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Sweden first suggested to the United Nations Economic and Social Council ECOSOC in 1968 the idea of

having a UN conference to focus on human interactions with the environment. ECOSOC passed resolution
1346 supporting the idea. General Assembly Resolution 2398 in 1969 decided to convene a conference in
1972 and mandated a set of reports from the UN secretary-general suggesting that the conference focus
on "stimulating and providing guidelines for action by national government and international
organizations" facing environmental issues.
Source: Astrachan, Anthony (March 17, 1972). "Goals for Environment Talks Listed". The Washington Post,
Times Herald. p. A20.
At the conference itself, divisions between developed and developing countries began to emerge. The
Chinese delegation proved hostile to the United States at the conference, issuing a 17 point memorandum
condemning United States policies in Indochina, as well as around the world. This stance emboldened
other developing countries, which made up 70 of the 122 countries attending. Multiple countries including
Pakistan, Peru, and Chile issued statements that were anti-colonial in nature, further worrying the United
States delegation. So harsh was the criticism that Rogers Morton, at that time secretary of the interior,
remarked "I wish the Russians were here", to divert the attention of the Chinese criticisms.
Source: Sterling, Claire (June 10, 1972). "Chinese Rip U.S. At Parley". The Washington Post, Times Herald.
p. A1.
UN Conference on the Human Environment (1972)
• Economic and Social Council resolution 1346 (XLV) of 30 July 1968 recommended the General
Assembly consider convening a UN conference on problems of the human environment.
• Conference convened by General Assembly resolution 2398 (XXIII) of 3 December 1968
• Held in Stockholm, 5-16 June 1972
• Led to the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
The meeting agreed upon a Declaration containing 26 principles concerning the environment and
development; an Action Plan with 109 recommendations, and a Resolution.

Principles of the Stockholm Declaration:

1. Human rights must be asserted, apartheid and colonialism condemned
2. Natural resources must be safeguarded
3. The Earth's capacity to produce renewable resources must be maintained
4. Wildlife must be safeguarded
5. Non-renewable resources must be shared and not exhausted
6. Pollution must not exceed the environment's capacity to clean itself
7. Damaging oceanic pollution must be prevented
8. Development is needed to improve the environment
9. Developing countries therefore need assistance
10. Developing countries need reasonable prices for exports to carry out environmental management
11. Environment policy must not hamper development
12. Developing countries need money to develop environmental safeguards
13. Integrated development planning is needed
14. Rational planning should resolve conflicts between environment and development
15. Human settlements must be planned to eliminate environmental problems
16. Governments should plan their own appropriate population policies
17. National institutions must plan development of states' natural resources
18. Science and technology must be used to improve the environment
19. Environmental education is essential
20. Environmental research must be promoted, particularly in developing countries
21. States may exploit their resources as they wish but must not endanger others
22. Compensation is due to states thus endangered
23. Each nation must establish its own standards
24. There must be cooperation on international issues
25. International organizations should help to improve the environment
26. Weapons of mass destruction must be eliminated

One of the seminal issues that emerged from the conference is the recognition for poverty alleviation for
protecting the environment. The Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in her seminal speech in the
conference brought forward the connection between ecological management and poverty alleviation.
Source: Venkat, Vidya. "Indira Gandhi, the environmentalist". The Hindu. Retrieved 2017-05-21.

The scientific conferences preceding it, had a real impact on the environmental policies of the European
Community (that later became the European Union). For example, in 1973, the EU created the
Environmental and Consumer Protection Directorate, and composed the first Environmental Action
Program. Such increased interest and research collaboration arguably paved the way for further
understanding of global warming, which has led to such agreements as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris
Agreement, and has given a foundation of modern environmentalism.

World Commission on Environment and Development (1987)

In December 1983, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, asked the Prime
Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, to create an organization independent of the UN to focus on
environmental and developmental problems and solutions after an affirmation by the General Assembly
resolution in the fall of 1984. This new organization was the Brundtland Commission, or more formally,
the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). The Brundtland Commission was first
headed by Gro Harlem Brundtland as Chairman and Mansour Khalid as Vice-Chairman.
Source: "ProfWork / PreludeToBrundtland". Retrieved 18 January 2017

The organization aimed to create a united international community with shared sustainability goals by
identifying sustainability problems worldwide, raising awareness about them, and suggesting the
implementation of solutions. In 1987, the Brundtland Commission published the first volume of “Our
Common Future,” the organization’s main report. “Our Common Future” strongly influenced the Earth
Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 and the third UN Conference on Environment and Development
in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002. Also, it is credited with crafting the most prevalent definition of
sustainability which is followed till date. The Brundtland Report was intended as a response to the conflict
between the nascent order promoting globalized economic growth and the accelerating ecological
degradation occurring on a global scale. The challenge posed in the 1980s was to harmonize prosperity
with ecology.
Source: Francis, Environment Magazine - Taylor and. "Environment Magazine - What Is Sustainable
Development? Goals, Indicators, Values, and Practice". Retrieved 18
January 2017
The report deals with sustainable development and the change of politics needed for achieving it. The
definition of this term in the report is quite well known and often cited:

"Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising
the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". It contains two key concepts:
 The concept of "needs", in particular the essential needs of the world's poor, to which overriding
priority should be given; and
 The idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the
environment's ability to meet present and future needs."

