International Treaties and Agreements



Basel Convention

The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes (i.e., the movement of hazardous wastes across international frontiers) and their Disposal was negotiated under the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) beginning in 1988. After the twentieth country ratified the Basel Convention on February 5, 1992, the Convention became effective for those twenty countries on May 5, 1992.  The Convention's main goal is to protect human health and the environment from hazards posed by transboundary movements of hazardous waste.  The negotiators of the Convention wanted to promote environmentally sound management of exported and imported waste, especially in developing countries.

During its first Decade (1989-1999), the Convention was principally devoted to setting up a framework for controlling the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes. It also developed the criteria for environmentally sound management. A Control System, based on prior written notification, was also put into place. Since 2000, the Convention has built on this framework by emphasizing full implementation and enforcement of treaty commitments. The other area of focus is the minimization of hazardous waste generation.

The Convention requires that the exporting country notify the receiving country and any transit countries of the proposed shipment.  The waste shipment may occur only after the transit and receiving countries have given consent for the shipment. The Convention requires that a tracking document, or movement document, accompany the waste shipment from its point of origin until its ultimate disposal.  In addition, shipments of waste must be packaged, labeled, and transported in accordance with international rules.  In the event that an accident occurs during the shipment of the waste, Basel requires that the responsible parties inform the potentially affected countries of the accident. Finally, parties to the Convention must submit an annual report to the Basel Secretariat summarizing the amounts and types of hazardous waste exported and the destination and disposal methods.

Additional Resources for the Basel Convention:

Secretariat of the Basel Convention. Official web site of the Basil Convention.

EPA Basil Convention. EPA web site. Provides information about the Basel Convention. including a Collection of Materials on Import / Export Regulatory Requirements (Chapter V) and International Waste Activities.

Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), first signed in 1972, provides a regional mechanism to protect and improve the management of the Great Lakes ecosystem by supporting:

  • regulations
  • enforcement action
  • research
  • monitoring
  • program planning.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the agreement.

One continuing problem in the Lakes has been the high levels of certain toxic substances. In early 1997, a new strategy was released to address these concerns. The strategy proposes to reduce and virtually eliminate identified persistent toxic substances, especially those which bioaccumulate, from the Great Lakes basin.

Provisions in the strategy include: an emphasis on pollution prevention and "cleaner, cheaper, smarter" ways to reduce toxic substances, and a framework for actions to achieve quantifiable goals within a ten-year time frame. It builds on existing Canadian and U.S. regulatory programs, as well as on successful toxic reduction programs underway in the States.

The strategy sets milestones to be achieved from 1997 to 2006. Among them, the strategy calls for a 50 percent reduction in mercury uses nationally, a 90 percent reduction of high level PCBs used in electrical equipment; and agreement that there will be no releases of five bioacculmulative pesticides--chlordane, aldrin/dieldrin, DDT, mirex, and toxaphene.

Additional Resources for the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement:

Environment Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Environment Canada website. Provides history, facts, updates, reports, and other information relating to the Agreement.

Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Contains documents pertaining to the agreement between the US and Canada to maintain water quality in the Great Lakes.

La Paz Agreement

The 1983 La Paz Agreement between the United States and Mexico is a pact to protect, conserve, and improve the environment of the border region of both countries. The agreement defined the region as the 62 mi (100 km) to the north and south of the international border. This area includes maritime (sea) boundaries and land in four American states and six Mexican border states.

Representatives from the two countries signed the agreement on Aug. 14, 1983, in La Paz, Mexico. The agreement took effect on Feb. 16, 1984. It established six workgroups, with each group concentrating on an environmental concern. Representatives from both countries serve on the workgroups that focus on water, air, hazardous and solid waste, pollution prevention, contingency planning and emergency response, and cooperative enforcement and compliance.

In February of 1992, environmental officials from the two countries released the Integrated Environmental Plan for the Mexican-U.S. Border Area. The Border XXI Program created nine additional workgroups. These groups focus on environmental information resources, natural resources, and environmental health.

Border XXI involves federal, state, and local governments on both sides of the border. Residents also participate through activities such as public hearings.

EPA US-Mexico Border 2025 Program

Additional Resources for the La Paz Agreement:

La Paz Agreement. EPA website. Provides full text of the Agreement.

London Convention

The London Convention of 1972 (formally known as the "Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter") is an international treaty that limits the discharge of wastes that are generated on land and disposed of at sea. Currently there are 81 Parties to the Convention (i.e., states that have signed, ratified, and otherwise acceded to it).

The 1996 Protocol is a separate agreement that modernized and updated the London Convention, following a detailed review that began in 1993. Upon its entry into force, the 1996 Protocol will replace the London Convention. As of July 2006, 22 states have acceded to the 1996 Protocol. Four more parties are needed before the Protocol will enter into force.

States can be a Party to either the London Convention 1972, or the 1996 Protocol, or both.

Additional Resources for the London Convention:

London Convention EPA website. Provides full text of the Convention.

