It was probably at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 that I first heard about the problem of climate change. Or at least, it was certainly the first time I realised that it was an issue of major importance. There was a large amount of media coverage of the event at the time, and I assumed that it would mark the start of a new era in international cooperation on global environmental problems.
It hasn't really worked out that way, however. Rio+20, the follow-up conference after the first Earth Summit just wrapped up a few days ago, and reports this time appear to be rather pessimistic. AP called it 'the unhappy environmental summit,' noting that representatives of 188 countries 'met in a failed attempt to find a breakthrough' at the UN-sponsored conference.
It appears from reports that the conference attendees could all agree that there are major global environmental problems, but were unable to agree on what to do about them collectively. They could only agree to 'reaffirm' their original goals from 1992, for example, to achieve sustainable development and economic stability, and strengthen international cooperation. The conference produced 'virtually no progress' since the 1992 summit agreements.
At this point, it seems clear that expecting 188 UN member bodies to agree upon any unified course of action on the environment is an unworkable proposition, as appealing an idea as that might seem. I don't think any other major global summits will solve our environmental problems - it's time to switch strategies.
What to do, then? I don't propose to have a perfect solution, but a few ideas come to mind on where to go from here:
I'm sure there are more ideas and many of you have your own opinions, so please comment on what you think about this topic and how we can all proceed to solve the most critical environmental issues facing us today.