The United Nations’ Promoting Change in Environmental Issues

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The United Nations has in place many initiatives, principles, frameworks, policies, and campaigns to help combat marine plastic litter, microplastics, air pollution, and disposal of e-waste and hazardous materials. However, there are many problems that plague the UN’s attempts at creating change, such as countries that do not comply to these programs. One such country is Oman. This country does little when it comes to following the proposals.

Marine Plastic Litter and Microplastics

The United Nations has been taking many steps to reduce marine plastic litter and microplastic in the oceans. Plastic debris and microplastics are the two main contributors to marine litter. This debris has many negative impacts on marine life and human life. The main impact is that animals are eating the plastic and microplastics. It has been discovered that species who ingested these plastics ate up to 40 per cent less real food and reproduction output reduced significantly (Harris, 2016, p. 14). Another impact is the marine life gets caught in the plastic, which causes death through starvation, drowning, and strangulation. This can also cause issues to humans because the fish, that may eat, have chemicals in them from the plastic and microplastics (Harris, p. 16).

The United Nations and global responses have contributed to the development of many policies such as the Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), London Convention, MARPOL 73/78, and the Global Programme of Action (Harris, 2016, p. 42-44). However, the United Nations knows that these simple policies are not enough to make any lasting change. To make more of a change the UNEP put together a campaign called, #CleanSeas. This campaign worked on ways to help get plastic litter and microplastic out of the oceans. They first focused on raising awareness among people. UNEP taught consumers and retailers how they can prevent from adding to the littering situation. They also dedicated research on improving product designs so that it creates less waste. Another tactic was implementing bans, such as smoking on beaches, plastic microbeads in cosmetic products, and plastic bags. They also encouraged member countries to invest in waste management and waster water treatment facilities. The final idea was to clean up on both the beaches and in the oceans (Harris, pg. 47).

Oman. Since Oman is against the Sea of Oman, they are a part of the #CleanSeas campaign. They announced that they would be taking measures such as banning plastic bags and plastic straws, creating new marine reserves, and increasing the countries recycling (Few, 2017). However, according to one study most of the plastic and debris found on the beaches of Oman are from fishing and recreational activities (Choudri, 2015).

Air Pollution and Air Quality Globally

Air pollution is a major issue affecting the world. It poses the greatest risk to human health. According to the United Nations, “some 6.5 million people across the world die prematurely every year from exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution” (2017, p.14). The main sources of air pollution are “fossil fuel emissions from coal burning for power and heat, transport, industrial furnaces, brick kilns, agriculture, domestic solid fuel heating, and the unregulated burning of waste materials” (United Nations, p. 15). The air pollution from these sources has been shown to cause a change in weather patterns and increasing the levels of airborne allergens (United Nations, p.16).

To fight against air pollution the United Nations created two frameworks called The Rio Principles and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations, 2017, p.51). These frameworks laid out twelve steps countries should take to reduce their air pollution. First, the UN is encouraging countries to develop air quality policies and ways to reduce the pollution in the air. Such as investing in wind and solar power. The UN is also telling member countries to reduce the emissions from manufacturing agencies. Thirdly, they are pushing for countries to enforce advanced vehicles emission standards as well as adopting electric vehicles. The framework also includes countries “provid[ing] access to public transport and nonmotorized transport in cities, increase investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, improve access to clean cooking fuels…, protect and restore ecosystems to avoid erosion, fires, and dust storms, reduce emissions of ammonium and methane from agriculture, [and] designate and expand green spaces in urban areas (United Nations, p. 52). The overall goal of the UN is to encourage governments to enhance and take care of local and regional pollution (United Nations, p. 52).

Oman. Oman is part of the Paris Agreement and has vowed to cut its greenhouse emission by two percent from the years 2020-2030. To reach this goal Oman has been making a slow shift from using oil to wind and solar power. They are also in the works of introducing electric vehicles (Oman’s, 2018).

Disposal of Electronic and Hazardous Waste

Each year, “47 million metric tons of toxic garbage is thrown away globally” (Kuehr, 2019). This toxic garbage can be categorized into two categories, electronic (or e-waste) and hazardous waste. E-waste consists of cell phones, televisions, computers, and any other technological device. Hazardous waste consists of chemicals and materials that cause a health threat to humans and the planet (Modak, 2010).

To attempt to solve the e-waste problem, the United Nations started the Solving the E-waste Problem Initiative, also known as (StEP). This initiative has three main goals. The first is to create a solution-based dialogue, cooperation, and consensus by providing a place for knowledge to be shared. The second is to work with partners, such as the US Environmental Protection Agency and Dell, to create responses to e-waste prevention. The third is to lead a discussion worldwide on e-waste management by giving a scientific basis of information and encourage changes in businesses and consumer behavior (Kuehr, 2019).

To solve the issue of hazardous waste there have been four treaties and conventions. The first was the Basel Convention which controlled transboundary movement and disposal of hazardous waste. The Bamako Convention banned the movement and management of hazardous waste in Africa. The Rotterdam Convention promoted a shared responsibility of hazardous chemicals and pesticides. The Stockholm convention regulated persistent organic pollutants (Modak, 2010).

Oman. Currently Oman has no legislation or initiative in place as to how to get rid of hazardous waste, so much of it is in landfills. However, the Omani government signed a contract with a company to build a nation-wide hazardous waste management system in 2012, but it has yet to start construction (Ali, 2012).

Weaknesses and Potential Solutions

The main issue with all the United Nation’s policies in these three different categories is that they have no repercussions for countries who do not make any type of effort in following the framework, regulations, or rules. Also, the UN does not provide any economic incentives for countries who do comply. Another issue is, for undeveloped countries complying with the UN’s regulations may be difficult due to limited resources and aid. For countries to follow through the UN needs to create repercussions for countries. Such as a tax or threat of being kicked out of the UN. The UN should also provide economic aid or incentives for countries who do not have the funds to comply to the UN’s wishes. If they provided such economic incentives, there would most likely be more countries putting effort into the UN’s goals.


The United Nations works very hard at promoting change in marine plastic litter, microplastics, air pollution, and disposal of e-waste and hazardous waste. They have created many initiatives, principles, frameworks, policies, and campaigns to try and promote this change. However, many countries do not comply with the UN’s recommended changes due to there being no repercussions against them. Oman is one such country that has not been making a lot of change in these areas. The country knows that even if they do not meet the goals, they will not face any type of penalization.

Cite this paper

The United Nations’ Promoting Change in Environmental Issues. (2021, Jul 30). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-united-nations-promoting-change-in-environmental-issues/

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