United Nations

UN flag

The UK Government works within the United Nations system and with international financial institutions to promote a co-ordinated approach to environmental, social and economic issues.

Internationally, the recent negotiations in Cancun and Nagoya are prime examples of how the UK has led the way on this agenda working with key developing countries and through international organisations. We will continue to join up our objectives on mitigating climate change with protecting biodiversity and reducing global poverty. This approach will play a role in the run up to the next Earth Summit in Rio in 2012 – where the UN will focus on the role of the green economy and poverty eradication in the context of sustainable development.


Rio+20 is the United Nations conference on Sustainable Development, taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 20-22 June 2012. Defra is leading preparations for Rio+20 across Government, as well as leading on stakeholder engagement. Read more about Defra’s work towards Rio+20…

On 9 February 2012, Caroline Spelman set out the UK’s ambitions for Rio+20. Read more…

UN Commission on Sustainable Development

The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) addresses sustainable development commitments over seven two-year cycles with each cycle focusing on a thematic cluster of issues. The cycle is divided into a “review year” and a “policy year”. The UK Government aims to ensure that each two-year cycle agrees policy responses and concrete actions to tackle the problems identified in the review year.

UN Environment Programme

The UK Government works with other states to strengthen the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which is mandated to promote the environmental dimension across the UN system.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international treaty to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable. The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the UNFCCC, setting binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the 5-year period to 2012.

UN Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is an international treaty to sustain the diversity of life on Earth. It has 3 main objectives:

  • The conservation of biological diversity
  • The sustainable use of the components of biological diversity
  • The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources

The UK Government played a key role in the agreement of a new global strategy for biodiversity at Nagoya in October 2010.

Partnerships for sustainable development

“Type II” partnerships for sustainable development – voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiatives aimed at implementing sustainable development – emerged from the World Summit of Sustainable Development and are an important mechanism for delivering on commitments at national, regional and international level. The UK views partnerships as helping Government, business and civil society deliver more, by working together, than they would alone.

UK Government departments participate in numerous partnerships. For example, Defra is particularly involved in SEED and the Travel Foundation.

World Summit on Sustainable Development

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) took place in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September 2002.  The summit delivered three outcomes: a political declaration, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation and the establishment of numerous partnership initiatives.

Page last modified: 9 February, 2012

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