This piece originally appeared in the Guardian Sustainable Business.
In 1992, heads of state converged on Rio for the Earth Summit, a bright moment that seemed to herald a new era for sustainable development. Bold speeches were given, important treaties signed. Saving the planet was cast as a moral imperative. Multilateral institutions would lead the way.
Twenty years later, the world looks much different. The unipolar system of U.S. domination that followed the end of the cold war is now multipolar. The locus of global growth and consumption has largely shifted to developing countries, especially in Asia. And for all the good intentions voiced in Rio, the health of our climate, water resources and ecosystems has been deteriorating at alarming rates.