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FROM VOLUME 5, NUMBER 8, AUGUST 1992
EARTH SUMMIT REVIEW
A complex mixture of hope and disappointment
was widely reported to have prevailed among organizers, participants and
observers when the U.N. Conference on Environment and Development ended June 14
in Rio de Janeiro. The previously negotiated climate treaty (see next news item)
was signed by over 150 countries, and a biodiversity treaty was signed by a
similar number, with the notable exception of the United States. A relatively
weak set of principles for protecting global forests emerged from attempts over
the previous months to formulate a forest treaty.
The set of specific tasks for attaining sustainable development known as
Agenda 21 was not as much an issue as was the amount and timing of financial
assistance industrial countries would provide to developing nations for carrying
out the program. Although developed countries accepted the U.N. target of 0.7
percent of their gross domestic product, most rejected specific timetables for
reaching this level. Japan made the largest immediate offer of financing,
announcing it would increase environmentally-related development assistance 50
percent over the next five years. But, on the whole, near-term commitments fell
far short of what the U.N. considers necessary to aggressively launch Agenda 21.
Developing countries were disappointed with this outcome, but welcomed the
agreement to create a U.N. Sustainable Development Commission, which will
regularly review and monitor progress toward financial targets.
Nongovernmental organizations played a larger role in this summit, compared
to its predecessor in Stockholm 20 years ago, and prepared 33 alternative
treaties on climate change and other topics (Intl. Environ. Rptr., p.
443, July 1, 1992).
On the final day, conference organizer Maurice Strong expressed
disappointment that governments could not agree on stringent treaties and that
the new Sustainable Development Commission had no power to force governments to
submit reports on Agenda 21. But he was hopeful that the conference had raised
awareness of the problems discussed, which he believes require urgent action (ibid.,
p. 397, June 17).
The following publications report in detail on the Earth Summit. See also
related GCCD sections in Periodicals (this issue--Aug. 1992) and Books
Intl. Environ. Rptr.: Environmental policy announcements timed by
many countries for the start of the conference, pp. 343-345, June 3; over a
dozen pages of main coverage, June 17.
Chem. Eng. News: Hopes and concerns of conference organizer Maurice
Strong, pp. 17-18, June 1; U.S. position on issues, pp. 4-5, June 15; brief
outcome, pp. 4-5, June 22; feature analysis, pp. 7-16, July 6.
New Scientist: Comment and report of first week, pp. 3-6, June 6;
second week report, pp. 3-7, 88, June 13; comment and report of final days, pp.
3-7, June 20; perspective on what was achieved, pp. 12-13, June 27. Four other
major articles are listed in Periodicals, this issue of GLOBAL CLIMATE
CHANGE DIGEST--Aug. 1992.
Commentaries: "Dangers of Disappointment at Rio," Nature,
pp. 265-266, May 28; "Two Successful Weeks at Rio," ibid., pp.
523-524, June 18; "Dirty Work Afoot," New Scientist, p. 3, May
9 (concerns technical fixes for problems vs. rethinking the processes that cause
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