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What is Agenda 21

01 May

The environmental movement might be said to have begun centuries ago as a response to industrialization. As universal concern about the healthy and sustainable use of the planet and its resources continued to grow, the UN, in 1972, convened the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, in Stockholm.

Picking up on the energy generated by the Conference, the General Assembly, in December 1972, established the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which leads the efforts of the United Nations family on behalf of the global environment.  Its current priorities are environmental aspects of disasters and conflicts, ecosystem management, environmental governance, harmful substances, resource efficiency, and climate change.
In 1988, UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) came together to create the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has become the pre-eminent global source for scientific information relating to climate change.  The main international instrument on this subject, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992.  And its Kyoto Protocol, which sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, was adopted in 1997.
In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 26 August to 4 September 2002, to take stock of achievements, challenges and new issues arising since the 1992 Earth Summit. It was an “implementation” Summit, designed to turn the goals, promises and commitments of Agenda 21 into concrete, tangible actions.
2005 -2014 is  the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development  and Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.
The Green Economy Report, to be published in late 2010, uses economic analysis and modeling  approaches to demonstrate that greening the economy across a range of sectors can drive economic recovery and growth and lead to future prosperity and job creation, while at the same time addressing social inequalities and environmental challenges. Supported by UNEP’s expert guidance, countries can make sound policy, technology, and investment choices that reduce emissions and drive sustainable social and economic development. From assisting in the deployment and scaling up of cutting-edge clean technologies to helping remove financial and other barriers to transforming energy generation, UNEP helps developing countries to capitalize on the transition to the Green Economy.
Over the last quarter of a century, the world economy has quadrupled, benefiting hundreds of millions of people. In contrast, however, 60% of the world’s major ecosystem goods and services that underpin livelihoods have been degraded or used unsustainably. Indeed, this is because the economic growth of recent decades has been accomplished mainly through drawing down natural resources, without allowing stocks to regenerate, and through allowing widespread ecosystem degradation and loss.
For instance, today only 20% of commercial fish stocks, mostly of low priced species, are underexploited, 52% are fully exploited with no further room for expansion, about 20% are overexploited and 8% are depleted. Water is becoming scarce and water stress is projected to increase with water supply satisfying only 60% of world demand in 20 years; agriculture saw increasing yields primarily due to the use of chemical fertilizers, which have reduced soil quality and failed to curb the growing trend of deforestation – remaining at 13 million hectares  of forest per year in 1990-2005. Ecological scarcities are therefore seriously affecting the entire gamut of economic sectors, which are the bedrock of human food supply (fisheries, agriculture, freshwater, forestry) and a critical source of livelihoods for the poor. And ecological scarcity and social inequity are definitional signatures of an economy which is very far from being “green”.
Meanwhile, for the first time in history, more than half of the world population lives in urban areas. Cities now account for 75% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions. Rising and related problems of congestion, pollution, and poorly provisioned services affect the productivity and health of all, but fall particularly hard on the urban poor. With approximately 50% of the global population now living in emerging economies that are rapidly urbanizing and will experience rising income and purchasing power over the next years – and a tremendous expansion in urban infrastructure – the need for smart city planning is paramount.
Note: This article has been created from various UN publications.
 

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