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Sustainability

Milestones in the International Environmental Policy

1968

Photos of the earth as a "blue marble" in space taken on the Apollo 8 mission were published.

 

The United Nations General Assembly addresses the global environmental problem for the first time.

1970

The first comprehensive air cleanliness act was passed in the USA with the Clean Air Act (the Clean Water Act followed in 1972).

1971

"The Limits of Growth" from Dennis and Donella Meadows appears and creates a lively debate. This report was written on order of the Club of Rome founded in 1971. Its aim is to address matters of global importance. 5 Variables are linked together in the report: population density, industrial production, foodstuffs, raw material reserves and environmental pollution. A catastrophic peak in the scarcity of raw materials and environmental pollution was given as a conclusion in the report. In addition it was also determined that a recovery in the development of the developing countries to the level of the industrial nations would overburden the ecological capacity of the earth.

1972

In Stockholm a Conference on the Humanitarian Environment (ECO I) takes place in Stockholm on the initiative of the USA and the Scandinavian countries. It recommends the set-up of a UN environment programme, which was subsequently formed on 15th December by the United Nations General Assembly. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The member states of "Group 77", a consolidation of developing countries in the UN General Assembly, did not take part in the ECO I conference (like the states of the Eastern Bloc), because they interpret the environment-political demands of the act as neo-colonialist: Primarily the North has enriched itself through unbridled growth to the detriment of the South and have achieved a high level of wealth and prosperity, and now the industrial states have declared the "limits of growth" reached and are now hindering the South in catching up in development. This makes its clear that the North-South conflict played a decisive role in international environmental policy from the very beginning.

1973

1st oil crisis.

1977

United Nations Conference on Desertification

1978

Oil pest in Brittany (France) after the tanker the Amoco Cadiz goes aground.
Further major tanker catastrophes include:
1989 Bahia Paraiso (Kap Hoorn, Antarctic) - 1000 tons of oil
1989 Exxon Valdez (Alaska) - 41,000 tons of oil
1992 Katina P (Mozambique) - 66,000 tons of oil
1992 Aegean Sea (Spain) - 81,000 tons of oil
1993 Braer (Shetland island) - 98,000 tons of oil
1994 Cosma A (south of Hong Kong) - 23,000 tons of oil
1996 Sea Empress (Wales) - 70,000 tons of oil
1997 Nachodka (Japan) - 20,000 tons of oil
1999 Erika (Brittany) - 26,000 tons of oil
2001 Jessica (San Cristobal)
2002 Prestige (Spain)
2003 MT Tasman Spriti (Pakistan)

1979

First World Climate Conference in Geneva: The World Climate Programme (WCP) is ratified. It consists of several individual programmes:
World Climate Impact Programme (WCIP)
World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)
World Climate Data Programme (WCDP)
World Climate Applications Programme (WCAP)
The result of this was that an internationally coordinated climate policy was formed.

1980

The "Global 2000" report appears. In this report to the then President of the United States Jimmy Carter, the ecological capacity of the earth and the global networking of important ecological determining factors were examined.

1982

The UN General Assembly ratifies the World Charter for Nature.

1983

The World Commission for Environment and Development (WCED) takes up its work under the chairmanship of Norwegian Prime Minister Gro H. Brundtland. Its brief is to take stock of the balance of the environmental situation and check the effectiveness of the UNEP.

1985

The ozone hole above the Antarctic is discovered.

 

Vienna Convention: Objectives for reducing the production and the consumption of the "ozone killer" FCC were decided on to protect the ozone hole.

1986

Tschernobyl reactor catastrophe.

1987

The Brundtland Report (report from the WCED) is published under the title "Our Common Future". It contains the definition of sustainable development central until today, which has represented the model for international environmental policy since then.: "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." As a consequence of the report, the UN General Assembly decides to hold a conference on environment and development (UNED) (see 1992, Rio Conference).
In its report the commission determines that ecological development aid alone will not suffice to solve the pending problem. What is required is a change in the destructive style of living of the industrial nations of the North, for example by reducing the per-capita consumption of energy and water. Minerals and Land Development aid may no longer be used for winning raw materials. Environmental technology such as modern coal-gas combinations, purification plant and waste recycling techniques must be made available around the world.
The commission also determined that despite development aid, a net transfer of capital from the South to the North of some 40 billion US dollars exists annually, whereby this is mainly won by exploiting raw material from nature. Great emphasis was placed on the correlation between environmental protection and development.

 

Passing of the  Montreal Protocol  on materials that lead to a reduction in the ozone layer. The requirements of Vienna Convention are made more concrete, via which quantitative obligations on the emission of CFC and halones are fixed. At the subsequent conferences (1989 Helsinki, 1990 London, 1992 Copenhagen, 1995 Vienna, 1997 Montreal, 1999 Peking) the resolutions are intensified successively. This ozone regime counts as a model example for successful international environment policy. What needs to be added as a limitation here however is that in comparison to the problem of climate change, the problem of protecting the ozone layer is relatively simple. Few materials have clearly been identified as the cause. Mostly these materials can be relatively easily replaced.

1988

UNEP and WMO (World Meteorological Organization) set-up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The experts working in this committee address matters concerning environmental research and the estimates of the consequences, and above all collate and evaluate scientific findings on climate change and its effects and work out political strategies.

 

A climate conference takes place in Toronto. It forms the starting point for other conferences in Den Haag, Hamburg and London (1989).
The most important result of the conference is the call for a reduction in CO2 emissions of 20% by 2005 and the ratification of the Montreal ozone hole protocol.

