New Zealand participates in a number of international bodies working in different ways to protect and improve the global environment.
Central to these efforts are international agreements and organisations focusing on sustainable development. Agreements on sustainable development have their origins in the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where countries, including New Zealand, adopted Agenda 21. The Agenda 21 programme sets out actions for governments, United Nations organisations, development agencies, non-governmental organisations, and the private sector in every area in which human activity impacts on the environment.
Ten years later in 2002 countries reviewed their progress on implementing the Agenda 21 programme of action at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. The key document from the Summit, the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, provided new targets and recommendations for practical action on sustainable development. The plan included a ten year framework of programmes to change the ways societies produce and consume, actions to achieve sustainable fisheries and the conservation and management of oceans, integrating water resources management, and action to reduce the risks and vulnerability to natural hazards in many parts of the world.
The United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development was created to ensure that Agenda 21 and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation were implemented. The Commission is composed of United Nations member states and its annual sessions focus on specific sustainable development themes. NewZealand chaired the 1998 session and continues to maintain an active interest in the work of the Commission.
New Zealand is a member of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and held a seat on its Governing Council from 2000 to 2003. UNEP’s role - confirmed by the Nairobi Declaration agreed by UNEP members in 1997 - is to “provide leadership and promote partnerships for environmental protection, through assessments of the state of the global environment, furthering development of international environmental law, carrying out policies to advance environmental protection, and coordinating activities in the UN system and further afield.” The annual UNEP meeting provides an opportunity for Environment Ministers from around the world to engage on international environmental issues and to set the direction of the international environmental agenda.
UNEP also provides information on the state of the global environment. Its Global Environment Outlook is its major publication. UNEP plays an important role in international negotiations on Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs) and acts as the Secretariat to a number of them, including the Ozone Secretariat and the Montreal Protocol's Multilateral Fund and CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). The distinct secretariats for others, including the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on Migratory Species, also form part of the UNEP operation. UNEP also provides secretariat services to a growing family of chemicals-related agreements, including the Basel Convention on the Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
In June 2008, New Zealand hosted World Environment Day in cooperation with UNEP.
As a developed country, New Zealand contributes to the financing and governing of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The GEF is an international body providing finance to developing countries for activities addressing global environmental issues around climate change, biological diversity, chemicals management, sustainable land management and international waters. New Zealand takes its turn on the GEF Governing Council, which is responsible for setting policies and programmes - most recently from January 2008 to June 2009.
New Zealand is a member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The OECD conducts its work on environmental issues principally through the Environment Policy Committee. It provides expertise through environmental performance reviews (New Zealand’s environmental performance was reviewed in 2006), collecting and analysing data, and policy analysis to support governments in addressing environmental challenges. NewZealand participates in the Environment Policy Committee as well as other OECD working groups.
New Zealand also participates in the governance and operation of regional bodies working on environment issues in the Pacific, including the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission.