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MAIN AGENCY:
UN Environmental Programme (Unep)
COST:
Unep annual budget: $105m
ENVIRONMENT
Overview Mechanisms The record
 
Climate change and a global water crisis could be the greatest dangers threatening the world this century. It increasingly falls to the UN to respond to environmental threats such as these that cross national borders. But although the UN can issue warnings and organise conferences, it is ultimately up to individual governments - especially in the industrialised world - to make the changes.

ENVIRONMENT
OverviewMechanismsThe record
 
At the Earth Summit held in Rio in 1992, 180 countries adopted Agenda 21, a global plan for sustainable development. While this document set out shared objectives, it has no force in international law. However, it did lead to other treaties on biodiversity and climate change, such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which has been ratified by 184 nations. In 1997, the parties to the convention negotiated the Kyoto Protocol, by which industrialised countries must reduce their collective emissions of six greenhouse gases by at least 5% by 2008-2012.
ENVIRONMENT
OverviewMechanismsThe record
 
The UN warns that reducing the threat of global warming requires a 60% reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases. However, no industrialised country has even ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, by which they must reduce emissions by 5%. The UN is now calling for it to be implemented by 2002. Although industrialised countries have banned production of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances under the amended Montreal Protocol, industrialised countries still account for 60% of annual emissions of carbon dioxide.
The other major environmental challenge for the UN is how to confront the world water crisis. One person in five across the world has no access to safe drinking water, and one in two lacks safe sanitation. The World Water Council believes that by 2020 we shall need 17% more water than is available if we are to feed the world. Biotechnology may provide the answer to feeding a growing world population, but its safety and environmental impact are being questioned. The UN is convening a global policy initiative on this issue. In its millennium report, the UN urges cutting by half the proportion of people without access to safe and affordable water before 2015.