Moving Beyond the Impasse
Edited by James Meadowcroft, Oluf Langhelle and Audun Ruud
Chapter 10: Breaking the impasse on global environmental protection
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012 marked several important anniversaries. It has been 40 years since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) was held in Stockholm, 20 years since the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) was convened in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and 10 years since the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) took place in Johannesburg in 2002. It is an appropriate time to reflect on what has been accomplished, what remains neglected, where the barriers to action lie, and what can be done to overcome obstacles to progress on addressing pressing sustainability challenges. At this juncture it is clear that at the international level, as well as within many national jurisdictions, only halting progress is being made at fulfilling the numerous sustainable development and environmental objectives that have been set in the past. Globally, the environment is in an increasingly precarious state. Rather than this reality galvanizing states into action, fatigue appears to be setting in with relation to the creation of new international environmental agreements and the implementation of several existing ones. The formation of environmental regimes was at the core of international political activities for several decades and there are now several hundred international environmental agreements. Yet, there has been frustratingly slow progress in relation to numerous pressing international environmental problems–including climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, ocean pollution and fisheries depletion, among others.
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