeting was- “Clean Planet, Healthy People: Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste”.

Under the Basel Convention, another major achievement of COP 14 was the decision to amend the convention to include unsorted, mixed and contaminated plastic waste under PIC (Prior Informed Consent) procedure and improve the regulation of its transboundary movement.

Rotterdam Convention:

  • The Rotterdam Convention (formally, the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade) signed in 1998 is a multilateral treaty to promote shared responsibilities in relation to importation of hazardous chemicals, effective from 2004.
  • It covers pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons by Parties and which have been notified by Parties for inclusion in the PIC procedure
  • Convention creates legally binding obligations for the implementation of the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure
  • It built on the voluntary PIC procedure, initiated by UNEP and FAO in 1989 and ceased on 24 February 2006.

Why in news?

  • The use of herbicide Paraquat killed around 170 people in the last two years in Odisha’s Burla district leading to demands for its ban.


  • Paraquat is a toxic chemical that is widely used as an herbicide (plant killer), primarily for weed and grass control.
  • It has been banned in 32 countries including Switzerland, where herbicide producing company Sygenta is based.
  • Paraquat also figures on the list of 99 pesticides and herbicides the Supreme Court to ban in an ongoing case.
  • Paraquat dichloride is being used for 25 crops in India, whereas it is approved to be used on only nine crops by the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee. This is a violation of the Indian Insecticides Act.
  • So far in India, only Kerala has banned the herbicide.
  • Another violation: since farmers can’t and don’t read the label on paraquat containers, retailers sell paraquat in plastic carry bags and refill bottles.

Why lethal?

  • There is no antidote to this herbicide, the consumers of which complain of kidney, liver and lung problems.
  • They may recover from kidney problems, but die of lung- and liver-related ailments. Some also witness kidney failure.

Need for worldwide ban

  • Paraquat is yet to be listed in the prior informed consent (PIC) of Rotterdam Convention, is an international treaty on import/export of hazardous chemicals signed in 1998.
  • If a chemical figures in the PIC, the exporting country has to take the importing nation’s prior consent before exporting it.

Stockholm Convention on POPs

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is an international environmental treaty, signed in 2001 and effective from May 2004, that aims to eliminate or restrict the production and use of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

What are Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)?

They are organic chemical substances which possess a set of physical and chemical properties such that when they are released into the atmosphere/environment, they:

  • Remain intact, without getting degraded, for exceptionally long periods of time (several years)
  • Become widely distributed throughout the environment as a result of natural processes involving soil, water and, most notably, air
  • Accumulate in the fatty tissues of living organisms including humans, and are found at higher concentrations at higher levels in the food chain

POPs tend to concentrate in living organisms through a process known as bioaccumulation. Though most of them are not soluble in water, they are readily soluble in fatty tissues where their concentrations can become magnified by up to 70,000 times the background levels

Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is the designated interim financial mechanism for the Stockholm Convention.

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Earth Summit), 1992

  • In continuation of Stockholm Declaration, 1972 and the Nairobi Declaration,1982 the third major Declaration was held in Rio-de-Janeiro in Brazil in the year 1992.
  • Hence it is termed as Rio-Declaration and attended by over 150 countries. Hence, it is also well known as ―Earth Summit.
  • It discussed global and environmental problems very widely.
  • It was the biggest International Conference in the history of International relations – was also called as the “Parliament of the planet” then.
  • Rio Declaration– a statement of broad principles to guide national
    conduct on environmental protection and development.
  • Agenda-21, a massive document containing a detailed action-plan for sustainable development.
  • Legally Non-Binding Principles of Forestry.
  • Convention on Climate Change and
  • Convention on Biodiversity.

Landmark Agreements

An important achievement of the summit was an agreement on the Climate Change Convention which in turn led to the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.

Important legally binding agreements (Rio Convention) were opened for signature:

  • Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.

