List of International Environmental Conventions & Protocols

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This article provides a list of significant environmental conventions and protocols that are frequently asked in the environment section of the UPSC examination. Familiarity with these agreements is crucial for candidates preparing for the Environment & Ecology section of UPSC Mains GS III and all other competitive exams.

Important International Environmental Agreements

NameYear of EstablishmentFocusParties
Ramsar Convention1971Wetlands conservation and sustainable use171
Stockholm Convention2001Protection of human health and environment from POPs187
CITES1973Protection of endangered species183
Convention on Biological Diversity1992Conservation of biological diversity and ecosystems196
Bonn Convention1979Conservation of migratory species131
Vienna Convention1985Protection of the ozone layer198
Montreal Protocol1987Protection of the ozone layer198
Kyoto Protocol1997Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions192
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)1992Mitigation of climate change and adaptation197
Rio Summit1992Sustainable development193
UNCCD1994Combat desertification and land degradation197
Basel Convention1989Control of transboundary movements of hazardous waste188
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety2000Protection of biodiversity from GMOs174
UN-REDD2008Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation64
Nagoya Protocol2010Access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing127
COP242018Implementation of the Paris Agreement197
COP212016Establishment of national contributions to mitigate climate change197
Kigali Amendment2016Phasing down of HFCs111
Minamata Convention2013Protection of human health and the environment from mercury128
Rotterdam Convention1998Prior informed consent for hazardous chemical trade163
COP252019Continued implementation of the Paris Agreement196

Brief about Environmental Conventions

Ramsar Convention

▪ The Ramsar Convention, also known as the Convention on Wetlands, is an international treaty that aims to protect and sustainably utilize wetlands of global significance, particularly as habitats for waterfowl.

▪ These wetlands are designated as Ramsar sites. The convention was signed in 1971 in the city of Ramsar, Iran.

Quick Overview about Ramsar Convention
Signed2 February 1971
LocationRamsar, Iran
Effective21 December 1975
ConditionRatification by 7 states
DepositaryDirector General of UNESCO

Stockholm Convention

▪ The Stockholm Convention is an international environmental treaty that was signed on 22 May 2001 in Stockholm and came into effect on 17 May 2004.

▪ Its objective is to restrict or eliminate the production and utilization of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to safeguard the environment.

Quick Overview about Stockholm Convention
TypeUnited Nations treaty
Signed22 May 2001
LocationStockholm, Sweden
Effective17 May 2004
ConditionNinety days after the ratification by at least 50 signatory states
DepositarySecretary-General of the United Nations


▪ CITES, or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is a treaty that aims to protect endangered plants and animals from the impacts of international trade.

▪ The convention originated from a resolution passed in 1963 during a meeting of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

▪ CITES was signed in 1973 and enacted on 1 July 1975, also known as the Washington Convention.

Quick Overview about CITES
Signed3 March 1973
LocationGeneva, Switzerland
Effective1 July 1975
Condition10 ratifications
DepositaryGovernment of the Swiss Confederation

Convention on Biological Diversity

▪ The Biodiversity Convention, formally known as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), is a multinational agreement with three primary aims: to protect biological diversity (or biodiversity), promote the sustainable utilization of its elements, and ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.

▪ The Convention’s aim is to establish national plans for safeguarding and sustainably utilizing biological diversity, making it a crucial document for sustainable development.

Quick Overview about Convention on Biological Diversity
TypeMultilateral environmental agreement
ContextEnvironmentalism, Biodiversity conservation
Drafted22 May 1992
Signed5 June 1992 – 4 June 1993
LocationRio de Janeiro, Brazil
New York, United States
Effective29 December 1993
ConditionRatification by 30 States
Parties196 States
All UN Member States except the United States
Cook Islands
European Union
State of Palestine
DepositarySecretary-General of the United Nations

Bonn Convention

▪ The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, commonly referred to as the CMS or Bonn Convention is a global treaty that seeks to protect migratory species across their habitats.

▪ The Convention was signed with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme and is focused on preserving wildlife and ecosystems worldwide.

Quick Overview about Bonn Convention
ContextWildlife conservation
Signed6 November 1979
LocationBonn, West Germany
Effective1 November 1983
ConditionRatification by 15 states
Parties130 States + EU

Vienna Convention

▪ The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) is a global treaty that governs the relationships between states and their treaties. Commonly referred to as the “treaty on treaties,” it establishes comprehensive regulations, procedures, and guidelines for defining, drafting, amending, interpreting, and generally operating treaties.

▪ An international treaty is a written agreement between international law subjects that reflects their consent to create, modify, or terminate their rights and obligations. The VCLT is regarded as a codification of customary international law and state practice concerning treaties.

