Stockholm, 1972 - the first international Conference on
the Human Environment, attended by representatives of 114
countries, which focused international attention
on environmental issues, especially those relating to environmental degradation
and "transboundary pollution".
In 1987 the UN World Commission on Environment and Development
published the report 'Our Common Future', often referred to as the 'Brundland Report'.
The report defined sustainable development as 'development which meets the needs
of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet
their own needs.'
1992 - The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also
known as the "Earth Summit", was held at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from
3-14 June, twenty years after the first Stockholm conference. 63 Presidents and 46 Prime
Ministers attended. The Earth Summit made history by bringing global attention to the
understanding that the planet's environmental problems were intimately linked to
economic conditions and problems of social justice. At the heart of the agenda
was nothing less than our Planet's future.
Out of Rio came Agenda 21,
a very broad, 40-chapter statement of goals and potential programs related to
sustainable development in terms of social, economic and environmental needs.A costing of Agenda 21 indicated a need for some $150 bn per year of new aid
money (three times more than the existing aid levels). This money was not
In December 1992 The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was created to ensure effective follow-up of UNCED, to monitor and report on implementation of the agreements at the local, national, regional and international levels.
The Rio Earth Summit was followed in the same year by the Convention on
Climate Change, at which a non-binding agreement was formulated to reduce
carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The resultant treaty called for nations to
reduce their CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2000, but most concerned parties
were disappointed that it fell far short of expectations, largely due to a lack
of support by the United States (so no change there then!).
backed up in 1997 by the Kyoto
Protocol, which sought to actually reduce the 1990 CO2 emission levels
of industrial countries by 6% to 8% by 2008 - 2012. However, much of the detail
about how it would be implemented was consigned to future talks, which finally broke down at
the Hague in November 2000, when the USA and Europe failed to agree. A major loophole was
pushed into the protocol, which allowed nations to trade credits for extra
reductions with countries that wished to increase their own emissions.
Notable nations who have refused to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol are the United
States (no prizes for guessing that the number one World Polluter would take
that stand point), Australia and Canada. Together, these countries
make up the Top Three CO2 polluters in the World today. More
June 1997 - at a Special Session of the General Assembly, known as Earth Summit +
5, a comprehensive document prepared by the CSD, known as the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21,
Unfortunately, Big Business has had a major influence on the
shape of political resolve and commitment to the concepts of
Sustainable Development and a lot of the political rhetoric pays
only lip-service to the good intentions. We shall have to see what
the 2002 Summit produces - and it may be a long time before any
impacts are actually felt around our World.