Great expectations

In June 1992, nations from around the world gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or the Earth Summit, to discuss the state of the world’s environment. It was a big summit with high international profile – over half of the national delegations sent their head of state or government to attend.

The summit was deemed a success and resulted in a number of important outcomes, such as the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and Agenda 21, not to mention the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Put simply, the world was listening and ready to act on the increased environmental stress on our planet.

So what happened?

Now, almost 20 years later, what has happened since? It is a strange feeling looking through some of the issues raised in the original Earth Summit, and realising that we are still grappling with the majority of them – climate change and emissions reduction, water scarcity, forestry, unsustainable production patterns, and so on. With a vastly increased body of evidence of the problems this planet is facing, and with only some marginal successes, have we really not got very far in the near two decades that have passed?

Let's get moving

It is therefore good news that the world will again join forces at the next Earth Summit, also to be held in Rio de Janeiro, the Rio +20 Summit, in June 2012. With processes such as the UNFCCC yearly climate negotiations starting to lose momentum and being caught up in political issues, it is crucial to regain the momentum on why this process started in the first place. We have already lost 20 years without making significant progress, we cannot afford to lose another 20 – urgent action is needed now!

First-hand experience

At Progressio, we are already involved and working with other organisations to raise the momentum. We know from first-hand experience that where there is environmental stress, poor people often suffer first and hardest. Our development workers play a crucial part in working with communities to solve some of these problems. By helping Progressio you can reach a helping hand to ensure the environment is protected for some of the poorest communities in the world.

What all of us can do

But we mustn’t forget what we can do on a daily basis too. We need to take a long hard look at all the decisions we make in our daily lives and think about how we can have less impact on our increasingly fragile environment.

And this is not just within our vicinity. With climate change and unsustainable production of everyday items, such as food and clothes, our day to day activities can have a negative impact on poor communities on the other side of the globe.

It’s time to get ready, the countdown is on…

Petra Kjell is Progressio's Environment Policy and Advocacy Officer

Photo: Catalino Vásquez, 49, a farmer in the Mezcalito community, Honduras, knows a thing or two about the impacts of climate change: in 2010, heavy rain affected his maize crop, and caused a landslide which cleared three tonnes of fertile land from his plot. Read more in Nuria Zayas's blog from Honduras.

Photo © Nuria Zayas/Progressio