Agenda 21 is the UN’s non-binding, voluntarily sustainable development action. Work on the action plan started in 1989 and was formally adopted by 178 countries in 1992 at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It has since been repeatedly modified and reaffirmed, most recently a 2012 document called “The Future we Want” won the support of 180 nations. This plan is intended for the UN, multilateral organizations, and all levels of governments from national to local.
This 300-page document is divided into 40 chapters that have been grouped into 4 sections:
Section I: Social and Economic Dimensions is directed toward combating poverty, especially in developing countries, changing consumption patterns, promoting health, achieving a more sustainable population, and sustainable settlement in decision making.
Section II: Conservation and Management of Resources for Development Includes atmospheric protection, combating deforestation, protecting fragile environments, conservation of biological diversity (biodiversity), control of pollution and the management of biotechnology, and radioactive wastes.
Section III: Strengthening the Role of Major Groups includes the roles of children and youth, women, NGOs, local authorities, business and industry, and workers; and strengthening the role of indigenous peoples, their communities, and farmers.
Section IV: Means of Implementation: implementation includes science, technology transfer, education, international institutions and financial mechanisms.
As the planet warms and we get ever closer to irreversible tipping points, Agenda 21 is an essential part of global efforts to reign in emissions and live more sustainably.