The 1992 Earth Summit was a bright moment for the environmental movement. For the first time, presidents and prime ministers—more than 100 in all—were “coming together to save the earth,” as a headline on the cover of Time magazine put it. What’s more, the U.N.-led conference in Rio de Janeiro yielded some genuine results. Among them were major global treaties on the climate and biodiversity. Rich and poor countries alike also made a broad new commitment to sustainable development— as spelled out in the Rio Declaration and an accompanying “action plan."
Was it too much to hope that humanity had turned a corner?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question appears to be yes. Despite some progress, the world is still waiting for the global response that the original Earth Summit seemed to promise— a promise that will now be revisited, as thousands of representatives of government, civil society, and business return for the Rio+20 conference.