Five years after the Brundtland Report, the UN General Assembly asked for a report on progress made towards sustainable development and convened the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Held in June 1992 at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the Rio Earth Summit as it became known, was the largest environmental conference ever held, attracting over 30,000 people including more than 100 heads of state. The objectives of the conference were to build upon the hopes and achievements of the Brundtland Report, in order to respond to pressing global environmental problems and to agree major treaties on biodiversity, climate change and forest management. Perhaps for the first time, a major environmental conference adopted a more nature-centred approach towards environmental problems.
Despite its environmental focus, the biggest arguments at the Earth Summit concerned finance, consumption rates and population growth. The developed nations were calling for environmental sustainability, but the less industrialised developing nations were demanding a chance to allow their economies to catch up with the developed world.
The Earth Summit produced a number of outcomes including:
- The Convention on Biological Diversity;
- The Framework Convention on Climate Change;
- Principles of Forest Management;
- The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development; and
- Agenda 21.
Together these outcomes covered every aspect of sustainable development. Legislation was passed and many agreements made, committing nations, including the UK, to become more sustainable. These agreements and guidelines are still adhered to today and are influencing many political and business decisions.