United Nations Environment Programme: UNEP Full Form, Headquarters, Objectives and Functions

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was founded in 1972 following the historic UN Conference on the Human Environment. UNEP is designed to keep an eye on environmental conditions, use knowledge to guide governmental decisions, and coordinate solutions to global environmental problems. It is an international organization that promotes the effective implementation of the environmental component of the United Nations Sustainable Development Plan. An Executive Director is in charge of the UNEP, which has its headquarters in Nairobi.

UNEP is a significant program under the United Nations. Such international organizations and initiatives are crucial for the UPSC exam. You may learn all about the UNEP in this article, including its full form, objectives, UNEP headquarters, etc.


United Nations Environment Programme [UNEP]

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was initiated in 1972 to manage and coordinate environmental processes inside the UN system. The UNEP promotes global alliance and cooperation on environmental concerns, directs the United Nations bodies, and encourages the worldwide scientific society to formulate policies for several of the United Nations’ environmental programmes by way of its scientific consultative commissions. The UNEP headquarters are situated in Nairobi, Kenya.

They have also registered to help the business-related sectors to encourage the mindful and sustainable use of natural resources. Typically, UNEP is a programme that responds to environmental issues.

The major campaigns under the UNEP include UN75, World Environment Day, Beat Pollution, Wild for Life, etc.

What is UNEP?

Typically, the UNEP is a transnational environmental organization that is involved in instituting a universal environmental schema and encouraging the efficient accomplishment of the environmental factors of the United Nations Sustainable Development Programme. The increasing pollution counts during the decades of the 1960s & 1970s have urged this international governance to ponder over developing some laws and guidelines for environmental concerns with the support of the ILO and WHO.


These environmental concerns were also adopted in 1972 at the UN Conference. This Conference is popularly also named Stockholm Conference 1972. The Conference later led to the implementation of the Stockholm Declaration.

Additionally, the Stockholm Conference of 1972 led to the establishment of a management society for these human environment concerns, currently known as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which manages the United Nations’ environmental activities.

Objectives of UNEP

The main objective of UNEP is to deal with environmental concerns and offer leadership and partnerships to countries to safeguard the environment for present and future generations. The organization has reordered its work program in the following areas of environmental concern.

  • Climate Change: UNEP has improved the capability of many nations in integrating climate change solutions with its guidance in alteration, mitigation, technology, and funding. UNEP is also contemplating its efforts to diminish the evolution of a low-carbon society, intensify public mindfulness, and boost climate science’s insights.
  • Post-war and Disaster Management: UNEP executes environmental assessments in countries affected due to natural disasters or environmental crises and offers them recommendations and suggestions on putting legitimate and official frameworks in the nation to improvise environmental management. The Post-Conflict & Disaster Management Section deals with environmental evaluations after wars.
  • Ecosystem Management: The UNEP also simplifies the ecosystem, its management, and refurbishment with techniques consistent with enduring and sustainable development. Additionally, these methods urge the utilization of ecosystem facilities.
  • Environmental Governance: UNEP supports and motivates various national governments to develop, implement and reinforce the procedure, strategies, and plans vital for attaining sustainable development and normalizing environmental inspections in development design.
  • Harmful Substances: UNEP puts excellent efforts into minimizing the unpleasant or destructive effects of hazardous chemicals and harmful wastes on the environment and humans.
  • Efficiency and Defensible Utilization and Production of Resources: The UNEP also emphasizes regional and global ideas to ensure that environmental resources are engendered, handled, and utilized sustainably and in eco-friendly ways.

Functions of UNEP

The main function of the UN Environment Programme is to deal with every environmental concern. However, it has many sub-function for environmental safety and human protection.

  • The UNEP is engaged in expanding international environmental conventions and addressing related issues. It accommodates the secretariats of numerous environmental conventions.
  • Some of these conventions include Basel Convention, Minamata Convention, Vienna Convention, Stockholm Convention, Carpathian Convention, Tehran Convention, Bamako Convention, Rotterdam Convention, Convention on Migratory Species, United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal Protocol, CITES, and CCAC.
  • The organization encourages ecological science and associated information. UNEP sponsors and employs developmental projects concerning the environment and ecosystem.
  • UNEP also connects with governments, NGOs, and other organizations or agencies related to environmental strategies and their execution
  • It prepares treaties and guidelines on transnational trade in hazardous chemicals, intercontinental waterways, and international air pollution
  • The UNEP also bestows individuals and organizations who work well for environmental concerns.

