The Five Earth Summit Agreements

Climate Change Framework

This legally binding agreement is a first ever attempt to evaluate and address global warming on an international scale. As of August 1992, 154 nations, including the United States and Canada, signed the Convention on Climate Change. Initially the goal was to set specific timetables for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. The United States objected to specific targets for controlling CO 2 emissions throughout the pre-summit sessions, citing economic uncertainties and unknown costs. The European Community, Canada, Japan, and majority of the attending nations favoured stabilising emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000. The Office of Technology Assessment and National Academies of Science and Engineering, in separate assessments, concluded that the United States could hold to 1990 levels by the year 2015 at little or no addition al cost.

Biological Diversity Agreement (1992)

This legally binding agreement is the first international attempt to protect Earth�s biodiversity. It provides more equitable rights among nations in biotechnology and the genetic wealth of tropical ecosystems in particular.

Out of 161 signatories, the United States, Vietnam, Singapore, and Kiribati (a Pacific island nation) re fused to sign the original treaty. This was a perplexing stand for the U.S. administration to take. Biodiversity is a divisive issue separating developed countries in the Northern Hemisphere from the predominantly developing nations of the equatorial and tropical regions and Southern Hemisphere. The developing countries want compensation for medicines derived from plants and animals harvested from their indigenous genetic wealth. This return of some profit to them from transitional corporations and rich nation enterprises creates incentives to further protect these critical biomes. The United States finally signed this treaty in 1993.

Management, Conservation, and Sustainable Development of All Types of Forests Agreement is non-binding agreement guides world forestry practices toward a more sustainable future of forest yields and diversity. The conflict between industrialized nations and developing nations is a classic confrontation of �north� and �south�. How can rich northern nations continue to clear cut their forests, yet turn to the developing countries, such as Brazil, and ask them to place their lands in a national preserve? How can the industrialized nations continue to produce excessive CO2, far beyond reasonable per capita limits, yet ask developing countries to cease destroying a principle sink for CO2, the tropical rain forest? The developing countries of the �south� insist on political and economic equality of forest practice. Along with sustainable timber practices, countries of the �north� need to begin government-sponsored paper recycling and packaging-reforms. Such recycling now is part of the forestry debate.

Earth Charter

This is a non-binding statement of 27 environmental and economic principles. They establish an ethical basis for a sustainable human-Earth relationship. An important emphasis is on inclusion of environmental costs in economic assessments. Impoverishment of air, soil, water, and ecosystems sometimes is mistaken for progress. The environment is not an inexhaustible mine of resources to be tapped indefinitely. In terms of natural capital � air, water, timber, fisheries, petroleum-Earth is indeed a physical system.

Agenda 21 (Sustainable Development)

This is a non-binding action programme for all nations into the 21st Century. The idea of �sustainable development� as opposed to a business proposal of �sustainable growth� is examined in Agenda 21.

Agenda 21 covers many key topics: (a) energy conservation and efficiency to reduce consumption and related pollution, (b) climatic change, (c) stratospheric ozone depletion, (d) trans-boundary air pollution, (e) ocean and water resource protection, soil loss and increasing desertification, (g) de forestation, (h) regulation of safety handling of radioactive waste disposal, (i) hazardous chemical exports for disposal in developing countries and (j) disparities of wealth and plague of poverty. Agenda 21 also addresses the difficult question of financing sustainable development. Developing countries are asking to developed countries to spend 0.7 per cent of their domestic product for implementing the Earth Charter and Agenda 21.

The Future

From the Earth Summit emerged a new organization-the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development�to oversee the promises made in the five documents and agreements. Most of the participating countries completed State of the Environment Reports (SERs) and gathered environmental statistics for publication. These reports are invaluable resource that will direct further research efforts in many countries. Considering these environmental problems and possible world actions, these are challenging times for humanity as we ponder our relationship to the home planet. Over the long term we no longer can sustain human activity through old patterns.

The Montreal Protocol

The Montreal Protocol was about the substances that deplete the Ozone Layer. It is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion. The treaty was opened for signature on 16th September, 1987 and entered into force on First January, 1989, followed by a first meeting in Helsinki, in May 1989. Since then it has undergone seven revisions � in 1990 (London), 1991 (Nairobi), 1992 (Copenhagen), 1993 (Bangkok), 1995 (Vienna), 1997 (Montreal) and 1999 (Beijing). It is believed that if international agreement is adhered to, the Ozone Layer is expected to recover by 2050. It has been ratified by 196 states. Initially, a target was set to remove harmful chemicals like the CFCs by 50 per cent by 1998. The target was further revised so as to curtail the production of these chemicals at the earliest.

Kyoto Protocol on Climatic Change

This is a protocol to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climatic Change (UNECCC) which was adopted in the Conference at Kyoto (Japan) in 1997. Kyoto Protocol is a voluntary treaty signed by 141 countries, including the European Union, Japan, Canada, where industrialized nations are required to reduce emission of greenhouse gases by an average of 5.2 per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) has predicted an average global rise in temperature of Earth from 1.4oC to 5.8oC between 1990 and 2100. If successfully implemented, the Kyoto Protocol will reduce that increase by somewhere between 0.02oC and 0.28oC by the year 2050 (Nature, October 2003).


The six greenhouse gases included under Kyoto Protocol are: (i) Carbon dioxide (CO2), (ii) Methane (CH4), (iii) Nitrous oxide (N2O), (iv) Per Fluorocarbons (PFCs), (v) Hydro Fluorocarbons (HFCs), and (vi) Sulphur Hexauoride (SF 6).

The Kyoto Protocol has two main clauses:

(i)� the largest polluters of the world, the USA which a ccounts for one third of the total CHG emission boycotted it.

(ii) Although India and China (the two emerging economic powers) signed it, they were not required to cut their share of emissions by 2012, the argument being that they should not pay the penalty for being late industrialisers (India and China account for 14 per cent of GHG emissions). Russia ratified the treaty, it accounted for 17 per cent of the emissions. The Kyoto Protocol had to be ratified by countries accounting for at least 55 per cent of global emissions in 1990 to go into effect. Hence, Russia�s decision on the treaty was very crucial.

Written by princy

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