Climate change: 30 years after the Rio Earth Summit, has it really achieved anything? – Dr. Richard Dixon

More colloquially known as the Earth Summit, the event took place 20 years after the 1972 Conference on the Human Environment and followed the 1987 Brundtland Report which cemented the concept of sustainable development.

There was a lot of optimism that humanity might finally be on the verge of taking the damage we were causing the planet really seriously.

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In Scotland, civil society came together ahead of the Earth Summit and thousands of pledges were signed by individuals promising to reduce their own impact on the environment if governments did their part.

A key success was seen as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change containing legally binding targets for developed countries, which spawned the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement and the Glasgow Climate Pact, among others. , from the annual climate talks.

However, half of the rich countries that were supposed to reduce their climate emissions to 1990 levels by 2000 have failed. Despite 30 years of talks, global emissions are not falling, with 15% more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than in 1992, and the world is on track for a disastrous three degree Celsius warming .

Another legal agreement was the Convention on Biological Diversity. Thirty years later, approximately one million species are threatened with extinction.

WWF’s Living Planet Index, which measures the abundance of life on Earth, has declined by 50% between 1992 and the latest data from 2016.

Bill Clinton, soon to be elected President of the United States, speaks at a press conference on the Rio Earth Summit in June 1992 (Photo: Ben Rusnak/AFP via Getty Images)

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Less strong than the two conventions, the Declaration of Principles on Forest Management even had “not legally binding” as the first words of its official title. Globally, deforestation rates have declined, although the Amazon is currently being trashed faster than at any time in the past decade, with an area half the size of Wales being destroyed. disappeared last year.

Agenda 21 was a program of actions that governments could undertake to move the world towards sustainability, particularly in the areas of education, resource use and participatory decision-making processes.

Although it has no legal force, it has been attacked by the American right as an attempt to impose world government. No one talks about Agenda 21 anymore.

The Earth Summit was followed by a Rio+10 event in Johannesburg in 2002 and a Rio+20 event in Rio in 2012. There is no official Rio+30 event.

Did the Earth Summit inspire the nations of the world to act? Maybe briefly. Have the fine aspirations of the four major international agreements of the Earth Summit been achieved? Especially not.

Has giving the impression of taking problems seriously reduced the pressure to actually do something? In a certain way. Is the world in a better state today than it would have been without the Earth Summit and the processes it launched? Yes, although he is still in a terrible state and mostly getting worse.

Unfortunately, all we seem to be able to say about the Earth Summit and the 30 years that followed is that things are not as bad as they would have been had we not given ourselves the sadness.

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