In 1989, yes, 26 years ago, a bunch of world leaders got together and made a series of promises (this was in the peak of early concern about the ‘greenhouse effect’ as it was then known.)
And yet people try to get excited about them doing it again in November. Srsly.
Here’s a link to the full declaration. The tl:dr – we knew there was trouble ahead.
- This year’s world economic situation presents three main challenges:
- The choice and the implementation of measures needed to maintain balanced and sustained growth, counter inflation, create jobs and promote social justice. [snip]
- The development and the further integration of developing countries into the world economy. Whilst there has been substantial progress in many developing countries, [snip]
- The urgent need to safeguard the environment for future generations. Scientific studies have revealed the existence of serious threats to our environment such as the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer and excessive emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases which could lead to future climate changes. Protecting the environment calls for a determined and concerted international response and for the early adoption, worldwide, of policies based on sustainable development.
Not had enough empty words? Here, have some more –
- There is growing awareness throughout the world of the necessity to preserve better the global ecological balance. This includes serious threats to the atmosphere, which could lead to future climate changes. We note with great concern the growing pollution of air, lakes, rivers, oceans and seas; acid rain, dangerous substances; and the rapid desertification and deforestation. Such environmental degradation endangers species and undermines the well-being of individuals and societies.
Decisive action is urgently needed to understand and protect the earth’s ecological balance. We will work together to achieve the common goals of preserving a healthy and balanced global environment in order to meet shared economic and social objectives and to carry out obligations to future generations.
- We urge all countries to give further impetus to scientific research on environmental issues, to develop necessary technologies and to make clear evaluations of the economic costs and benefits of environmental policies.
The persisting uncertainty on some of these issues should not unduly delay our action.
In this connection, we ask all countries to combine their efforts in order to improve observation and monitoring on a global scale.
- We believe that international co-operation also needs to be enhanced in the field of technology and technology transfer in order to reduce pollution or provide alternative solutions.
- We believe that industry has a crucial role in preventing pollution at source, in waste minimization, in energy conservation, and in the design and marketing of cost-effective clean technologies. The agricultural sector must also contribute to tackling problems such as water pollution, soil erosion and desertification.
- Environmental protection is integral to issues such as trade, development, energy, transport, agriculture and economic planning. Therefore, environmental considerations must be taken into account in economic decision-making. In fact good economic policies and good environmental policies are mutually reinforcing.
In order to achieve sustainable development, we shall ensure the compatibility of economic growth and development with the protection of the environment. Environmental protection and related investment should contribute to economic growth. In this respect, intensified efforts for technological breakthrough are important to reconcile economic growth and environmental policies.
Clear assessments of the costs, benefits and resource implications of environmental protection should help governments to take the necessary decisions on the mix of price signals (e.g., taxes or expenditures) and regulatory actions, reflecting where possible the full value of natural resources.
We encourage the World Bank and regional development banks to integrate environmental considerations into their activities. International organizations such as the OECD and the United Nations and its affiliated organizations, will be asked to develop further techniques of analysis which would help governments assess appropriate economic measures to promote the quality of the environment. We ask the OECD, within the context of its work on integrating environment and economic decision-making, to examine how selected environmental indicators could be developed. We expect the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development to give additional momentum to the protection of the global environment.
- To help developing countries deal with past damage and to encourage them to take environmentally desirable action, economic incentives may include the use of aid mechanisms and specific transfer of technology. In special cases, ODA debt forgiveness and debt for nature swaps can play a useful role in environmental protection.
We also emphasize the necessity to take into account the interests and needs of developing countries in sustaining the growth of their economies and the financial and technological requirements to meet environmental challenges.
- The depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer is alarming and calls for prompt action.
We welcome the HELSINKI conclusions related, among other issues, to the complete abandonment of the production and consumption of chloro-fluorocarbons covered by the MONTREAL protocol as soon as possible and not later than the end of the century. Specific attention must also be given to those ozone-depleting substances not covered by the Montreal protocol. We shall promote the development and use of suitable substitute substances and technologies. More emphasis should be placed on projects that provide alternatives to chloro-fluorocarbons.
- We strongly advocate common efforts to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which threaten to induce climate change, endangering the environment and ultimately the economy. We strongly support the work undertaken by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on this issue.
We need to strengthen the worldwide network of observatories for greenhouse gases and support the World Meteorological Organisation initiative to establish a global climatological reference network to detect climate changes.