The Rio Declaration

  • The Rio Declaration was adopted in the conference recognizing the universal and integral nature of Earth and by establishing a global partnership among states and enlisting general rights and obligations on environmental protection.
  • The Rio Declaration is a statement of 27 principles for the guidance of national environmental behaviour and enlisting general rights and obligations on environmental protection.
  • Rio principles placed human beings at the centre of sustainable development concerns by stating that humans are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature
  • The gist of those principles are happy and healthy life to all people in the world in order to achieve this goal, concept of sustainable development has been established.
  • To achieve sustainable development, states shall reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, exchange of scientific and technological knowledge, compensation for adverse effects of environmental damage caused by activities with in their jurisdiction or control to areas beyond their jurisdiction, precautionary approach shall be widely applied by states polluter should bear the cost of pollution, Environmental impact assessment as an instrument to monitor the likely environmental effects.

Q. What is Rio+20 Conference, often mentioned in the news?

  1. It is the United nations Conference on Sustainable Development
  2. It is a Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization
  3. It is a Conference of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change
  4. It is a Conference of the Member Countries of the Convention on Biological Diversity


  • It is a comprehensive action plan which gives a future plan in relation to environment and development.
  • The Agenda emphasizes on issues like poverty, health consumption patterns, natural resource use, financial resources human settlements and technological
  • It also includes energy, climate and other wide range of issues concerning
    environment and development.
  • Agenda-21 is not a binding document but it constitutes the key document of the Rio

Q. With reference to ‘Agenda 21’, sometimes seen in the news, consider the following statements: (2016)

  1. It is a global action plan for sustainable development
  2. It originated in the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

U.N. Frame Work Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 1992

  • In 1992, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as a framework for international cooperation to combat climate change by limiting average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and coping with impacts that were, by then, inevitable.
  • The primary goals of the UNFCCC were to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at levels that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the global climate.
  • The convention embraced the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities which has guided the adoption of a regulatory structure.
  • India signed the agreement in June 1992 which was ratified in November 1993. As per the convention the reduction/limitation requirements apply only to developed countries. The only reporting obligation for developing countries relates to the construction of a GHG inventory.
  • Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement are a part of the UNFCCC

Kyoto Protocol (COP 3; UNFCCC Summit 1997)

  • The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997.
  • India ratified Kyoto Protocol in 2002.
  • The Kyoto Protocol came into force in February 2005.
  • There are currently 192 Parties.
  • USA never ratified Kyoto Protocol.
  • Canada withdrew in 2012.
  • Goal: Fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to “a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
  • Kyoto protocol aimed to cut emissions of greenhouse gases across the developed world by about 5 per cent by 2012 compared with 1990 levels.
  • The Protocol is based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
  • Kyoto Protocol is the only global treaty with binding limits on GHG emissions.

What is Common but Differentiated Responsibilities – Kyoto Protocol?

  • It puts the obligation to reduce current emissions on developed countries on the basis that they are historically responsible for the current levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

CBDR divides countries into two categories.

  1. Historically biggest polluting developed countries like US, UK, France, Japan, Russia etc. (they are polluting the earth since Industrial Revolution).
  2. Recently polluting developing countries like China, India, Brazil, etc. (polluting since 1950s).
  • “Common” Every country (both developing and developed) must take part in the fight against climate change.
  • “But differentiated responsibilities” Historically biggest polluters should do more compared to the recent polluters, i.e., responsibilities proportional to pollution caused.
  • Thus, under CBDR, developed countries like US, UK, Russia etc. must contribute more to reduce GHGs.
  • They must accept to certain binding limits on GHG emissions.
  • They must contribute funds towards reducing GHG emissions in developing and least developed countries.
  • On the other hand, developing and least developed countries should do everything possible to cut down their GHG emissions. But nothing is binding on them, and every initiative is voluntary.