1989

The  first conference concerning the agreement  of the Montreal protocol takes place in  Helsinki .

1990

The  second conference concerning the agreement  of the Montreal protocol takes place in  London .

 

Second World Climate Conference in Geneva.
An extensive scientific consensus now exists on climate change being caused by various greenhouse gases. The need for a reduction in carbon dioxide, nitric oxides, methane and FCC's is warned about. The demands of the IPCC to reduce greenhouse gases by 60% found very little support however.

 

The UN General Assembly establishes the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework European Convention on Change (INC).
This committee has the task of working out a global convention on the protection of the climate by the conference in Rio in 1992.

1991

The worst oil catastrophe in history occurs during the Gulf War as around 570 million litres crude oil spill out of loading stations and destroyed tankers.

1992

Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro - UNED (Earth Summit)
160 states pass the  United Nations Climate Convention  with the aim of reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases by 2000 to the level of 1990 (Text from the Convention; the convention takes force in 1994 after it is ratified by 50 states; Subsequent conferences take place in 1995 in Berlin, in 1996 in Geneva, in 1997 in Kyoto, in 1998 in Buenos Aires, in 1999 in Bonn, in 2000 in the Haag, in 2001 in Bonn and Marrakech, in 2002 in New Delhi and in 2003 in Milan; 10 years after Rio the World Summit for Sustainable Development takes place in 2002 in Johannesburg).
With the Rio Declaration a comprehensive declaration on the aim of sustainability was put forward and national sustainability strategies demanded (Text of the Declaration).
Besides the climate convention, two other environment and development conventions were passed, namely on biodiversity and the fight against desertification (= the spread of deserts).
Guidelines for the protection of the forests were set-up.
Of central importance was Agenda 21, a comprehensive action programme for sustainable development in the 21st Century (Go to the text of Agenda 21). Nearly all development-relevant aspects are dealt with in this: the fight against poverty, equality of the sexes, consideration of the interests of indigenous peoples, the participation of social groups in the political process, climate protection, the protection of potable water reserves etc. Chapter 28 is dedicated to the communal level: "Local Agenda 21" (see Basic Course 3).

 

 Conference concerning the agreement  on the Montreal protocol in  Copenhagen .

1993

First meeting of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD)

1995

 First signing states conference  for the climate convention in Berlin with the aim of fixing binding reduction aims for the industrial nations within two years.

 

 Conference concerning the agreement  on the Montreal protocol in  Vienna.

1996

  Second signing states conference  on the climate convention in Vienna.

1997

At the  third signing states conference for the  climate convention in  Kyoto  the Kyoto Protocol is passed (Go to the text of the protocol).
This is an additional protocol to the shaping of the climate Conevntion and defines - and this is a decisive addition- binding aims for the reduction of emissions for the following greenhouse gas: carbon dioxide (CO2, serves a reference value), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), partially halogenated dichlorotetrafluoroethane (H-CFC/HFCs), perfluorocarbons (CFC/PFCs), sulfurhexaflouride (SF6).
The signing states undertake to reduce their emissions to an average of 5.2% below the level of 1990 by 2012. Individual requirements exist for each individual country, which are above all dependent on their economic development. A reduction in emissions of 8 percent are planned for the EU states, Russia and the Ukraine have undertaken not to exceed the level of 1990, and for the Peoples Republic of China, India and the developing countries no limitations are given.
The protocol came into force on 16th February 2005, after 55 states, who as a whole caused more than 55 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions in 1990, had ratified the agreement.
Several states such as the USA, Australia, Croatia and the principality of Monaco have not ratified the Protocol. Several OPEC states have abandoned their reservations and have ratified the protocol. Whether the aims can be reached is doubtful, since many of the member states have increased their carbon dioxide emissions since 1990.

 

 Conference concerning the agreement  on the Montreal protocol in  Montreal .

1998

At the  fourth signing states conference for the  climate convention in  Buenos Aires  resolves to develop a detailed set of rules for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

 

Flood of the century in China and Bangladesh, Hurricane Mitch: A total of 54 countries are hit by floods in this year, 45 countries by drought. The highest average, annual temperature ever measured are measured in 1998.
The number of environmental catastrophes increases in leaps and bounds in total in the 1990's.

1999

 Conference concerning the agreement  on the Montreal Protocol in  Peking .

 

The  fifth signing states conference on the  climate convention in  Bonn  makes the set of rules for implementing the Kyoto Protocol more concrete.

2000

At the  sixth signing states conference on the  climate convention in  Den Haag  an agreement on the conditions for carrying out the protocol can be reached.

2001

A  supplementary conference  for the signing states of the climate convention in  Bonn  becomes necessary after the USA drops out.

 

The  seventh signing states conference for the  climate convention in  Marrakech   passes a comprehensive agreement on implementing the resolutions to-date.
It should be possible to credit measures for binding (lowering) carbon dioxide for the reduction aims in the individual countries, for instance, in forestry. Afforestation projects in developing countries can also be credited.

2002

At the  eighth signing states conference  in  New Delhi  conflicts in interest break out between the individual countries.

 

World Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio + 10, Internet)
Numerous resolutions were made, for instance on the topics of drinking water, development aid and the Kyoto Protocol. No time limits were set however and the resolutions possess no legal obligation.

2003

  Ninth signing states conference  on the climate convention in  Milan .

[Author: Ragnar Müller]

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