Green Planet Blues: Environmental Politics from Stockholm to Tyoto

By Ken Conca; Geoffrey D. Dabelko et al. | Go to book overview

KEN CONCA AND GEOFFREY D. DABELKO


17
The Earth Summit: Reflections on an Ambiguous Event

For twelve days in June 1992, nearly ten thousand official delegates from 150 nations converged on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). At the same time, thousands of activists, organizers, and concerned citizens of the planet gathered for a parallel Global Forum held on the other side of the city. The entire spectacle, often referred to as the "Earth Summit," was covered by more than eight thousand journalists. Governments debated, and in most cases signed, an array of official documents: a set of general principles on environment and development known as the Rio Declaration; an eight-hundred-page "action plan" for the twenty-first century known as "Agenda 21"; international treaties on climate and biodiversity; an agreement to work toward an international treaty on desertification; and a nonbinding Statement of Forest Principles. Activist groups also generated declarations. For example, a coalition including Greenpeace International, the Forum of Brazilian NGOs, Friends of the Earth International, and the Third World Network sponsored a "10-point plan to save the Earth Summit," challenging governments to embrace legally binding limits on pollutant emissions, to confront the problem of the North's overconsumption, and to rein in harmful transnational economic practices. 1

Half a decade later, the Earth Summit remains an ambiguous event. Was it a global town meeting or a dosed-door reunion of political and economic elites? An important step toward institutionalizing global environmental governance or a fail-

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