In June 2012, world leaders along with thousands of participants from governments, NGOs and environmental groups as well as the private sector will come together in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for Rio+20, 20 years after the Earth Summit was organised by the UN in 1992, to address urgent ecological challenges such as extinction of species, erosion of biodiversity and climate change. The Earth Summit gave us two significant international environmental laws — the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It also gave us the Rio principles, including the precautionary principle, and the “polluter pays” principle.
The world has changed radically since 1992 and, sadly, not for the better. Ecological sustainability has been systematically sacrificed for a particular model of economy, which itself is in crisis.
The year 1995 saw a tectonic shift in values guiding our decisions together with a shift with regard to those who make those decisions. It was the year the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was established. Whereas the Rio principles — shaped by ecological movements, ecological science and by sovereign governments — were informed by values of ecological sustainability, social justice and economic equity across and within the countries, the WTO introduced the paradigm of global corporate rule, changing the values and structures of governance and decision-making through free trade agreements between nations.