Classification of Parties and their commitments – Kyoto Protocol

Annex I Developed countries [US, UK, Russia etc.] + Economies in transition (EIT) [Ukraine, Turkey, some eastern European countries etc.]
Annex II Developed countries (Annex II is a subset of Annex I). Required to provide financial and technical support to the EITs and developing countries to assist them in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.
Annex B Annex I Parties with first or second-round Kyoto greenhouse gas emissions targets. The first-round targets apply over the years 2008–2012 and the second-round Kyoto targets, which apply from 2013–2020. Compulsory binding targets to reduce GHG emissions.
Non-Annex I Parties to the UNFCCC not listed in Annex I of the Convention (mostly low-income developing countries). No binding targets to reduce GHG emissions.
LDCs Least-developed countries No binding targets to reduce GHG emissions.

Developing countries may volunteer to become Annex I countries when they are sufficiently developed.

What is commitment period – Kyoto Protocol?

  • Under Kyoto Protocol, there are two commitment periods:
  1. 2008 – 2012 and
  2. 2013 – 2020.
  • The second commitment period was agreed on in 2012, known as the Doha Amendment to the protocol.
  • Each commitment period has its own binding targets set for developed countries to reduce their GHG emissions.
  • Nations that miss their Kyoto target in 2012 will incur a penalty of an additional third added to whatever cut they agree under a new treaty in Copenhagen.
  • During first commitment period (2008-12), more than 35 countries had binding targets.
  • Canada withdrew in 2012 after the first commitment period.
  • Japan, New Zealand and Russia have participated in Kyoto’s first-round but have not taken on new targets in the second commitment period.
  • As of January 2019, 124 states have accepted the Doha Amendment, while entry into force requires the acceptances of 144 states.
  • Thus, the second commitment period is a failure.
  • Negotiations were held in Lima in 2014 to agree on a post-Kyoto legal framework that would obligate all major polluters to pay for CO2 emissions.
  • China, India, and the United States (three big villains) have all signalled that they will not ratify any treaty that will commit them legally to reduce CO2 emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol emission target gases include

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2),
  • Methane (CH4),
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O),
  • Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6),
  • groups of hydro fluorocarbons (HCFs) and
  • groups of Per fluorocarbons (PFCs).

Flexible Market Mechanisms – Kyoto Protocol

  • Countries bound to Kyoto targets have to meet them largely through domestic action — that is, to reduce their emissions onshore.
  • But they can meet part of their targets through three “market-based mechanisms”.

The Kyoto Flexible Market Protocol mechanisms include:

  1. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)
  2. Emission Trading
  3. Joint Implementation (JI)

Carbon credit – Kyoto Protocol

  • A carbon credit (often called a carbon offset) is a tradable certificate or permit.
  • One carbon credit is equal to one tonne of carbon dioxide.
  • Carbon credits are a part of attempts to mitigate the growth in concentrations of GHGs.
  • Carbon credits or carbon offsets can be acquired through afforestation, renewable energy, CO2 sequestration, methane capture, buying from an exchange (carbon credits trading) etc..
  • Carbon trading is the name given to the exchange of emission permits.
  • This exchange may take place within the economy or may take the form of international transaction.
  • Under Carbon Credits Trading mechanism countries that emit more carbon than the quota allotted to them buy carbon credits from those that emit less.
  • In Carbon trading, one credit gives the country or a company right to emit one tonne of CO2.
  • A developing nation such as India, turns out to be a seller of such credits, which eventually provides them with monetary gains.
  • Carbon credits are traded at various exchanges across the world.
  • Multi-Commodity Exchange of India (MCX) launched futures trading in carbon credits in 2009.

Types of Carbon trading

  1. Emission trading and
  2. Offset trading.

Emission trading/’cap-and-trade’

  • Emissions trading allows countries to sell unused emission units to countries that have exceeded their targets.
  • Carbon is tracked and traded like any other commodity in a “carbon market.”

Other trading units in the carbon market:

  • A removal unit (RMU) by reforestation.
  • An emission reduction unit (ERU) generated by a joint implementation project.
  • A certified emission reduction (CER) generated from a clean development mechanism project activity.

