After examining the key milestones in the global effort to address the serious environmental crisis we are facing, it is inevitable that we will be deeply concerned. UnFCCC signatories meet for the first Conference of the Parties (COP1) in Berlin. The United States opposes legally binding targets and timetables, but enters into negotiations with other parties to strengthen commitments to limit greenhouse gases. The final document, known as the Berlin Mandate [PDF], lays the groundwork for what will happen to the Kyoto Protocol, but it is criticized by environmental activists as a political solution that does not lead to immediate action. The UN Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the Earth Summit, will be held in Rio de Janeiro from 3-14 June. It establishes several major environmental agreements, including Action 21, and opens two multilateral treaties for signature: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. After Stockholm, national governments began to see changes: the first green political parties were created, some environment ministries were created and a considerable amount of local environmental laws began to develop. The World Commission on Environment and Development presents the Brundtland report to the General Assembly, inspiring a new approach to environmental action focused on the concepts of sustainable development. The text of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is adopted at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

It is the main international treaty to reduce global warming and deal with the consequences of climate change. For the first time, binding targets for reducing gas emissions are set for industrialized countries. This is the first major UN conference on the international environment and marks a turning point in the development of international environmental policy. Prior to the 1960s, there was little environmental awareness and few isolated international environmental regulatory initiatives. One of them was the failure of the 1900 London Convention to protect African wildlife. It never came into force because it was not signed by the minimum number of parties. It was replaced 33 years later by the 1933 London Convention, implemented in much of colonized Africa by the creation of natural parks and species protection. 2011 – November-December – COP 17 was held in Durban, South Africa. The parties approved the Durban Platform to strengthen the measures, which provides the framework for the development of a new international protocol on emissions reduction.

As part of the Durban platform, details of the new protocol are expected to be finalised by 2015 and come into force in 2020. The European Union has also agreed to extend its Kyoto Protocol targets, which were due to expire at the end of 2012, for a second commitment period between 2013 and 2017. Russia, Japan and Canada have not committed to new goals. But where does this global discipline come from and how has it evolved? Its rules have not been dictated by a national institution or an international authority. Rather, it is a collection of declarations, treaties and rules – some binding, some voluntary – that have developed in addition to scientific knowledge and awareness of the current state of our natural world. UNEP launches Champions of the Earth, the UN World Environmental Prize. The aim is to pay tribute to prominent figures from the public and private sectors and civil society whose actions have had transformative and positive effects on the environment.