One Million Species Facing Extinction

On this Day:

On June, 2, 1992, the World’s Largest Environmental Summit Opened in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A New Blueprint for International Action on the Environment

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the ‘Earth Summit’, was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 3-14 June 1992. This global conference, held on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the first Human Environment Conference in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1972, brought together political leaders, diplomats, scientists, representatives of the media and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from 179 countries for a massive effort to focus on the impact of human socio-economic activities on the environment. A ‘Global Forum’ of NGOs was also held in Rio de Janeiro at the same time, bringing together an unprecedented number of NGO representatives, who presented their own vision of the world’s future in relation to the environment and socio-economic development.

The Rio de Janeiro conference highlighted how different social, economic and environmental factors are interdependent and evolve together, and how success in one sector requires action in other sectors to be sustained over time. The primary objective of the Rio ‘Earth Summit’ was to produce a broad agenda and a new blueprint for international action on environmental and development issues that would help guide international cooperation and development policy in the twenty-first century.

The ‘Earth Summit’ concluded that the concept of sustainable development was an attainable goal for all the people of the world, regardless of whether they were at the local, national, regional or international level. It also recognized that integrating and balancing economic, social and environmental concerns in meeting our needs is vital for sustaining human life on the planet and that such an integrated approach is possible. The conference also recognized that integrating and balancing economic, social and environmental dimensions required new perceptions of the way we produce and consume, the way we live and work, and the way we make decisions. This concept was revolutionary for its time, and it sparked a lively debate within governments and between governments and their citizens on how to ensure sustainability for development.

One of the major results of the UNCED Conference was Agenda 21, a daring program of action calling for new strategies to invest in the future to achieve overall sustainable development in the 21st century. Its recommendations ranged from new methods of education, to new ways of preserving natural resources and new ways of participating in a sustainable economy.

The ‘Earth Summit’ had many great achievements: the Rio Declaration and its 27 universal principles, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity; and the Declaration on the principles of forest management . The ‘Earth Summit’ also led to the creation of the Commission on Sustainable Development, the holding of first world conference on the sustainable development of small island developing States in 1994, and negotiations for the establishment of the agreement on straddling stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.

Click to access Agenda21.pdf

Millennium Summit, 6-8 September 2000, New York

Development Goals for a New Millennium

A celebrated and symbolic event, the start of a third millennium in the year 2000 gave the United Nations an opportunity to present a new development strategy for the changing realities and needs of the twenty-first century world.

A two-year international information campaign which began in 1998 preceded the Millennium Summit of 2000. The campaign’s objectives were to consolidate the commitment of the international community and strengthen partnerships with governments and civil society to build a world with no one left behind. It also helped highlight the principle stated by the Secretary-General in his Millennium Report (A/54/2000), that ‘we must put people at the center of everything we do’.

The Millennium Summit, held from September 6 to 8, 2000 at United Nations Headquarters in New York, was, at that time, the largest gathering of heads of state and government of all time. It concluded with the adoption by the 189 Member States of the Millennium Declaration, in which the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set out:

Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Achieve universal primary education
Promote gender equality and empower women
Reduce child mortality
Improve maternal health
Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Ensure environmental sustainability
Develop a global partnership for development

World Summit, 14-16 September 2005, New York

The Millennium Development Goals

The 2005 World Summit, which took place September 14-16 at United Nations Headquarters in New York, brought together more than 170 heads of state and government. The summit’s agenda was based on a series of proposals put forward by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his report In Larger Freedom.

At the Summit, world leaders agreed to intervene on a variety of fronts to address major global issues. Governments made strong commitments to achieving the development goals set out in the Millennium Declaration by 2015, pledging an additional $50 billion per year to fight poverty, determined to find innovative sources of development finance as well as additional measures to ensure long-term debt sustainability. They also declared themselves firmly committed to trade liberalization and pledged to work diligently to implement the development aspects of the Doha work program.

The Responsibility to Protect

In the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document (A/RES/60/1) Member States noted the “Responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”. The Outcome Document stated, in paragraph 138, that “Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means. We accept that responsibility and will act in accordance with it. The international community should, as appropriate, encourage and help States to exercise this responsibility and support the United Nations in establishing an early warning capability.”

In paragraph 139, the Outcome Document stated that “The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case-by-case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. We stress the need for the General Assembly to continue consideration of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and its implications, bearing in mind the principles of the Charter and international law. We also intend to commit ourselves, as necessary and appropriate, to helping States build capacity to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and to assisting those which are under stress before crises and conflicts break out.”

United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, 20-22 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro

Building on the Millennium Development Goals

Twenty years after the 1992 ‘Earth Summit’ in Rio de Janeiro, the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio (also known as Rio+20) resulted in a document containing clear and practical steps for the implementation of sustainable development.

At the Conference, Member States decided to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), building on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and converging with the post-2015 development agenda.

The Conference also adopted innovative guidelines on green economy policies, and put in place a strategy for financing sustainable development.

Governments adopted a 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns. (A/CONF.216/5).

The Conference also took forward-looking decisions in a number of thematic areas, including energy, food security, oceans and cities, and decided to convene a third international conference on small island developing States in 2014.

The Rio+20 Conference caught the attention of thousands from the UN system and beyond. Over 700 voluntary commitments were announced and the formation of new partnerships to advance sustainable development were initiated.

Other summits have occurred in 1997, 2002, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2015. 

June 2 & 3, 2022: A Healthy Planet for the Prosperity of All, Our Responsibility, Our Opportunity: Stockholm, Sweden

In May 2021, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to bring the global environmental community together in Stockholm, Sweden for a major international environmental meeting on June 2 and 3 2022, the week of World Environment Day.

“Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity” (Stockholm+50) will take place five decades after the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. The event will provide leaders with an opportunity to draw on 50 years of multilateral environmental action to achieve the bold and urgent action needed to secure a better future on a healthy planet.

By recognizing the importance of multilateralism in tackling the Earth’s triple planetary crisis – climate, nature, and pollution – the event will to act as a springboard accelerate the implementation of the UN Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, including the 2030 Agenda, Paris Agreement on climate change, the post-2020 global Biodiversity Framework, and encourage the adoption of green post-COVID-19 recovery plans.

The meeting will also reinforce the messages and the outcomes of the event to commemorate UNEP’s 50th anniversary (UNEP@50), which will have taken place in March 2022, in Nairobi.

Stockholm+50 is convened by the United Nations and is hosted by Sweden with support from the Government of Kenya.

Per Bolund, Sweden’s former Minister for the Environment and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister, said “Our aim is clear, we want Stockholm+50 to make a concrete contribution to accelerating the transformation to a sustainable future. We call this meeting to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the 1972 conference. We are running out of time and urgent action is needed. These challenges are global, and we must meet them with a global response that drives action on the ground.”

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, who has been appointed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres as the Secretary General of the Stockholm+50 international meeting, said: “We need to urgently work to transform our economies and societies, but our branches will spread only as far as our roots are deep. By remembering Stockholm at 50, we also remember how the world came together to heal the ozone layer in 2013, phase out leaded fuel this year and stop endangered species from going extinct. By convening in Stockholm, we also recommit to human and planetary health, responsibility, prosperity, equality and peace – as we have seen only too clearly in COVID-19.”

A healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity

Principles of Engagement
Intergenerational responsibility


Implementing opportunity

Rebuild relationships of trust

Accelerate system wide actions for a sustainable and inclusive recovery

Connect and build bridges across agendas

Rethink conceptions and measures of progress and wellbeing

Support a universal recognition of the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment

Explore rights of nature

Mainstream alternative knowledge systems

Enhance youth, women, IPLC engagement in decision making around sustainability transitions

June 3 & 4, 2022 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm

Fifty years after UN environment summit, researchers renew call for action

On the eve of the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, a group of 2,200 scientists signed a letter — now known as the Menton Message — to their (then) 3.5 billion neighbours on Earth. In one of the earliest examples of researchers collectively calling for societal change, they sounded the alarm on the ongoing environmental crisis, the nuclear arms race and the possibility of the extinction of life on Earth.

As the Stockholm+50 summit gets under way this week — the UN conference’s 50th anniversary — the International Science Council, Future Earth and the Stockholm Environment Institute have convened an expert group of natural scientists, social scientists, engineers and humanities scholars to modernize and extend that historical call. Writing as co-chairs of that group, we invite readers to sign our open letter at

After 50 years, environmental action seems like one step forward and two back. The world now produces more food than ever before, yet many still go hungry. We continue to subsidize and invest in fossil fuels, even though renewable energy is increasingly cost-effective. Governments subsidize private cars instead of building public transport systems. We extract resources where the price is lowest, often with disregard for local rights and values.

These and other contradictions are rooted mainly in mismatches around values, world views and institutions. Our individualistic, materialistic, exploitative short-term thinking has led us to lose sight of the global public good. The focus on economic growth is detracting from human well-being and destroying our shared resources. The belief that we can bend all nature to our will through the unrestricted use of new technologies is an illusion.

Economic, political and social institutions are failing us. Financial power is concentrated in the hands of a few and legitimizes the relentless pursuit of profits, manipulation of citizens as consumers and valuation of nature for short-term economic gain. Racism and patriarchy continue to legitimize the deprivation of and environmental impacts on people of colour, women and Indigenous communities. Those most responsible for the crisis are the ones who suffer the least.

The worst fears of the Menton Message have not been realized, but we are getting closer to the brink (see M. Ivanova Nature  590, 365; 2021). Action is needed to create a safer and better future. The priority is to redefine our normative goals. Personal well-being needs to focus on physical and mental health, community and peace. Goals for societal well-being should include a sustainable future, justice and respect for all humans and the protection and conservation of all species. The privileged must recognize their responsibilities: those who consume too much must scale back and make space for those who are disenfranchised and disempowered.

Collective action is crucial. We must shift to an economy of cooperation and sharing, instead of competition, accumulation and planned obsolescence.

Democracy and participatory governance should be strengthened and reinforced. Compassion and collaboration in our families, communities and nations are paramount.

A small but important first step is to meet current international commitments to reduce pollution, improve conservation and tackle climate change. Naming and acclaiming countries, companies or citizen groups that deliver on pledges will inspire action, as will honouring the UN Environment Programme (see Nature 591, 8; 2021) and ensuring that the United Nations receives the best scientific advice (see Nature 600, 189–190; 2021).

The scientific, engineering and scholarly community must deepen its engagement with these issues, building bridges that span disciplines, geography and income discrepancies, and ensuring that technological innovation is socially responsible. Together with our teaching, research and technological skills, we can help to secure sustainability, justice and dignity for all.

We must become good ancestors and better neighbours.

First, a Quote:

“In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterflies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.” – Severn Cullis-Suzuki

Second, a Song:

Severn Suzuki, a 12 year old girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes, making her speech on UN Conference at Rio earth summit.

After 20 years, the 12 year-old-girl, who made a speech in front of the Chief of States at RIO92, came back to Rio de Janeiro to tell what she wants for The Future of the Planet.


Thought for the Day:

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.” – Ban Ki-moon

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Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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