Offset Trading/Carbon Project/’baseline-and credit’ trading

  • Another variant of carbon credit is to be earned by a country by investing some amount of money in such projects, known as carbon projects, which will emit lesser amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.
  • For example, suppose a thermal plant of 800 megawatt capacity emit 400 carbon-equivalent in the atmosphere. Now a country builds up an 800 megawatt wind energy plant which does not generate any amount of emission as an alternative of the thermal plant. Then by investing in this project the country will earn 400 carbon-equivalent.
  • Offset Trading is a variant of Emission Trading or Carbon Trading.

Q. Regarding “carbon credits”, which one of the following statements is not correct?

  1. The carbon credit system was ratified in conjunction with the Kyoto Protocol.
  2. Carbon credits are awarded to countries or groups that have reduced greenhouse gases below their emission quota.
  3. The goal of the carbon credit system is to limit the increase of carbon emission quota.
  4. Carbon credits are traded at a price fixed from time to time by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Paris Agreement

  • The conference negotiated the Paris Agreement, a global agreement on the reduction of climate change.
  • It entered into force in November 2016 after (ratification by 55 countries that account for at least 55% of global emissions) had been met.
  • Signatories: 195 as of 2019; 180+ countries have ratified; India signed and ratified in 2016.


  • Once the treaty has been signed, each state will deal with it according to its own national procedures.
  • After approval has been granted under a state’s own internal procedures, it will notify the other parties that they consent to be bound by the treaty. This is called ratification.
  • The expected key result was an agreement to set a goal of limiting global warming to “well below 2 °C” Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
  • The agreement calls for zero net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to be reached during the second half of the 21st century.
  • In the adopted version of the Paris Agreement, the parties will also “pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.”
  • The 1.5 °C goal will require zero emissions sometime between 2030 and 2050, according to some scientists.
  • The developed countries reaffirmed the commitment to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020 and agreed to continue mobilizing finance at the level of $100 billion a year until 2025.
  • In 2017, United States announced that the U.S. would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation.
  • In accordance with Article 28 of the Paris Agreement, the earliest possible effective withdrawal date by the United States cannot be before November 2020. Thus, The U.S. will remain a signatory till November 2020.

Climate Neutral Now

  • The UNFCCC secretariat launched its Climate Neutral Now initiative in 2015.
  • The following year, the secretariat launched a new pillar under its Momentum for Change initiative focused on Climate Neutral Now.
  • Climate Neutral Now is aiming at encouraging and supporting all levels of society to take climate action to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century, as enshrined in the Paris Agreement.
  • Climate neutrality is a three step process, which requires individuals, companies and governments to:
  1. Measure their climate footprint;
  2. Reduce their emissions as much as possible;
  3. Offset what they cannot reduce with UN certified emission reductions.

Q. With reference to the Agreement at the UNFCCC Meeting in Paris in 2015, which of the following statements is/are correct? (2016)

  1. The Agreement was signed by all the member countries of the UN and it will go into effect in 2017.
  2. The Agreement aims to limit the greenhouse gas emissions so that the rise in average global temperature by the end of this century does not exceed 2 °C or even 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.
  3. Developed countries acknowledged their historical responsibility in global warming and committed to donate $ 1000 billion a year from 2020 to help developing countries to cope with climate change.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

  1. 1 and 3 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3
  • It entered into force in November 2016.

Answer: b) 2 only

Q. Momentum for Change: Climate Neutral Now” is an initiative launched by (2018)

  1. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  2. The UNEP Secretariat
  3. The UNFCCC Secretariat
  4. The World Meteorological Organisation

India’s INDC objectives

  • Announced in October 2015 (Lima summit urged every country to announce its INDCs by Nov 2015)
  • Reduce emission intensity by 33 to 35 per cent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.


