The initiative for a ‘Global Pact for the Environment’ has over the course of the last year evolved into a global discourse. The United Nations (UN ) General Assembly, the UN Secretary‐General, UN Environment Programme, UN member States and a vast variety of nongovernmental organizations and academics are considering the need for and possible content of a Pact. It appears that to gather necessary political support, a Pact needs to add value to already existing international environmental law. This article offers input into the debate as to whether and how a Global Pact could achieve this. It argues that a Global Pact needs not be limited to a legally binding treaty instrument that codifies environmental principles. Rather, it could be and do many things and should be guided by what is needed to increase the effectiveness of environmental protection. In a plurality of ways, a Pact could address challenges in the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements (MEA s), help overcome coordination deficits between MEA s and between MEA s and other international treaties, or bring together actors from the public and private sector. It could provide a common vision for global environmental action and/or a framework for bringing the different pieces, for instance sectoral and spatial agreements, together. Moreover, it could advance the development of international environmental law into areas that thus far have not been covered. The article gives a brief history of the initiative for the Global Pact, placing it against the nature and structure of international environmental law. It analyses the proposals made so far as to the possible scope, nature and content of such instrument, and provides suggestions for how it could contribute to the increased effectiveness, scope or scale of international environmental law.