Conferences & Reports
(& earlier)

UN Conference on the Human Environment, 1972, Stockholm

Discussed environmental degradation and transboundary pollution, began United Nations Environment Programme

Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements, 1976

Recognizes the serious condition of many human settles and recommends strengthening international cooperation, particularly regarding basic needs in developing countries


The Brundtland Report (Our Common Future), 1987

Defined sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"


United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED): Earth Summit,
June 1992, Rio de Janeiro

Established Agenda 21, established the term "Sustainable Development"

Agenda 21, 1992

A global blueprint for sustainable development on national, regional, and local levels that has become the basis for many plans

International Conference on Population and Development, 1994, Cairo

Discussed relationships between population, sustained economic growth, and sustainable development; affirmed right to education

Earth Summit +5, New York, 1997

Reviewed and appraised the implementation of Agenda 21


The World Summit on Sustainable Development (Rio +10),
Johannesburg 2002

Refocused attention on Rio commitments and Agenda 21. Worked on access to safe water, proper sanitation and clean energy, as well as on reversing ecosystem decline

International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture,

Provides for conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the sharing of derived benefits

Treaties / Conventions

Antarctic Treaty, 1959

Ensures, "in the interests of all mankind that Antartica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord."

Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, 1971, Iran

Provides an international framework for the conservation and use of wetlands and their resources; emphasizes wildfowl habitat

Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, 1972, Paris

Sets up an international committee to protect historical and natural sites, requires an inventory of endangered world heritage sites. Recognizes that nature and culture are complementary

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), 1973, Washington

Enforces international trade in wild animals and plants; establishes global list of endangered species

Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, 1979, Geneva

Combats acidification on a broad regional basis, brings together research and policy. Has been extended by eight new protocols


U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982, Montego Bay (not fully ratified)

Develops principles from the 1970 resolution that the sea-bed and ocean floor, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, are the common heritage of mankind

Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer, 1985, Vienna

Encourages research and cooperation; set a precedent for early response to environmental problems

Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, 1987

Protects the ozone layer by controlling total global emissions of substances that deplete it, particularly chlorofluorocarbons

Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, 1989 Basel

Encourages disposal of hazardous wastes within country of origin; provides for waste reduction and disposal


United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992, New York

Recognizes that global warming is a problem and sets an objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions, requires regular inventoies of such emissions, and places heaviest burden on industrialized countries

Convention on Biological Diversity, 1992, Rio de Janeiro

Regulates the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, the equitable sharing of genetic resource benefits, and appropriate transfer of relevant technologies

Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, 1997, Kyoto (entered into force 2004 but never ratified by US)

Sets targets on greenhouse gas emissions. See CSA's Global Warming and the Kyoto Protocol


Cartegena Biosafety Protocol, 2000 (implemented 2003)

Ensures protection in the transfer and use of living modified organisms that may have adverse effects on conservation and biological diversity, and on human health

Doha Declaration, 2001

Links international trade, development, and the environment within the context of the World Trade Organization

Convention and treaty dates are for signing; date of implementation may be several years later
See for a comprehensive database of environmental treaties


Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), 1960

Provides for global cooperation in the study of the ocean. Coordinates national programs and knowledge sharing

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 1973, Nairobi, Kenya

Provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment; coordinates information and programs

United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, 1978

Ameliorates problems stemming from urban growth, especially in the developing world; promotes sustainable development

GEMS/Water Programme, 1977

Provides data and information on inland water quality


World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED),

Promoted sustainable development; developed Brundtland Report

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),

Assesses information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation


Global Environment Facility (GEF), 1991

Helps developing countries fund environmental programs

Commission on Sustainable Development, 1992

Ensures effective follow-up of UNCED; monitors and reports on implementation of the Earth Summit agreements

Committee on Trade and Environment, 1994

The part of the World Trade Organization that concerns itself with environmental issues, including ruling on trade disputes over the environment


Pew Oceans Commission, 2000

Assessed policies on marine resources and the array of problems facing oceans

Special thanks to Rebecca Davis for help compiling this chart.