  • Introduce new, more efficient and cleaner technologies in thermal power generation.
  • Reducing emissions from transportation sector.
  • Promote energy efficiency, mainly in industry, transportation, buildings and appliances
  • Develop climate resilient infrastructure.
  • Pursue Zero Effect, Zero Defect policy under Make in India programme.
  • Produce 40 per cent of electricity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030, if international community helps with technology transfer and low cost finance.


  • Install 175 GW of solar, wind and biomass electricity by 2022, and scale up further in following years.
  • Aggressively pursue development of hydropower.
  • Achieve the target of 63 GW of installed nuclear power capacity by 2032.
  • Create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030 through additional forest and tree cover.


  • Full implementation of Green India Mission and other programmes of afforestation.
  • Develop 1,40,000 km long tree line on both sides of national highways.
  • Sustainable development.
  • Develop robust adaptation strategies for agriculture, water and health sectors.

Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992

  • Biodiversity conservation is a collective responsibility of all nations.
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a step towards conserving biological diversity or biodiversity with the involvement of the entire world.
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (a multilateral treaty) was opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and entered into effect in 1993.
  • The convention called upon all nations to take appropriate measures for conservation of biodiversity and sustainable utilisation of its benefits.
  • The Convention has three main goals:
  1. conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity);
  2. sustainable use of its components; and
  3. fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.
  • It is often seen as the key document regarding sustainable development.
  • The Convention is legally binding; countries that join it (‘Parties’) are obliged to implement its provisions.
  • 195 UN states and the European Union are parties to the convention.
  • All UN member states, with the exception of the United States, have ratified the treaty.

Cartagena Protocol

  • CBD covers the rapidly expanding field of biotechnology through its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
  • It addresses technology development and transfer, benefit-sharing and biosafety issues.
  • The Biosafety Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.

Nagoya Protocol

  • It is the second Protocol to the CBD; the first is the 2000 Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
  • It is a 2010 supplementary agreement to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • The Nagoya Protocol is about “Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization”, one of the three objectives of the CBD.

Q. Consider the following pairs (2016):

Terms sometimes seen in the news Their origin
1. Annex-I Countries Cartagena Protocol
2. Certified Emissions Reductions Nagoya Protocol
3. Clean Development Mechanism Kyoto Protocol

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3


  • Annex-I Countries, Clean Development Mechanism, Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) or carbon credits Kyoto Protocol.

Answer: c) 3 only

International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA)

Popularly known as the International Seed Treaty.

International agreement in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Aims at guaranteeing food security through the conservation, exchange and sustainable use of the world’s plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA), as well as the fair and equitable benefit sharing arising from its use.

Q. Consider the following international agreements:

  1. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
  2. The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
  3. The World Heritage Convention

Which of the above has/have a bearing on the biodiversity?

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 3 only,
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2. and 3
  • World Heritage Convention explained in “Biodiversity”, rest two in this section.

Answer: d) all

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)

It is an international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity.

In 2007, environment ministers from the G8+5 countries meeting in Germany proposed TEEB to initiate the process of

analysing the global economic benefit of biological diversity,

the costs of the loss of biodiversity and

the failure to take protective measures versus the costs of effective conservation.

In response to TEED, a global study was initiated in 2017 and was led by Pavan Sukhdev.

Pavan Sukhdev is an Indian environmental economist whose field of studies include green economy and international finance.

Q. With reference to an initiative called ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)’, which of the following statements is/are correct? (2016)

  1. It is an initiative hosted by UNEP, IMF and World Economic Forum.
  2. It is a global initiative that focuses on drawing attention to the economic benefits of biodiversity.
  3. It presents an approach that can help decision-makers recognize, demonstrate and capture the value of eco-systems and biodiversity.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 3 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Answer: d) 2 and 3 only

Rio+20 (2012)

Rio+20 (2012) or United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Rio+20 was a 20-year follow-up to the Earth Summit 1992 and 10-year follow-up to the Earth Summit 2002.

It is also known as Rio 2012 or Earth Summit 2012.

Hosted by Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.

It reaffirmed the commitment to Agenda 21.