Quick Overview about Vienna Convention
Signed23 May 1969
Effective27 January 1980
ConditionRatification by 35 states
Parties116 (as of January 2018)
DepositaryUN Secretary-General

Montreal Protocol

▪ The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty aimed at safeguarding the ozone layer by phasing out the production of substances that cause ozone depletion.

▪ It was agreed upon on September 16, 1987, and became effective on January 1, 1989. Since then, it has undergone nine revisions, held in London (1990), Nairobi (1991), Copenhagen (1992), Bangkok (1993), Vienna (1995), Montreal (1997), Australia (1998), Beijing (1999), and Kigali (2016). The agreement has contributed to the gradual recovery of the ozone hole in Antarctica.

Quick Overview about Montreal Protocol
Signed16 September 1987
Effective1 January 1989 if 11 states have ratified by then.
ConditionRatification by 20 states
Ratifiers198 (all United Nations members, as well as the Cook Islands, Niue, the Holy See, the State of Palestine and the European Union)
DepositarySecretary-General of the United Nations

Kyoto Protocol

▪ The Kyoto Protocol, an extension of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is an international treaty that obliges state parties to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions based on the scientific consensus that global warming is occurring due to human-made CO2 emissions.

▪ The protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan on December 11, 1997, and became effective on February 16, 2005. As of 2020, there were 192 parties to the protocol, with Canada having withdrawn from the protocol in December 2012.

Quick Overview about Kyoto Protocol
Signed11 December 1997
LocationKyoto, Japan
Effective16 February 2005
ConditionRatification by at least 55 states to the Convention
Expiration31 December 2012 (first commitment period)
31 December 2020 (second commitment period)
Signatories84(1998–1999 signing period)
Parties192 (the European Union, Cook Islands, Niue, and all UN member states except Andorra, Canada, South Sudan, and the United States as of 2022)

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

▪ The UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) is a global environmental treaty aimed at preventing “dangerous human interference with the climate system” by stabilizing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.

▪ It was signed by 154 states during the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from June 3 to 14, 1992.

▪ The convention’s original secretariat was based in Geneva but moved to Bonn in 1996. The UNFCCC officially came into force on March 21, 1994.

Quick Overview about United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
TypeMultilateral environmental agreement
Drafted9 May 1992
Signed4–14 June 1992
20 June 1992 – 19 June 1993
LocationRio de Janeiro, Brazil
New York, United States
Effective21 March 1994
ConditionRatification by 50 states
DepositarySecretary-General of the United Nations

Rio Summit

▪ The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio Conference or the Earth Summit (Portuguese: ECO92), was a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro from June 3 to June 14, 1992.

▪ It was convened as a response to the need for member states to cooperate internationally on development issues following the end of the Cold War.

▪ Due to the enormity of sustainability issues that individual member states were unable to tackle alone, the Earth Summit provided a platform for collaboration among member states.

▪ Since its inception, many other organizations in the field of sustainability have undergone similar developments to the issues discussed in these conferences, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs).


▪ The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is an international treaty aimed at preventing and reversing desertification and mitigating the effects of drought, particularly in Africa.

▪ It promotes the development of long-term strategies and national action programs, supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements.

Quick info about UNCCD
TypeMultilateral environmental agreement
ContextEnvironmentalism, Desertification
Drafted17 June 1994
Signed14 October 1994 – 13 October 1995
LocationBonn, Germany; New York, United States
Effective26 December 1996
ConditionRatification by 50 States
Parties 197: All 193 UN Member States, Cook Islands, European Union, Niue, Palestine
DepositarySecretary-General of the United Nations

Basel Convention

▪ The Basel Convention, also known as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, is an international agreement aimed at reducing the transfer of hazardous waste between countries, particularly from developed to developing nations.

▪ The treaty does not cover the movement of radioactive waste. Its objectives include minimizing the amount and danger of waste produced, ensuring that hazardous waste is managed as close to its source as possible in an environmentally sound manner, and supporting developing nations in managing their hazardous and other wastes in an environmentally sound manner.

Quick overview about Basel Convention
TypeUnited Nations treaty
Signed22 March 1989
LocationBasel, Switzerland
Effective5 May 1992
DepositarySecretary-General of the United Nations

Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

▪ The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty addressing biosafety concerns related to genetically modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.

▪ It supplements the Convention on Biological Diversity and has been effective since 2003. Its primary objective is to safeguard biological diversity from the potential risks posed by such organisms.

Qucik overview about Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
Drafted29 January 2000
Signed16 May 2000
LocationMontreal, Quebec, Canada (originally scheduled for 1999 at Cartagena, Colombia)
Effective11 September 2003
DepositarySecretary-General of the United Nations


▪ The UN-REDD Programme, which stands for United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, is a collaborative effort among the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

▪ It was established in 2008 following decisions made by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on the Bali Action Plan and REDD at COP-13.

▪ It is important to note that the UN-REDD Programme is separate from REDD+, a voluntary approach to mitigate climate change that parties to the UNFCCC have developed.

