United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
As our understanding of global ecosystem functioning continues to increase, so does the knowledge and awareness that the effects of human behavior on the environment are no longer confined to localized microcosms. Humans are not only responsible for impacting the ecosystem in which they directly inhabit, but are now joined as a global community where collective, individual actions are changing planetary ecosystems. Thus, environmental policies developed at an international level to address global problems, such as climate change, ozone layer depletion, and acid rain, must cross several cultural, economic, and political boundaries – far from a simple task.
This paper will look at the process of implementing international environmental policy objectives at a local level. The primary focus will be on the formation of Agenda 21, outlined at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. More specifically, the analysis will examine the policy mechanism for implementation in local communities known as Local Agenda 21 and the role of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI).
The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio was just one of several international conferences on the environment assembled since the early 1970’s. In 1972, the United Nations conference on Human Environment was held in Stockholm to address acid rain and regional pollution problems of northern Europe. This was the first international gathering to recognize environment and development issues. Other issues soon followed regarding international management of environmental resources. In 1975, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) was introduced. In 1977, the United Nations held a conference focused on the issue of desertification. Two years later, there was a convention on long-range transboundary air pollution.
Environmental issues continued to develop throughout the 1980’s. In 1982, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was established in response to the need for protection of the marine environment in international waters. In 1985, the Antarctic ozone hole was discovered followed by the nuclear accident in Chernobyl in 1986. By 1987, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone layer was agreed upon and implemented. More organizations formed in response to growing international environ-mental concerns, such as the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change and the Centre for Our Common Future in 1988. Then, in 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) was organized, addressing biological diversity, climate change, forest principles, and sustainable development ("Sustainable").
What we can ascertain from this abbreviated glimpse of international policy developments regarding the environment is the increasing attention...