It was the third international conference on sustainable development.

Earth Summit 1992 (Rio de Janeiro) = UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)

Earth Summit 2002 (Johannesburg) = World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)

Earth Summit 2012 (Rio de Janeiro) = UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD)

PAGE, launched in 2013, is a direct response to the Rio+20 Declaration, The Future We Want. Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE)

Rio+20 Declaration called upon the UN system and the international community to aid interested countries in developing, adopting and implementing green economy policies and strategies.

PAGE supports nations in reframing economic policies and practices around sustainability.

PAGE seeks to assist countries in achieving SDG (2030 Agenda), especially SDG 8: “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment.”

PAGE brings together the expertise of five UN agencies – UNEP, ILO, UNIDO, UNDP and UNITAR.

ILO: International Labour Organization

UNIDO: UN Industrial Development Organization

UNITAR: UN Institute for Training and Research.

Q. The Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), a UN mechanism to assist countries transition towards greener and more inclusive economies, emerged at (2018)

  1. The Earth Summit on Sustainable Development 2002, Johannesburg
  2. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2012, Rio de Janeiro
  3. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2015, Paris
  4. The World Sustainable Development Summit 2016, New Delhi

Global Tiger Forum

The GTF is the only intergovernmental international body established with members from willing countries to embark on a global campaign to protect the Tiger.

It was formed in 1993 on recommendations from an international symposium on Tiger Conservation at New Delhi, India.

It is located in New Delhi, India.

Why in news?

The Global Tiger Forum (GTF), in partnership with the Governments of Bhutan, India and Nepal, and along with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), is undertaking a situation analysis study for assessing tiger habitat status in high altitude ecosystems.

The study has been supported by the Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Program (ITHCP) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and KfW (German Development Bank).

Need: Most of the high-altitude habitats, within the range, have not been surveyed for an appraisal of tiger presence, prey and habitat status.

Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Program

Launched in 2014, the ITHCP is a strategic funding mechanism that aims to save tigers in the wild, their habitats and to support human populations in key locations throughout Asia.

It has already facilitated 12 projects in six countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Nepal and Myanmar) to better manage Tiger Conservation Landscapes.

It is contributing to the Global Tiger Recovery Programme (GTRP), a global effort to double tiger numbers in the wild by 2022.

Minamata Convention:

It is an international treaty

It is an UN Treaty

Signed in 2013

Aims to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds

The Convention is named after the Japanese city Minamata. This naming is of symbolic importance as the city went through devastating incident of mercury poisoning. It is expected that over the next few decades, this international agreement will enhance the reduction of mercury pollution from the targeted activities responsible for the major release of mercury to the immediate environment.

It aims to control anthropogenic releases of mercury throughout its lifecycle.

India has ratified it.

Obligations on Parties of Convention

Ban on new mercury mines, the phase-out of existing ones.

Phase out and phase down of mercury use in a number of products and processes.

Control measures on emissions to air and on releases to land and water.

Regulation of the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

Significance of Convention

It is implemented in context of sustainable development agenda with objective to protect human health and environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.

It addresses interim storage of mercury and its disposal once it becomes waste, sites contaminated by mercury as well as health issues.

It protects most vulnerable from the harmful effects of mercury. It also protects the developmental space of developing countries. Therefore, protects interest of the poor and vulnerable groups.

It further urges enterprises to move to mercury-free alternatives in products and non-mercury technologies in manufacturing processes. This will drive R&D, and promote innovation.

Extra Notes:

Minimata Disease: A disorder caused by methyl mercury poisoning that was first described in the inhabitants of Minamata Bay, Japan and resulted from their eating fish contaminated with mercury industrial waste.

The disease is characterized by peripheral sensory loss, tremors, dysarthria, ataxia, and both hearing and visual loss.

Methylmercury is very different to ethylmercury. Ethylmercury is used as a preservative in some vaccines and does not pose a health risk.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

The ‘Law of the Sea Treaty’, formally known as United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) was adopted in 1982 to establish jurisdictional limits over the ocean areas.