Major Initiatives by United Nations Environment Programme

The major program initiatives taken up by the UNEP are:

  • Emission Gap Report: The UNEP Emissions Gap Report is in its thirteenth edition for 2022. The discrepancy between projected emissions in 2030 and those required to meet the 1.5°C and 2°C targets of the Paris Agreement is evaluated. In 2020, the average global per-person GHG emissions were 6.3 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e). At 2.4 tCO2e, India still falls well short of the global average.
  • Global Environment Outlook: Periodically released by the UNEP, the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) series of publications examines the status and future direction of the global environment. The seventh and most recent GEO 7 was held in October 2022 as part of the UNEP’s environmental assessment.
  • Frontiers:Noise, Blazes and Mismatches” is the title of UNEP’s 2022 Annual Frontiers Report. In order to solve the triple planetary crises of climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss, the Frontiers report examines and proposes solutions to three environmental issues: wildfires, urban noise pollution, and phenological shifts.
  • Invest into Healthy Planet: The publication Invest into Healthy Planet serves as an example of UNEP’s work by highlighting some of the broad areas they cover and the successes they have had with their partners. Invest into Healthy Planet outlines the argument for the value of flexible core financial resources, their use, and how they help us invest in the capacity and know-how needed to carry out the tasks that the Member States assign them.

United Nations Environment Assembly

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) is the administering organization of the UNEP. It is also considered the world’s topmost decision-making group concerning the environment. The UNEA organizes meetings for the interval of two years to establish goals and agendas for global environmental policies and develop intercontinental environmental laws.

  • The UNEA was established in 2012. It is regulated and managed by a President and a Bureau.
  • The regulating bureau of the Assembly involves ten environment ministers of different nations or states. Every bureau member holds a two-year duration based on topographical alternation.
  • Presently, it includes 193 member countries (all UN member countries).
  • The UN Environment Assembly’s fifth session (UNEA-5) was held once in February 2021, and it was resumed in person in Nairobi from February 28 to March 2, 2022.
  • The United Nations Environment Assembly is currently preparing for its sixth session, which will take place from February 26 to March 1, 2024, at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

India and UNEP

India has retained a faithful and strong relationship with the United Nations Environment Programme since its commencement. India has had the UNEP’s presence in the country since 2016. The GOI’s Ministry for Environment, Forests, and Climate Change was the nodal group for our country’s contacts with the UNEP.

India has accomplished many projects with it, and several projects are functioning well between India and UNEP.

  • The UNEP has acknowledged India’s schemes and programs in the environment sector for the International Solar Alliance and other initiatives. The current PM, Narendra Modi, was bestowed by UNEP with the honor of being the Champions of Earth.
  • The country’s High Commissioner for Kenya permanently stands for India in UNEP.
  • India annually contributes around 100,000 USD to the UNEP.
  • India enlisted in the Climate and Clean Air Coalition in 2019, whose secretariat is held by the UNEP.

UNEP and Stockholm Conference

Some environmental concerns were adopted at the United Nations Conference on Human Environment in 1972. This Conference is popularly also named Stockholm Conference 1972. The Stockholm Conference of 1972 primarily aimed to create a general authority plan for the universal environment and ecological sources.

The Conference was later preceded by the implementation of the Stockholm Declaration.

  • Additionally, the Stockholm Conference of 1972 led to the establishment of a management society for these human environment concerns, currently known as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which manages the United Nations’ environmental activities.
  • Sweden had initially suggested the scheme of the Stockholm Conference; this is the reason it is also called the Swedish Initiative.
  • In 1972, the UN Conference in Stockholm was the first international meeting on the global environment. The theme of this meeting was Only One Earth under the participation of 122 nations, with the duration of the Conference being 5 June to 16 June 1972.


The UNEP is an essential topic in the Environment and Ecology section of the UPSC Syllabus. Candidates should be well aware of the basic fundamentals regarding the United Nations Environment Programme, from the Environment and Ecology Notes, and keep themselves updated on the rankings through Current Affairs.

Apart from the notes, candidates can rely on UPSC Previous Year Question Papers for effective preparation.

UNEP UPSC Question

Question: For what does UNEP sustain the Common Carbon Metric?

  1. Evaluating the carbon footprint of construction processes worldwide
  2. Permitting commercial farming bodies worldwide to appear in carbon emission trading
  3. Permitting governments to calculate the total carbon footprint produced by their states
  4. Evaluating the total carbon footprint produced by the world in duration by using fossil fuels

Answer: Option A

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