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date: 09 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers the UN contributions to treaty-making in practice on the environment and sustainable development. It begins with a brief survey of the crafting and “clustering” of multilateral environmental agreements as international responses to emerging global environmental problems. Specifically, this chapter considers the role of the UN in this process, focusing on successive waves of treaty-making over recent decades. It suggests that the UN has played a very important role in negotiations in this field, and continues to serve as a crucial and valuable actor in the implementation and refinement of these treaties and the broader problem-based clusters, in spite of very limited resources. This chapter identifies several key treaties that address a selection of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs,) leading to a concluding consideration of how international accords in this field are, in turn, contributing to the UN Charter. It suggests that, without the UN-facilitated treaties, many SDGs could be considered “hollow,” dependent on voluntary collaborations, and devoid of reliable regimes to achieve their targets. Not all relationships are equally integrated. Fragmentation, duplication, unintended overlapping of obligations or even conflicts may exist. As international governance becomes more sophisticated and complex, these interrelated instruments can be negotiated, implemented, and interactionally refined across multiple nested levels. To this end, this chapter argues that adoption of the SDGs may support greater coherence across the UN system.

Keywords: sustainable development, environment, treaties, international law, treaty-making, Sustainable Development Goals, environmental agreements, UN, UN Charter, international governance

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