The convention defines distance of 12 nautical miles from the baseline as Territorial Sea limit and a distance of 200 nautical miles distance as Exclusive Economic Zone limit.

It provides for technology and wealth transfer from developed to underdeveloped nations and requires parties to implement regulations and laws to control marine pollution.

India became a signatory to the UNCLOS in 1982.

UNCLOS created three new institutions:

International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea– It is an independent judicial body established by UNCLOS to adjudicate disputes arising out of the convention.

International Seabed Authority– It is a UN body set up to regulate the exploration and exploitation of marine non-living resources of oceans in international waters. 

Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf-  It facilitates the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the Convention) in respect of the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.

Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture

Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA) is a voluntary and multi-stakeholder platform on Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA). Its vision is to improve food security, nutrition and resilience in the face of climate change.

GACSA was launched on 23 September 2014 at the UN Climate Summit.

Purpose of GACSA

GACSA works towards three aspirational outcomes to:

1 . Improve farmers’ agricultural productivity and incomes in a sustainable way.

2 . Build farmers’ resilience to extreme weather and changing climate.

3 . Reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture, when possible.

Q . With reference to the ‘Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (CACSA)’, which of the following statements is/are correct.” (2018)

1. GACSA is an outcome of the Climate Summit held in Paris in 2015.

2. Membership of GACSA does not create any binding obligations.

3. India was instrumental in the creation of GACSA.

Select the correct answer using the code given

a .  1 and 3 only

b .  2 only

c .  2 and 3 only

d .  1, 2 and 3

Answer. b

The Bamako Convention 

The Bamako Convention is a treaty of African nations prohibiting the import into Africa of any hazardous (including radioactive) waste. The convention came into force in 1998.


The Bamako convention is a response to Article 11 of the Basel convention which encourages parties to enter into bilateral, multilateral and regional agreements on Hazardous Waste to help achieve the objectives of the convention.


The Bamako convention uses a format and language similar to that of the Basel convention, except that:

  1. it is much stronger in prohibiting all imports of hazardous waste, and
  2. It does not make exceptions on certain hazardous wastes (like those for radioactive materials) made by the Basel convention.

What does the Convention cover?

  • The Convention covers more wastes than covered by the Basel Convention as it not only includes radioactive wastes but also considers any waste with a listed hazardous characteristic or a listed constituent as a hazardous waste; the Convention also covers national definitions of hazardous waste.
  • Other products also covered under the Convention as waste include that have been severely restricted or have been subject of prohibitions.

Purpose of the Convention

  • To prohibit the import of all hazardous and radioactive wastes into the African continent for any reason;
  • To minimize and control Trans boundary movements of hazardous wastes within the African continent.
  • To prohibit all ocean and inland water dumping or incineration of hazardous wastes.
  • To ensure that disposal of wastes is conducted in an “environmentally sound manner”.
  • To promote cleaner production over the pursuit of a permissible emissions approach based on assimilative capacity assumptions
  • To establish the precautionary principle.

Tehran Conventions

The understanding of the necessity to protect and preserve the Caspian Sea’s natural resources for future generations and that this goal can only be achieved through international cooperation was at the heart of the intent to create the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea, the Tehran Convention.

By ratifying the Convention the five Parties Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan confirmed their readiness to go the path of sustainable development and to take environmental concerns into account in their development planning.

Having entered into force in 2006, the Tehran Convention is the first regional legally binding instrument signed by all five Caspian littoral states.

It serves as an overarching governance framework which lays down the general requirements and the institutional mechanism for environmental protection and sustainable development in the Caspian Sea region.

Under its umbrella the Parties have developed additional Protocols on priority areas of common concern.

The effective implementation of the Tehran Convention and its Protocols will support the protection of the marine environment and with it of the livelihoods, health and well-being of present and future generations around the Caspian Sea.

April 2024