United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (1992) |The Earth Summit
The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was unprecedented for a UN conference, in terms of both its size and
the scope of its concerns. Twenty years after the first global environment conference, the UN sought to
help Governments rethink economic development and find ways to halt the destruction of irreplaceable
natural resources and pollution of the planet. Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life were
drawn into the Rio process. They persuaded their leaders to go to Rio and join other nations in making
the difficult decisions needed to ensure a healthy planet for generations to come.

The Summit’s message — that nothing less than a transformation of our attitudes and behaviour would
bring about the necessary changes — was transmitted by almost 10,000 on-site journalists and heard by
millions around the world. The message reflected the complexity of the problems facing us: that poverty
as well as excessive consumption by affluent populations place damaging stress on the environment.
Governments recognized the need to redirect international and national plans and policies to ensure that
all economic decisions fully took into account any environmental impact. And the message has produced
results, making eco-efficiency a guiding principle for business and governments alike.
Patterns of production — particularly the production of toxic components, such as lead in gasoline, or
poisonous waste — are being scrutinized in a systematic manner by the UN and Governments alike;
Alternative sources of energy are being sought to replace the use of fossil fuels which are linked to global
climate change;
New reliance on public transportation systems is being emphasized in order to reduce vehicle emissions,
congestion in cities and the health problems caused by polluted air and smog;
There is much greater awareness of and concern over the growing scarcity of water.

The two-week Earth Summit was the climax of a process, begun in December 1989, of planning, education
and negotiations among all Member States of the United Nations, leading to the adoption of Agenda 21,
a wide-ranging blueprint for action to achieve sustainable development worldwide. At its close, Maurice
Strong, the Conference Secretary-General, called the Summit a “historic moment for humanity”. Although
Agenda 21 had been weakened by compromise and negotiation, he said, it was still the most
comprehensive and, if implemented, effective programme of action ever sanctioned by the international
community. Efforts to ensure its proper implementation were continued, and were reviewed by the UN
General Assembly at a special session held in June 1997.

The Earth Summit influenced all subsequent UN conferences, which have examined the relationship
between human rights, population, social development, women and human settlements — and the need
for environmentally sustainable development. The World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in
1993, for example, underscored the right of people to a healthy environment and the right to
development, controversial demands that had met with resistance from some Member States until Rio.


Kyoto Protocol
At COP 1 in 1995, UNFCCC parties decided to accelerate climate efforts by launching negotiations toward
a first sub-agreement. They agreed that, consistent with the principle of CBDRRC, the new agreement
would establish binding targets and timetables for reduce developed country emissions, but no new
commitments for developing countries. (In the nonbinding Byrd-Hagel resolution, the U.S. Senate
rejected this premise, saying the agreement should also include new greenhouse gas limits for developing

The resulting Kyoto Protocol was adopted at COP 3 in 1997. Largely at the insistence of the United States,
the agreement incorporated a series of “flexible,” or market-based, mechanisms enabling developed
countries to use different forms of emissions trading to achieve their targets more cost-effectively.
President Clinton, however, never submitted the protocol to the Senate, and shortly after his election,
President George W. Bush announced that the U.S. would not ratify it.

Other countries proceeded to ratify the agreement and it entered into force in 2005. Its initial emission
targets, however, extended only through 2012, and when it came time to negotiate a second round
through 2020, several other developed countries declined to go along. The Kyoto Protocol technically
remains in force, but its targets cover only a small fraction of global emissions, and there is no expectation
of future targets. One element of the protocol that may continue is the Clean Development Mechanism,
which certifiable emission reductions in developing countries as tradable emission offsets.
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), defined in Article 12 of the Protocol, allows a country with an
emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Party) to
implement an emission-reduction project in developing countries. Such projects can earn saleable
certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which can be counted
towards meeting Kyoto targets.

