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Action > Agenda 21

Agenda 21, established at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or "Earth Summit", in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is the blueprint for sustainability in the 21st century. Agenda 21 is a commitment to sustainable development, which was agreed by many of the world's governments. Nations that have pledged to take part in Agenda 21 are monitored by the International Commission on Sustainable Development, and are encouraged to promote Agenda 21 at the local and regional levels within their own countries. Agenda 21 addresses the development of societies and economies by focusing on the conservation and preservation of our environments and natural resources.

The Conventions, Principles and Declarations of the Earth Summit, provide guidelines to deal with the problems of poverty, hunger, resource consumption and the deterioration of ecosystems. Agenda 21 provides a format for this to happen, detailing an action plan for sustainable development and establishing targets for actions that combine economic development and environmental protection. Agenda 21:

  • Is the blueprint for sustainability in the 21st century.
  • Provides options for combating the deterioration of land, air and water, whilst conserving habitats and their diversity.
  • Deals with poverty, over consumption, health and education.
  • Promotes roles for all. Everyone – governments, business, trade unions, scientists, teachers, indigenous people and youth – have roles to play in achieving sustainable development and should be involved in the decision making processes.
  • Encourages the reduction of environmentally and socially detrimental processes, but within a framework which allows economic success.

Presently a nation’s wealth is gauged by its financial standing, and the more money the better. Agenda 21 promotes the attitude that a nation’s wealth should also account for the full value of its natural resources. Agenda 21 also encourages nations to consider the costs of environmental degradation. In addition, to reduce the risk of damage, environmental assessments should be carried out and where degradation does occur, those responsible should bear the costs.

Agenda 21 highlights the need to eradicate poverty. One of the major problems facing poorer nations is their lack of resources and ability to live sustainably. Developed nations have taken on the responsibilities of assisting poorer nations to reduce their environmental impacts and achieve sustainable development.

Agenda 21 asks governments to integrate sustainable development into their national strategies and highlights the importance of involving non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the public in the process. For sustainable development to work, issues must be tackled on a local, national and international level and nations must work ‘towards international agreements which respect the interests of all and protect the integrity of the global environmental and developmental system.’