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MEA Bulletin - Guest Article No. 84 - Thursday, 21 January 2010
The Sustainable Development Timeline

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published in 1962. Many consider the book’s release a turning point in our understanding of the interconnections among the environment, the economy and social wellbeing. Since then, many milestones have marked the journey toward sustainable development. This timeline captures some of them. Excerpts are listed below; the full timeline can be viewed at .

1962. Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, brings together research on toxicology, ecology and epidemiology to suggest that agricultural pesticides are building to catastrophic levels, linked to damage to animal species and human health.

1968. Biosphere. Intergovernmental Conference for Rational Use and Conservation of the Biosphere (UNESCO) is held; early discussions occur on the concept of ecologically sustainable development.

1969. Partners in Development and IDRC (1970). Report of the Commission on International Development. This is the first of the international commissions to consider a new approach to development, focused on research and knowledge in the South.

1971. Polluter pays principle. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Council says those causing pollution should pay the resulting costs.

1972. UN Conference on the Human Environment and UNEP. The Stockholm conference is rooted in the pollution and acid rain problems of northern Europe. It leads to the establishment of many national environmental protection agencies and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

1975. CITES. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna comes into force.

1976. Habitat, the UN Conference on Human Settlements, is the first global meeting to link the environment and human settlement.

1980. Global 2000 report is released. It recognizes biodiversity for the first time as critical to the proper functioning of the planetary ecosystem.

1987. Our Common Future (Brundtland Report). Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development weaves together social, economic, cultural and environmental issues and global solutions. It popularizes the term “sustainable development.”

1988. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is established to assess the most up-to-date scientific, technical and socioeconomic research in the field.

1992. Earth Summit. UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) is held in Rio de Janeiro. Agreements are reached on the action plan Agenda 21 and on the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the non-binding Forest Principles.

1994. Global Environment Facility is established, restructuring billions of aid dollars to give more decision-making power to developing countries.

1995. World Trade Organization (WTO) is established, with formal recognition of trade, environment and development linkages.

1999. Third WTO Ministerial Conference held in Seattle. Thousands of demonstrators protest the negative effects of globalization and the growth of global corporations. Along with deep conflicts among WTO delegates, they scuttle the negotiations. The first of many anti-globalization protests, the demonstrations signal a new era of confrontation between disaffected stakeholders and those in power.

2000. UN Millennium Development Goals. The largest-ever gathering of world leaders agrees to a set of time-bound and measurable goals for combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women, to be achieved by 2015.

2002. World Summit on Sustainable Development is held in Johannesburg, marking 10 years since UNCED.

2005. Kyoto Protocol enters into force, legally binding developed country parties to goals for greenhouse gas emission reductions, and establishing the Clean Development Mechanism for developing countries.

2006. NASA reports that the ozone layer is recovering, due in part to reduced concentrations of CFCs, phased out under the Montreal Protocol.

2009. Copenhagen climate negotiations. The domestic targets and actions of large emitters such as the United States and China take centre stage, but the outcomes of the Copenhagen negotiations are unclear.

To view the full Timeline, visit:
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