Table of contents
The idea of protecting the environment has its origins in the second half of the nineteenth century. In Europe, it emerged from the movement in response to the dynamic process of industrialization and urban sprawl, and an increasing level of air and water pollution. The United States was founded as a result of growing concerns about the state of the natural resources of the country, supported by key philosophical references such outstanding individuals like John Muir or Henry David Thoreau. Both conservation priorities, as well as the belief in the hereditary nature of the law are the foundations for today's efforts to protect the environment. In the twentieth century, the popularity and the level of knowledge about the environment continue to grow.
II. United Nations and Environment
Changing ideas and thinking about the world’s environment is where the UN has probably had its greatest influence. Over the six decades since the UN’s founding, global awareness, thinking, concern, and global policy in relation to the environment have changed beyond recognition. As with human rights, the UN has often taken the international lead that has challenged and changed national and international priorities. The landmarks of these changes include:
1962: The UN Declaration on Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources detailed the rights of countries to freely manage natural resources for the benefit of the population and national economic development. 1972: The UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm pioneered the idea that issues of environment and development must be approached together, politically and operationally. 1982: The UN Convention of the Law of the Sea gave rise to extended resource rights for coastal states, protection of the marine environment, and an international deep-seabed regime based on the nascent principle of the common heritage of humankind. The latter principle counterbalanced rights of fishing with the duty to take measures of conservation. 1987: The Montreal Convention on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is a legally binding treaty for the control of ozone depleting substances. The 2006 Montreal Protocol controls the use of ninety-six chemicals and sets forth a detailed schedule for their phase out with differing targets and deadlines for developed and developing countries. 1987: The report of the World Commission on Environment and Development Our Common Future introduced the concept of sustainable development as ensuring that development “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 1988: The creation of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has provided the lead for the growing international consensus on the global problems presented by climate change. 1992: The UN Conference on Environment and Development—known also as the Earth Summit—took stock of progress since the Stockholm conference, linked environmental protection to poverty eradication, and emphasized priorities for the least-developed and most environmentally vulnerable countries. The summit concluded by agreeing to Agenda 21 for achieving sustainable development in the twenty-first century as well as opening for signature the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. 2007: The IPCC’s fourth assessment report presented a comprehensive statement of knowledge on all aspects of climate change. The report’s major finding is not only that evidence for global warming and climate change is unequivocal, but that the human influence behind this change is now beyond doubt, largely the result of increases in carbon emissions.
III. Creation of UNEP
In 1969, UN Secretary-General U Thant presents a report that justifies the need for a global approach to environmental protection and the need to protect all of its...
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