- We agree that increasing energy efficiency could make a substantial contribution to these goals. We urge international organizations concerned to encourage measures, including economic measures, to improve energy conservation and, more broadly, efficiency in the use of energy of all kinds and to promote relevant techniques and technologies.
We are committed to maintaining the highest safety standards for nuclear power plants and to strengthening international co-operation in safe operation of power plants and waste management, and we recognize that nuclear power also plays an important role in limiting output of greenhouse gases.
- Deforestation also damages the atmosphere and must be reversed. We call for the adoption of sustainable forest management practices, with a view to preserving the scale of world forests. The relevant international organizations will be asked to complete reports on the state of the world’s forests by 1990.
- Preserving the tropical forests is an urgent need for the world as a whole. While recognizing the sovereign rights of developing countries to make use of their natural resources, we encourage, through a sustainable use of tropical forests, the protection of all the species therein and the traditional rights to land and other resources of local communities. We welcome the German initiative in this field as a basis for progress.
To this end, we give strong support to rapid implementation of the Tropical Forest Action Plan which was adopted in 1986 in the framework of the Food and Agricultural Organization. We appeal to both consumer and producer countries, which are united in the International Tropical Timber Organization, to join their efforts to ensure better conservation of the forests. We express our readiness to assist the efforts of nations with tropical forests through financial and technical co-operation, and in international organizations.
- Temperate forests, lakes and rivers must be protected against the effects of acid pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. It is necessary to pursue actively the bilateral and multilateral efforts to this end.
- The increasing complexity of the issues related to the protection of the atmosphere calls for innovative solutions. New instruments may be contemplated. We believe that the conclusion of a framework or umbrella convention on climate change to set out general principles or guidelines is urgently required to mobilize and rationalize the efforts made by the international community. We welcome the work under way by the United Nations Environment Program, in co-operation with the World Meteorological Organization, drawing on the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the results of other international meetings. Specific protocols containing concrete commitments could be fitted into the framework as scientific evidence requires and permits.
- We condemn indiscriminate use of oceans as dumping grounds for polluting waste. There is a particular problem with the deterioration of coastal waters. To ensure the sustainable management of the marine environment, we recognize the importance of international co-operation in preserving it and conserving the living resources of the sea. We call for relevant bodies of the United Nations to prepare a report on the state of the world’s oceans.
We express our concern that national, regional and global capabilities to contain and alleviate the consequences of maritime oil spills be improved. We urge all countries to make better use of the latest monitoring and clean-up technologies. We ask all countries to adhere to and implement fully the international conventions for the prevention of oil pollution of the oceans. We also ask the International Maritime Organization to put forward proposals for further preventive action.
- We are committed to ensuring full implementation of existing rules for the environment. In this respect, we note with interest the initiative of the Italian government to host in 1990 a forum on international law for the environment with scholars, scientific experts and officials, to consider the need for a digest of existing rules and to give in-depth consideration to the legal aspects of environment at the international level.
- We advocate that existing environment institutions be strengthened within the United Nations system. In particular, the United Nations Environment Program urgently requires strengthening and increased financial support. Some of us have agreed that the establishment within the United Nations of a new institution may also be worth considering.
- We have taken note of the report of the sixth conference on bioethics held in Brussels which examined the elaboration of a universal code of environmental ethics based upon the concept of the “human stewardship of nature”.
- It is a matter of international concern that Bangladesh, one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in the world, is periodically devastated by catastrophic floods.
We stress the urgent need for effective, co-ordinated action by the international community, in support of the Government of Bangladesh, in order to find solutions to this major problem which are technically, financially, economically and environmentally sound. In that spirit, and taking account of help already given, we take note of the different studies concerning flood alleviation, initiated by France, Japan, the US and the United Nations Development Program, which have been reviewed by experts from all our countries. We welcome the World Bank’s agreement, following those studies, to co-ordinate the efforts of the international community so that a sound basis for achieving a real improvement in alleviating the effects of flood can be established. We also welcome the agreement of the World Bank to chair, by the end of the year, a meeting to be held in the United Kingdom by invitation of the Bangladesh Government, of the countries willing to take an active part in such a program.
- We give political support to projects such as the joint project to set up an observatory of the Saharan areas, which answers the need to monitor the development of that rapidly deteriorating, fragile, arid region, in order to protect it more effectively.
“In July 1989 the Group of Seven major industrial democracies’ annual summit was held in Paris, and was widely dubbed the ‘green summit’ (Economist, 15 July 1989: 14-5; Scientific American September 1989 10).”
Paterson, M (1996:37)