Commonly called the Rio Earth Summit, June 20 to the 22 holds the anniversary of a great stride towards environmental policy. The United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), additionally known as the Rio Conference, was a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 June to 14 June in 1992, gathering officials from 172 governments and some 2,400 representatives of non-governmental organizations to discuss global issues. Issues at the Earth Summit of Rio included scrutinizing patterns of production, especially toxic ones, alternative energy sources, the threat of increasing water scarcity, and new reliance of people on public transportation to reduce emissions. These were considered the most urgent topics affecting the greatest amount of the global community.
An important achievement of the first Earth Summit in Rio was the agreement on the Climate Change Convention, which then led to the well-known Kyoto Protocol, of which the United States interestingly did not sign up for. The protocol is a treaty aiming at fighting the issues of global climate change by enacting efforts to stabilize the output of participating countries’ greenhouse gases. Another agreement of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit was to “not carry out any activities on the lands of indigenous peoples that would cause environmental degradation or that would be culturally inappropriate”.
Brimming with the environmental issues at peak importance, the Earth Summit of Rio also opened the Convention on Biological Diversity for signing, to start redefining measures to stop inherent encouragement of natural ecosystem destruction. UNFCCC, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, was also opened for signature at the Earth Summit of Rio. The three documents resulting from the Earth Summit were the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, and Forest Principles while the Green Cross International was founded to build upon the Summit’s initiatives so that the ideas would not be left cold as the conference ended. Global environmental policy is not a topic for mere annual address.
In 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will also be held in Rio, and is also commonly called Rio+20 or Rio Earth Summit 2012. It will be held June 20-22, and address similar but updated issues. Heavy on the menu is sustainability, the idea of functioning in a way that neither detracts from the environment, nor adds negative factors like toxins and pollution; living in a way that can be sustained inevitably. The deemed “7 critical issues” of Rio+20 this year will be disasters (floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.), oceans (quite the broad and hugely expansive & influential topic), water for human use, food (kind of super important), cities, energy and jobs. One can imagine how all of these hot topics of the Rio+20 can be tied into each other as well if only with a slight application of ingenuity and effort. Hitting a few environmental birds with one innovative stone can help accomplish the immense strides necessary for positive change.