A number of events during June offer interesting case studies into the development of institutions for and the implementation of international environmental governance.
The First Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to Prepare a Global Legally Binding Instrument on Mercury (INC1), which took place from 7-11 June 2010, in Stockholm, Sweden, provides a case study on the development of a new multilateral environmental agreement (MEA). Beginning in 2001, the management of mercury was discussed in the UN Environment Programme Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (UNEP GC/GMEF), first on the basis of a requested Global Mercury Assessment report, and then through recursive compilations and consideration of legally binding as well as non-binding options to address the issue. After eight years of study and consideration, the UNEP GC/GMEF, in February 2009, agreed to develop a legally binding agreement on mercury, and INC 1 began the negotiations on such an agreement.
Negotiations under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are providing examples of efforts to develop new agreements under an existing MEA. The third meeting of the Group of the Friends of the Co-Chairs on Liability and Redress in the context of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety met from 15-19 June 2010, and it seems that a supplementary protocol on liability and redress for damage resulting from transboundary movements of living modified organisms may be concluded in the next few months. The resumed ninth meeting of the CBD Working Group on Access and Benefit-sharing (resumed ABS 9), which will be held from 10-16 July 2010, will continue, with an eye to finalizing, a protocol on ABS.
In other examples, the 25th ratification of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) Statute on 8 June 2010 started the one-month countdown for IRENA’s entry into force, completing another multiple-year process of building support for the need for, and design of, a new institution to champion an emerging element for sustainable development implementation. And parties at the 30th Meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG 30) of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which convened from 15-18 June 2010, in Geneva, Switzerland, considered revised versions of proposals to amend the Montreal Protocol with regard to hydrofluorocarbons, offering an as-yet incomplete case study in how an existing institution could incorporate additional issues.
Meanwhile, the High-Level Segment of the Economic and Social Council, at its annual substantive meeting, has heard presentations stressing effectiveness and coherence, including a suggestion that the “G-20 be transformed into the proposed United Nations forum responsible for economic, social and environmental affairs.” Whether this proposal will be added to the case studies noted above remains to be seen. For each proposal and institution, governmental support and the context of the international system will play a role in whether and how effectively the proposal will be implemented.
These issues will remain on the agenda in July. The First Meeting of the Consultative Group of Ministers or High-Level Representatives on Broader International Environmental Governance Reform, which is meeting from 7-9 July 2010, will review current mechanisms and institutions for environmental governance and prepare a roadmap for the work of the Consultative Group, leading to the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, also called Rio+20). These discussions will support the UNCSD deliberations on its second theme: the institutional framework for sustainable development. As June has demonstrated, there are many paths and an expanding number of actors involved with the development of sustainable development institutions and policy. We will be watching to see how the Consultative Group’s deliberations and efforts to devise proposals for reform take these variables into account as they proceed over the coming years.