Quick Overview about UN-REDD Programme
EstablishedSeptember 24, 2008; 14 years ago
HeadquartersGeneva, Switzerland
Membership65 Partner Countries
Head, UN-REDD Programme SecretariatMario Boccucci
Parent organizationFood and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Nagoya Protocol

▪ The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization is a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted in 2010.

▪ Its purpose is to implement one of the three objectives of the CBD by ensuring the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the utilization of genetic resources, thereby promoting the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

▪ The protocol outlines the obligations of its parties regarding access to genetic resources, benefit-sharing, and compliance.

Quick Overview about Nagoya Protocol
Signed29 October 2010
LocationNagoya, Japan
Effective12 October 2014
Condition50 ratifications
DepositarySecretary-General of the United Nations


▪ The Katowice Climate Change Conference, also known as COP24, was the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Katowice, Poland from 2 to 15 December 2018.

▪ The conference was held at the International Congress Centre and was presided over by Michał Kurtyka.

▪ In addition to addressing the objectives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the conference included the fourteenth meeting of the parties for the Kyoto Protocol (CMP14) and the third session of the first meeting of the parties for the Paris Agreement (CMA1-3 or CMA1.3).

▪ The conference’s main goal was to achieve full implementation of the Paris Agreement, and rules were agreed upon for its implementation.

Quick Overview about COP24
Native nameKonferencja Narodów Zjednoczonych w sprawie Zmian Klimatu, Katowice 2018
Date2–15 December 2018
LocationKatowice, Poland
Also known asCOP24 (UNFCCC)
CMP14 (Kyoto Protocol)
CMA1-3 or 1.3 (Paris Agreement)
Organised byPoland
ParticipantsUNFCCC member countries


▪ The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP 21 or CMP 11, took place in Paris, France from November 30 to December 12, 2015.

▪ This event marked the 21st annual session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as well as the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Quick Overview about COP21
Also known asCOP21 (UNFCCC)
CMP11 (Kyoto Protocol)
Date30 November 2015 – 12 December 2015
LocationLe Bourget in the suburbs of Paris, France
ParticipantsParties to the UNFCCC
Previous eventLima 2014
Next eventMarrakech 2016

Kigali Amendment

▪ The Kigali Amendment is an international agreement to reduce the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) over time. This legally binding agreement aims to establish obligations and rights in international law.

Quick Overview about Kigali Amendment
TypeEnvironmental protection agreement
ContextMontreal Protocol (1985)
SignedOctober 15, 2016
LocationKigali, Rwanda
EffectiveJanuary 1, 2019

Minamata Convention

▪ The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty that aims to safeguard human health and the environment against the harmful effects of mercury and its compounds resulting from human activities.

▪ After three years of negotiations, delegates from nearly 140 countries approved the convention’s text on January 19, 2013, in Geneva, and it was later adopted and signed on October 10, 2013, at a diplomatic conference in Kumamoto, Japan.

▪ The convention is named after Minamata, a Japanese city that suffered a tragic mercury poisoning incident. The treaty targets activities that are primarily responsible for the significant release of mercury into the environment, and it is expected to lead to a decrease in mercury pollution over the next few decades.

Qucik info about Minamata Convention
TypeUnited Nations treaty
Signed10 October 2013
LocationKumamoto, Japan
Effective16 August 2017
ConditionNinety days after the ratification by at least 50 states
DepositarySecretary-General of the United Nations

Rotterdam Convention

▪ The Rotterdam Convention, also known as the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, is a treaty designed to encourage shared responsibilities concerning the importation of hazardous chemicals.

▪ The convention promotes transparent information exchange and requires exporters of hazardous chemicals to appropriately label, provide safe handling instructions, and disclose any known bans or restrictions to purchasers.

▪ Nations that have signed the treaty can decide whether to permit or prohibit the importation of chemicals listed in the agreement and exporting countries must ensure that producers under their jurisdiction adhere to the regulations.

Qucik info about Rotterdam Convention
TypeUnited Nations treaty
Signed10 September 1998
LocationRotterdam, the Netherlands
Effective24 February 2004
ConditionNinety days after the ratification by at least 50 signatory states
DepositarySecretary-General of the United Nations


▪ COP25, the 25th United Nations Climate Change Conference, took place in Madrid, Spain, from December 2-13, 2019.

▪ The conference was presided over by the Chilean government and included the 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the 15th meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP15), and the second meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA2).

Qucik info about COP25
Native nameConferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático de 2019
Date2–13 December 2019
LocationMadrid, Spain
Also known asCOP25 (UNFCCC)
CMP15 (Kyoto Protocol)
CMA2 (Paris Agreement)
Organized byChile and Spain
ParticipantsUNFCCC member countries
Previous eventKatowice 2018

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