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Selected Multilateral Environmental Instruments In Force for the U.S.

This page provides information about certain international treaties, protocols and other agreements to which the United States is a party.  Learn more about EPA's international programs.

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Air

Marine

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Other Resources


Air

Regional

Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP)

Topic: Long-Range Transport of Air Pollutants
Signed: 1979; Entered into force for the United States: 1983
Secretariat: UN Economic Commission for Europe Exit
Responsible EPA Program: Office of Air and Radiation

Description: The Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution addresses the damage to human health and the environment caused by transboundary air pollution. The aim of the Convention is that Parties limit and, as far as possible, gradually reduce and prevent air pollution including long-range transboundary air pollution.

Protocols: 

  • Protocol to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-Level Ozone (Gothenburg Protocol)
    Topic: Long-Range Transport of Air Pollutants
    Signed: 1999; Entered into force for the United States: 2005
    This Protocol requires parties to control and reduce emissions of sulfur, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and volatile organic compounds. It creates short-term and long-term targets for emissions reductions. For the United States, it incorporates standards set under the Clean Air Act.

  • Protocol Concerning the Control of Emissions of Nitrogen Oxides or Their Transboundary Fluxes
    Topic: Long-Range Transport of Air Pollutants
    Signed: 1988; Entered into force for the United States: 1991
    This Protocol requires reduction of emissions of nitrogen oxides or their transboundary fluxes below the levels of 1987 or any previous reference year chosen by a party (the United States chose to relate its emission target to 1978).

  • Protocol on Heavy Metals
    Topic: Long-Range Transport of Air Pollutants
    Signed: 1998; Entered into force for the United States: 2003
    The Protocol targets three particularly harmful metals: cadmium, lead and mercury. Parties have to reduce their emissions of these three metals below their levels in 1990 (or an alternative year between 1985 and 1995). The Protocol specifically addresses emissions from industrial sources, combustion processes, and waste incineration. It lays down stringent limit values for emissions from stationary sources and suggests best available techniques (BAT) for these sources, such as special filters or scrubbers for combustion sources or mercury-free processes. The Protocol requires Parties to phase out leaded automobile fuel.

  • Protocol on Long-Term Financing of the Cooperative Programme for Monitoring and Evaluation of the Long-Range Transmission of Air Pollutants in Europe (EMEP)
    Topic: Long-Range Transport of Air Pollutants
    Signed:1984; Entered into force for the United States: 1988
    An instrument for international cost-sharing of a monitoring program which forms the backbone for review and assessment of relevant air pollution in Europe in light of agreements on emission reduction. EMEP has three main components: collection of emission data for SO2, NOx, VOCs and other air pollutants; measurement of air and precipitation quality; and modeling of atmospheric dispersion. At present, about 100 monitoring stations in 24 ECE countries participate in the program.

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Global

Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (Vienna Convention)

Topic: Stratospheric Ozone Protection and Managing the Transition Away From Ozone-Depleting Substances
Signed: 1985; Entered into force for the United States: 1988
Secretariat: Ozone Secretariat of the UN Environment Programme Exit
Responsible EPA Program: Office of Air and Radiation, Office of Atmospheric Programs, Stratospheric Protection Division

Description: Establishes a framework to protect human health and the environment against adverse effects resulting from or likely to result from human activities which modify or are likely to modify the stratospheric ozone layer and for cooperation in observations, harmonization of policies, and measures and standards.

Protocol: 

  • Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, as Amended and Adjusted (Montreal Protocol)
    Topic: Stratospheric Ozone Protection and Managing the Transition Away From Ozone-Depleting Substances
    Signed: 1987; Entered into force for the United States: 1989
    The Montreal Protocol imposes specific requirements regarding production, import, and export of ozone-depleting substances on both developed and developing countries with the goal of protecting stratospheric ozone. It has been repeatedly strengthened by both controlling additional ozone-depleting substances as well as by moving up the date by which already controlled substances must be phased out.  Learn more about the Montreal Protocol.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

Topic: Climate Change
Signed: 1992; Entered into force for the United States: 1994
Secretariat: UNFCCC Executive Secretariat Exit
Responsible EPA Program: Office of Air and Radiation

Description: Sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. Its objective is to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.  Learn more about the UNFCCC.

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Marine

Regional

Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention)

Topic: Marine Environment
Signed: 1983; Entered into force for the United States: 1986
Secretariat: UN Environment Programme, Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit Exit
Responsible EPA Program: Office of International and Tribal Affairs

Description: A comprehensive, umbrella agreement for the protection of the marine environment in the Wider Caribbean Region. The Convention is supplemented by the Oil Spills Protocol, the SPAW Protocol and the LBS Protocol.  Learn more about the Cartagena Convention and the Caribbean Environment Programme.

Protocols:

  • Protocol Concerning Cooperation in Combating Oil Spills in the Wider Caribbean Region (Oil Spill Protocol)
    Topic: Oil Spills
    Signed: 1983; Entered into force for the United States: 1986
    The Oil Spill Protocol was adopted concurrently with the Cartagena Convention in 1983. The objective of the Protocol is to strengthen national and regional preparedness and response capacity of the nations and territories of the region. The Protocol also serves to foster and facilitate co-operation and mutual assistance among the nations and territories in cases of emergency in order to prevent and control oil spill incidents.

  • Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW Protocol)
    Topic: Biodiversity
    Signed: 1990; Entered into force for the United States: 2000
    The objective of this Protocol to the Cartagena Convention is to protect rare and fragile ecosystems and habitats, including through the establishment and proper management of protected areas, thereby protecting the endangered and threatened species residing therein.

  • Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land Based Sources (LBS Protocol)
    Topic: Land-Based Sources of Pollution
    Signed: 1999; Entered into force for the United States: 2010
    The LBS Protocol to the Cartagena Convention aims to prevent, reduce and control pollution in the region from land-based sources and activities. It establishes a list of land-based sources of pollution and activities and their associated contaminants of particular concern to the marine environment of the Wider Caribbean Region. It also outlines and establishes the process for developing regional standards and practices for the prevention, reduction, and control of the land-based sources and activities.

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Global

London Convention

Topic: Ocean Dumping
Signed: 1972; Entered into force for the United States: 1975
Secretariat: Secretariat for the London Convention and the London Protocol Exit
Responsible EPA Program: Office of International and Tribal Affairs; Office of Water, Oceans and Coastal Protection Division

Description: The "Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972" (the "London Convention") was one of the first global conventions to protect the marine environment from human activities and has been in force since 1975.  Its objectives are to promote the effective control of all sources of marine pollution and to take all practicable steps to prevent pollution of the sea by dumping of wastes.  Learn more about the:

International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973, and subsequent six Protocols (MARPOL 73/78)

Topic: Marine Pollution from Ships
Signed: 1978; Entered into force for the United States: 1983
Secretariat: UN International Maritime Organization, Marine Environment Protection Committee Exit
Responsible EPA Program: Office of International and Tribal Affairs

Description: In 1973, International Maritime Organization adopted the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, now known universally as MARPOL, which has been amended by the Protocols of 1978 and 1997 and kept updated with relevant amendments. The MARPOL Convention addresses pollution from ships by oil; by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk; harmful substances carried by sea in packaged form; sewage, garbage; and the prevention of air pollution from ships. MARPOL has greatly contributed to a significant decrease in pollution from international shipping and applies to 99% of the world’s merchant tonnage. Learn more about the International maritime Organization and the MARPOL Convention.

Protocols

  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships – Annex I/II (MARPOL Annex I/II)
    Topic: Oil, Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk
    Signed: 1978; Entered into force for the United States: 1983 (Annex I), 1987 (Annex II)
    MARPOL Annex I covers the prevention of pollution by oil from operational measures, as well as from accidental discharges. Annex II details the discharge criteria and measures for the control of pollution by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk.

  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships – Annex III (MARPOL Annex III)
    Topic: Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form
    Signed: 1978; Entered into force for the United States: 1992
    MARPOL Annex III contains general requirements for the issuing of detailed standards on packing, marking, labelling, documentation, stowage, quantity limitations, exceptions and notifications for preventing pollution by harmful substances. The International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code has, since 1991, included marine pollutants.

  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships – Annex V (MARPOL Annex V)
    Topic: Garbage
    Signed: 1978; Entered into force for the United States: 1988
    Regulates handling and discharge of specific types of garbage generated during normal operations of a ship.

  • International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships – Annex VI (MARPOL Annex VI)
    Topic: Air Emissions from Ships
    Signed: 1998; Entered into force for the United States: 2005
    MARPOL Annex VI regulates the prevention of air pollution from ships, including by limiting the discharge of nitrogen oxides from larger marine diesel engines, governing the sulfur content of marine diesel fuel, prohibiting the emission of ozone-depleting substances, regulating the emission of volatile organic compounds during the transfer of cargoes between tankers and terminals, setting standards for shipboard incinerators and fuel oil quality, and establishing requirements for platforms and drilling rigs at sea.

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Multi-Media

Regional

Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty

Region: Antarctic (the area south of 60 degrees South Latitude)
Signed: 1991; Entered into force for the United States: 1998
Secretariat: Secretariat of the Antarctic Treaty Exit
Responsible EPA office: Office of Federal Activities

Description: This Protocol and its six annexes supplement the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 to enhance the protection of the Antarctic environment and dependent and associated ecosystems. The Protocol commits the Parties to the "comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment;" designates Antarctica as a "natural reserve, devoted to peace and science;" sets out principles and mandatory requirements for environmental protection; bans all commercial mineral resource activity; and requires the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of all activities before they are allowed to go ahead.  Learn more about how we assess the environmental impact of nongovernmental activities in Antartica.

The North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC)

Region: North America
Signed: 1993; Entered into force for the United States: 1994
Secretariat: Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) Exit
Responsible EPA Program: Office of International and Tribal Affairs

Description: The North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) is the environmental side agreement to the NAFTA. The NAAEC was signed by Canada, Mexico and the United States and came into force January 1, 1994. The Agreement creates a framework to better conserve, protect and enhance the North American environment through cooperation and effective enforcement of environmental laws. Learn more about the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

Other Resources

Additional bilateral and multi-lateral agreements and partnerships

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