Twenty years ago this June world leaders met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development, also known as the Rio Summit or Earth Summit. The UN sought to help world leaders rethink economic development and find ways to halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet. Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life were drawn into the Rio process, persuading their leaders to go to Rio and make the tough decisions needed to ensure a healthy planet for generations to come.

At the Earth Summit, governments recognized the need to redirect international and national plans and policies to ensure that all economic decisions fully took into account any environmental impact. Out of the summit in 1992 came:

  1. Agenda 21 is a wide-ranging blueprint for action to achieve sustainable development worldwide and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which includes important principles like the precautionary principle;
  2. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

Canadian Maurice Strong, the conference’s Secretary-General, said at the Summit’s end that it was a “historic moment for humanity.”

Sadly, in 2012, our world is even more troubled by the environmental impacts of excessive consumption than it was 20 years ago.

But Canadian ENGOs have not given up hope. We recently met to discuss the upcoming Rio+20 conference. Out of our meeting came a statement (read it here) presented to Canadian government delegation to Rio +20, offering to work with them towards the future we want. We asked Canada to reaffirm the Rio principles and implement the commitment we made as a country 20 years ago: to integrate the principles of sustainable development into our policies and reverse the unsustainable loss of natural resources.