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1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment

Regarded by many as the landmark event of the emergence of environmentalism because it conferred a legitimacy to environmental issues by placing them on the international political agenda. 113 countries and 19 intergovernmental panels were represented. It was a large conference and was perceived to symbolize the growing awareness and significance of environmental issues. It was from the Stockholm conference that UNEP and CITES were spawned, and the conference promoted the importance of environmental issues at a national scale and encouraged the development of national policies.

As one of the productive consequences of the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) provides an integrative and interactive mechanism through which a large number of separate efforts by intergovernmental, non-governmental, national and regional bodies in the service of the environment are reinforced and interrelated. UNEP was established as the environmental conscience of the United Nations system, and has been creating a basis for comprehensive consideration and coordinated action within the UN on the problems of the human environment.

From this conference also rose a ten-year moratorium on all commercial whaling. The moratorium was rejected by the International Whaling Commission but Canada and the USA declared unilateral closures in 1982 and the IWC began to make closures in 1986. 

More information on the 1972 Stockholm Conference


The Earth Summit

The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was unprecedented for a UN conference, in terms of both its size and the scope of its concerns. Twenty years after the first global environment conference, the UN sought to help Governments rethink economic development and find ways to halt the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet. Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life were drawn into the Rio process. They persuaded their leaders to go to Rio and join other nations in making the difficult decisions needed to ensure a healthy planet for generations to come.

The Summit’s message — that nothing less than a transformation of our attitudes and behaviour would bring about the necessary changes — was transmitted by almost 10,000 on-site journalists and heard by millions around the world.