Opportunities Lost

In response to calls from every corner of the world, there is a need for urgent and ambitious climate action.

By Prof. S. Shafiq-ur Rehman | March 2020

The success of the July 1972 Stockholm Conference on Human Environment was indeed a landmark achievement for humanity because it kicked off a new era of environmental protection and conservation at the state level, a major shift from purely economy-centric to more humane and environment-centric state policies. For the first time in world history, government and state leaders from 113 countries put their thoughts together for nearly two weeks at the UN level to identify and prioritize environmental issues and find solutions. The Stockholm Declaration identified 26 principles and advised the member states to implement them within their territorial jurisdiction.

In 1983, the UN Secretary General, Javier Peres de Cuellar, invited Norwegian Prime Minister Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland to chair the World Commission on Environment and Development, popularly known as the Brundtland Commission. The Commission was mandated to identify environmental concerns such as population growth, global warming, deforestation, species loss and toxic waste and to develop a model for sustainable development. The World Commission on Environment and Development was dissolved in 1987 after it published its report “Our Common Future” that emphasized the need and importance of “Sustainable Development” at the global level.

Recommendations of the Brundtland Commission were placed before the participants from 172 countries at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The accomplishments of the Rio Summit include not only ‘Agenda 21’, a model for sustainable development in the 21st century but also achieving global agreement on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as well as Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The convention came into force in March 1994 with the objective to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at a level that would prevent dangerous human-induced interference with the climate system.

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The writer is former Chairman, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Peshawar. He can be reached at

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