World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002)

• Convened by General Assembly resolution 55/199 of 20 December 2000
• Held in Johannesburg, 26 August - 4 September 2002
• Reviewed progress in the implementation of Agenda 21 since its adoption in 1992
It was convened to discuss sustainable development by the United Nations. WSSD gathered a number of
leaders from business and non-governmental organizations, 10 years after the first Earth Summit in Rio
de Janeiro. At Rio+10, sustainable development was recognized as an overarching goal for institutions at
the national, regional and international levels. There, the need to enhance the integration of sustainable
development in the activities of all relevant United Nations agencies, programs and funds was highlighted.
The discussion also encompassed the role of institutions in stepping up efforts to bridge the gap between
the international financial institutions and the multilateral development banks and the rest of the UN
Source: "Rio+20 – United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development". 29 July 2011.
Retrieved 4 August 2014.

Copenhagen and Cancun Agreements

When the Kyoto Protocol was faltering, UNFCCC parties struggled to develop an alternative framework
that would facilitate stronger action by all countries, both developed and developing.

The 2007 Bali Action Plan launched talks aimed at a new agreement providing for the UNFCCC’s “full,
effective and sustained implementation.” The agreement was to be adopted at COP 15 in Copenhagen in
2009. More than 100 world leaders converged on Copenhagen for the summit, but negotiators were
unable to overcome their differences. President Barack Obama and other leaders stepped in to quickly
hammer out the Copenhagen Accord, but a handful of countries objected, keeping it from being formally
adopted by the COP.
The Copenhagen Accord, while only a political agreement, reflected significant progress on several fronts.
It set a goal of limiting global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius; called on all countries to put
forward mitigation pledges; established broad terms for the reporting and verification of countries’
actions; set a goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year by 2020 in public and private finance for developing
countries; and called for the establishment of a new Green Climate Fund.
At COP 16 the following year in Cancun, parties adopted the Cancun Agreements, effectively formalizing
the essential elements of the Copenhagen Accord under the UNFCCC. The Cancun Agreements were
regarded as an interim arrangement through 2020, and parties left the door open to further negotiations
toward a legally binding successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

UN Conference on Sustainable Development (2012)

• Called for by General Assembly resolution 66/197
• Known as Rio+20
• Held in Rio de Janeiro, 20-22 June 2012
The conference had three objectives:
1. Securing renewed political commitment for sustainable development
2. Assessing the progress and implementation gaps in meeting previous commitments.
3. Addressing new and emerging challenges.
The conference centered on Agenda 21, the outcome document from Earth Summit 1992. That document
was considered revolutionary in that it essentially created the term sustainable development and created
the global environmental agenda for the next 20 years. The representatives of participating governments
gathered in Rio to discuss what was then the draft text of the outcome document.
Rio+20 sought to secure affirmations for the political commitments made at past Earth Summits and set
the global environmental agenda for the next 20 years by assessing progress towards the goals set forth
in Agenda 21 and implementation gaps therein, and discussing new and emerging issues. The UN wanted
Rio to endorse a UN "green economy roadmap", with environmental goals, targets and deadlines,
whereas developing countries preferred establishing new "sustainable development goals" to better
protect the environment, guarantee food and power to the poorest, and alleviate poverty.
Source: Gerhardt, Tina (20 June 2012). "Rio+20 Kicks Off". The Progressive.

Source: Jump up^ Vidal, John (19 June 2012). "Rio+20: Earth summit dawns with stormier clouds than in
1992". The Guardian. London.

The primary result of the conference was the nonbinding document, "The Future We Want," a 49-page
work paper. In it, the heads of state of the 192 governments in attendance renewed their political
commitment to sustainable development and declared their commitment to the promotion of a
sustainable future. The document largely reaffirms previous action plans like Agenda 21.

UN Sustainable Development Summit (2015)

• Convened as a high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly
• New York, 25 - 27 September 2015
• Summit website
• Outcome document: "Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development"
which contains a declaration of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets.
More than 150 world leaders gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York to adopt an ambitious
new sustainable development agenda at the 3-day summit. It presented a historic and unprecedented
opportunity to bring the countries and citizens of the world together to decide and embark on new paths
to improve the lives of people everywhere. These decisions determined the global course of action to end
poverty, promote prosperity and well-being for all, protect the environment and address climate change.

Paris Agreement
At COP 17 in Durban, South Africa, parties adopted the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, launching
talks aimed at achieving a comprehensive new agreement starting in 2020. They left open the legal nature
of the agreement and how it would address differentiation between developed and developing countries.

World leaders once again at COP 21 in Paris, and on December 12, 2015, parties adopted the landmark
Paris Agreement. The agreement represents a hybrid of the “top-down” Kyoto approach and the
“bottom-up” approach of the Copenhagen and Cancun agreements. It establishes common binding
procedural commitments for all countries, but leaves it to each to decide its nonbinding “nationally
determined contribution” (NDC). The agreement establishes an enhanced transparency framework to
track countries’ actions, and calls on countries to strengthen their NDCs ever five years.