Worldwide agreements and efforts
• 1972 – United Nations Conference on the Human Environment
The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in 1972 in Stockholm, Sweden, to discuss about worldwide environmental issues. Conceived by the United Nations (UN), the Conference raised the countries’ awareness on the consequences of the environment degradation for the planet.
Representatives from 113 nations, 250 non-governmental organizations and several UN bodies participated in the event. The debates resulted in the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on Human Environment, a letter of behavior principles and responsibilities that should guide the decisions on environmental policies. An action plan was also written and called out to the countries, United Nations bodies and international organizations to cooperate in the search for solutions for the environmental issues.
• 1983 to 1986 – World Commission on Environment and Development
After an assessment of the 10 years of implementation of the actions proposed in the Stockholm Conference, The World Commission on Environment and Development was created by the UN in 1983. In the first three years, the new organization promoted discussions among government leaders and members of the civil society, which resulted in the Report Our Common Future (also called Brundtland Report, in homage to the Commission’s President, Gro Harlem Brundtland, the then Prime-Minister of Norway).
Launched in 1987, the document pointed out the incompatibility between the sustainable development and the production and consumption standards of that time. The report, which for the first time defined the concept of sustainable development, did not suggest the economic growth stagnation, but its conciliation with the environmental and social issues. The document highlighted the dangers of global warming and of the destruction of the ozone layer and affirmed that the speed of changes was higher than the scientists’ ability to evaluate them and propose solutions.
• 1992 - Earth Summit – Rio-92
Twenty years after the Stockholm Conference, it was Brazil’s turn to host a new meeting convoked by the United Nations General Assembly. Rio-92 or Eco-92 gathered world leaders and environmental entities at Rio de Janeiro to analyze the evolution of the environmental protection policies. The meeting main goal was:
• to evaluate the environmental situation according to development;
• to establish methods of non-polluting technology transfer to developing countries;
• to examine strategies for the addition of environmental concerns to the development process;
• to establish an international cooperation system to forecast environmental threats and provide assistance in emergency situations;
• to reassess the UN System of Organizations, creating, if necessary, new institutions to implement the decisions of the conference.
172 countries participated in Rio-92, represented by almost 10 thousand participants, including 116 heads of State. Members of about 1,400 non-governmental organizations also received credentials to attend the meetings. Since then, the role of those entities has become increasingly important in the international negotiations on environment.
The Earth Summit produced five documents that, among other aspects, warned about the need of an urgent change of behavior aiming the preservation of life in the Earth. Some of them were:
1.Declaration of Rio on Environment and Development
3.Principles for Sustainable Forest Management
4.Convention on Biological Diversity
5.Convention on Climate Change
• 1997 - III Conference of the Parties
In 1997, it was the turn of Kyoto (Japan) to host the third Conference of the Parties* (COP 3), which resulted in the Kyoto Protocol. The document was one of the most important marks for the environment protection as it defines more severe commitments towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the main cause of global warming.
The Kyoto Protocol proposed a program for industrialized countries to reduce their combined greenhouse gas emissions. So that it could be effective, it would be necessary to receive the ratification of at least 55 countries, which all together should correspond to at least 55% of the world greenhouse gas emissions. The protocol became effective in February 2005, even without the adhesion of the United States, one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters.
* COP – The Highest Body of the Climate Convention, composed by the countries that ratified it and that are responsible for its implementation. The first meeting, the COP 1, was held in 1995, in Berlin, in Germany. In December 2009, the COP 15 was held in Copenhagen, Denmark.
• 2002 - World Conference on Sustainable Development
Also called Rio+10, was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2002. The purpose was to evaluate the advancements and identify the difficulties that prevented the countries from promoting big advancements in relation to the commitments assumed at Rio-92.
At the Conference, other two documents were written: The Implementation Plan, which is based on the results achieved since Rio-92 and seeks to accelerate the fulfillment of the other goals, and the Political Declaration, which reassures the commitment of the countries with the sustainable development.
• 2007 – Bali Conference
Held in Indonesia in 2007, had the purpose to establish targets even more ambitious than those established by the Kyoto Protocol in relation to the greenhouse gas emissions. The result of the conference was the Road Map, a name suggested by the Brazilian delegation, agreed upon by 190 nations, which did not define reduction percentages, but established the date on which a really effective convention must be ready: December 2009, at the COP 15 meeting, in Denmark.
Copenhagen Conference - 2009
As in previous events, the capital of Denmark was chosen to host a World Conference on the search for solutions to global warming and to sign, once and for all, an agreement to be followed by the richer countries in favor of the poorest. However, contrary to expectations, the COP-15 was not as successful as anticipated and the Copenhagen Agreement, a document of only 12 paragraphs, lacks the necessary legal representation to be considered as an official document. After much anticipation, the planet still finds itself without an effective agreement between nations, so it could breathe freely again.
UN Climate Conference – Durban, 2011
The event held in Durban, South Africa, brought together representatives of 190 nations to decide for renovation – or not – in the most important agreement done so far to contain greenhouse gases: the Kyoto Protocol. In the end, the COP 17 laid the foundations of a future agreement that pollution control should be approved until 2015 and come into force only as from 2020, becoming subject of criticism from environmentalists worldwide.
Another structure defined was the Green Climate Fund, also to come into force as from 2020, will provide financial support for initiatives to combat global climate change. Initially the fund should invest US$ 100 billion.
United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20) – 2012
Twenty years after the Rio 92 Conference, more than 45,000 participants, including heads of government and civil society, met once again in the city of Rio de Janeiro, between June 13 and 22, 2012. The final document of the conference, entitled “The Future We Want”, singled out poverty as the biggest challenge to be tackled.
The text also advocates strengthening the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and creating a political body to support and coordinate international action for sustainable development.
In addition, the 188 countries present at Rio +20 pledged to invest US$ 513 billion in projects, partnerships, programs and actions over the next 10 years in the areas of transportation, green economy, energy, environmental protection, desertification and climate change, among others.