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The Department of the Environment has a key role in helping developing countries to adopt and implement norms and standards required to comply with several multilateral environmental agreements, such as the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and the Minamata Convention on Mercury

For example, in its work on POPs, UNIDO runs training courses on the impact of hazardous waste, provides policy analysis and, crucially, assists countries in drafting recommendations to develop National Implementation Plans required in law to implement the Treaty. In this way, UNIDO provides support for building national policies on hazardous waste and chemicals management that have an impact not only on national health but also on access to international markets and value chains.

Success will rest, to a large extent, on the ability of countries to push through legislation to comply with norms and standards, and to be able to monitor progress over time. Ongoing technical assistance to put in place specific legislation and policies, for example in the work done to date on removing POPs, would help deliver better long-term outcomes and strengthen their impact.

The Department is also involved in developing recommendations and guidelines on shifting industrial production to circular economy methods, with the aim of raising the profile of the circular economy and working towards achieving global agreement in adopting its principles.

One example of UNIDO’s work in this area is a project to establish a circular economy framework in the plastic sector in Ghana based on particular standards. The goal is to create a single-use plastic phase-out strategy to discourage the production, import and use of single-use plastics; develop quality standards for secondary raw plastic materials, circular plastics and eco-design of plastic products; and build a methodology and indicators for a circular economy for plastics. If developed successfully, these aims could form the basis of a normative framework that would help create the norms and standards needed to shift production to more sustainable methods in Ghana and the region.  

In addition to its “creating” and “implementing” activities, the Department also acts as a convenor. Through the Green Industry Conference for example, it gives a voice to green industry matters by providing a global platform where relevant innovation, technology and policies can be explored. The ongoing aim of the conference, first held in 2009, is to advance the take-up of green industry policies, methods and techniques in transition-economy industries.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is widely regarded as the most successful international environmental protection treaty in history and is the only one that has been universally ratified. To date, the Parties to the Protocol have phased out 98 per cent of the world’s ozone-depleting substances (ODS) compared to 1990 levels.

Without the treaty, ozone depletion would have increased tenfold by 2050 and millions more cases of skin cancer, cataracts and other health problems would have been recorded. And, because most of the gases which harm the ozone layer are also greenhouse gases, the Protocol has had a significant impact on mitigating climate change, delaying global warming by up to 12 years, according to some scientists.

As a major implementing agency of the Multilateral Fund set up to help developing countries meet their Protocol targets, UNIDO plans, develops and implements national and sector-wide ODS phase-out plans to ensure their compliance with the Protocol. Since 1992, UNIDO has helped to eradicate over one-third of these dangerous chemicals from the developing world. Specifically, it provides technical support on upgrading production, as well as assistance to governments to strengthen regulatory frameworks and monitor ODS consumption.

UNIDO has completed over 1,340 Montreal Protocol projects through the Multilateral Fund, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and through bilateral contributions. Currently, it is implementing hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) phase-out management plans in 70 countries.