International Cooperation

EPA's Role in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

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

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 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 within civil society and the private sector.

Visit the UNEP website. Exit

EPA-UNEP Agreement

Then 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 ForumExit held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 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. 

About UNEP

Logo of the United Nations Environment Programme

Historically, UNEP’s Governing Council included 58 members, elected by a General Assembly for four-year terms. This Council aimed to promote international cooperation; provide general policy guidance; highlight emerging environmental problems; attend to the needs of developing countries; and review and approve UNEP programs and utilization of resources. 

An important outcome of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development was agreement to strengthen UNEP. One important change was the decision to establish “universal membership” for UNEP (to include the full 193 member states of the UN). This change resulted in the creation of a new governance structure that replaced the UNEP 58-member Governing Council with the UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA) of UNEP, composed of the full 193 UN members.  The first meeting of UNEA meeting is in June 2014.

Another outcome of Rio+20 was the adoption of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production or 10YFP, for which UNEP serves as the Secretariat.  

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


EPA has had a long and very successful relationship with UNEP, including numerous substantive partnerships. The 2011 MOU between EPA and UNEP solidified this relationship and has deepened our engagement on a range of issues, including:  

Chemicals and Waste

EPA plays a leadership role in the Global Mercury Partnership and strongly supported the Mercury Emissions Study Exitthat influenced the development of the Minamata Convention.

Along with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNEP, EPA has promoted the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint, a major environmental and health challenge especially for children in developing countries. 

Climate and Air

EPA was instrumental in establishing and continues to play a leadership role in the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles

EPA is implementing projects under the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) Exitfor which UNEP serves as the Secretariat. This effort addresses non-CO2 climate forcers that also pose a direct threat to human health, such as black carbon and methane. 

Marine and Water

EPA also plays a significant, ongoing role on the UNEP Regional Seas Programme Exit, and is the designated United States “Technical Focal Point” for the Land-Based Sources (LBS) Protocol under the Cartagena Convention.


EPA now serves as the US National Focal Point for the 10YFP, coordinating closely with UNEP through its North America regional office.  EPA has embarked on several new 10YFP activities, including international cooperation on 

  1. sustainable public procurement, 
  2. life cycle assessment, and 
  3. developing a US National Profile to include in the Global SCP ClearinghouseExit the primary knowledge management hub and network for the 10YFP.

Environmental Indicators and Data

EPA has worked with other countries and regions to help design and implement the UNEP Live Exit web-based environmental assessment platform. UNEP Live is designed to provide access to national, regional and global assessments and data to improve science for environmental decision-making.  

UNEP Regional Seas Programme

water's edge at sunset

EPA also works on the UNEP Regional Seas ProgrammeExit launched 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 RegionExit working through UNEP's Caribbean Environment Program (CEP)Exit which was launched in 1976.   The Cartagena ConventionExit negotiated 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 implementation of these environmentally protective protocols, information management and exchange, and environmental education and training. EPA staff provide expert advice on management of land-based sources of pollution to both protect human health and coastal and marine resources. EPA’s is the designated United States “Technical Focal Point” for the LBS Protocol. 


For additional information on EPA's work with International Organizations, contact:
Hodayah Finman
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2670R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-6600