Marpol Agreement

MARPOL 73/78 (the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) is the international treaty regulating disposal of wastes generated by normal operation of vessels

MARPOL 73/78 is implemented in the U.S. by the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships, under the lead of the U.S. Coast Guard

161 countries are parties as of December 2001.

International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London performs Secretariat functions. Mailing address:

4 Albert Embankment
London SE1 75R
United Kingdom

Within IMO, environmental issues are responsibility of Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC)

Additional Resources for the Marpol Agreement

Marpol Agreement -- EPA website

Montreal Protocol

The Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer is an international agreement designed to protect the stratospheric ozone layer. The treaty was originally signed in 1987 and substantially amended in 1990 and 1992. The Montreal Protocol stipulates that the production and consumption of compounds that deplete ozone in the stratosphere--chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, carbon tetrachloride, and methyl chloroform--are to be phased out by 2000 (2005 for methyl chloroform).

Additional Resources for the Montreal Protocol

Montreal Protocol Amendments -- EPA website.

U.S. History Office: Montreal Protocol. Links to documents and other resources related to the Montreal Protocol.

North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC)

In 1993, the United States, Mexico and Canada negotiated the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), the environmental side agreement to NAFTA, to promote sustainable development through mutually supportive environmental and economic policies. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) was created under the NAAEC to protect, conserve, and improve the environment through increased cooperation among the three signatories and through increased public participation. The three Parties each contribute U.S. $3 million per year to the CEC.

Additional Resources for NAACE:

North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC).

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

The North American Free Trade Agreement, known usually as NAFTA, is a free trade agreement among Canada, the United States, and Mexico. NAFTA went into effect on January 1, 1994. NAFTA is also used to refer to the tripartite trading bloc of North American countries.

NAFTA called for immediately eliminating duties on half of all U.S. goods shipped to Mexico and Canada, and gradually phasing out other tariffs over a period of about 14 years. Restrictions were to be removed from many categories, including, but not limited to, motor vehicles and automotive parts, computers, textiles, and agriculture. The treaty also protected intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights, and trademarks) and outlined the removal of restrictions on investment among the three countries. Provisions regarding worker and environmental protection were added later as a result of supplemental agreements signed in 1993.

Unlike other Free Trade Agreements in the world, NAFTA is more comprehensive in its scope and was complemented by the North American Agreement for Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC).

Additional Resources for NAFTA:

NAFTA Technical Working Group on Pesticides. Cooperative US / Canada bilateral efforts on pesticides regulatory harmonization were expanded in 1996 to include Mexico.

US-Japan Agreement on Cooperation in Environmental Protection

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enjoys broad-ranging relationships with a number of Japanese government and quasi-government organizations involved in the protection of the environment.

The principal focus of activity with Japan related to the U.S. EPA's domestic responsibilities and programs falls under the 1975 U.S. - Japan Agreement on Cooperation in Environmental Protection. Since the implementation of the Agreement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been the Executive Agency on the U.S. side, and the Environment Agency of Japan is EPA's counterpart. The Agreement provides for a Joint Planning and Coordination Committee which meets to exchange views on policy matters, to review existing cooperation, and to provide direction for future work.

Additional Resources for the US-Japan Agreement on Cooperation in Environmental Protection

US-Japan Agreement on Cooperation in Environmental Protection -- EPA website.

US-Taiwan Bilateral Agreement In the Field of Environmental Protection

The agreement between the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) for technical cooperation in the field of environmental protection was signed in 1993 by Administrator Carol Browner and the Director of AIT. AIT is an office established by the State Department under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, 22 U.S.C. section 3301-3316.

Under the agreement, USEPA and AIT develop a new workplan every two years. The workplan describes the responsibility of each party and the projects to be implemented in a two-year segment. The parties hold annual planning and review meeting to assess the accomplishments and to lay the groundwork for future projects.

Additional Resources for US-Taiwan Bilateral Agreement In the Field of Environmental Protection

US-Taiwan Bilateral Agreement - Collaboration to Improve the Environment in Taiwan -- EPA website.

US-Thailand Agreement in the Area of Environmental Protection

In 1999, the United States and Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding environmental cooperation between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MOSTE). The MOU lays the foundation for a five-year framework for cooperation that takes a view towards long-term institution-building. U.S. EPA Assistant Administrator William Nitze and MOSTE Minister Dr. Arthit Ourairat signed the MOU at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.

Under the MOU, each year a program plan will be developed to meet the priority needs of MOSTE. The plan will include training, information sharing and joint-research activities that will cover such important areas as air pollution, water quality management, chemical and waste management, environmental impact assessment and environmental enforcement activities.

Paris Climate Agreement

The Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted at the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 in 2015. Actions under the Paris Agreement are known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC's).  These include commitments to reduce GHG emissions, enhance adaptation actions, finance and capacity building. Ireland contribution comes under the European Union NDCs targets and is based on the European Unions 2030 emissions reductions targets and commits to at least 30% efforts to meet the target as government by the Emissions Trading System regulations, the Effort Sharing Regulation; and the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry Regulation.