About Earth Summit

The Earth Summit 2012 is also known as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) or Rio+20. In 1992, world leaders met at the Earth Summit 1992 to create a road map for sustainable development – a plan known as Agenda 21.

Twenty years later, these leaders are meeting again to look at the progress we’ve made, and the challenges we still face. We’ve succeeded in solving problems such as the hole in the ozone layer, but a myriad of new problems have come up, and we have reached our full capacity. The Earth Summit 2012 is a chance for nations to commit to real changes and to figure out how they’re going to do it.

Earth Summit 2012 has two main themes and three objectives.


1. A Green Economy in the Context of Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development

The recent economic troubles are proof that we need to create a more stable “green economy.” A green economy would incorporate social and environmental sustainability along with development by valuing goods and services provided by ecosystems. A green economy does not ignore people who suffer in poverty or assume an infinite supply of natural resources. A green economy will tax pollution instead of labour. It will make it easier and more profitable for businesses and consumers to make “greener” choices. It will also encourage more efficient technologies and infrastructure that will sustain large populations.

2. Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development

“Institutional Framework” refers to the system of global organization for sustainable development. This system includes the UN institutions in charge of developing and monitoring sustainable development programs. Progress on sustainable development has been slow partly because this system isn’t working: the international organizations involved do not have the authority or the resources to make real change. For sustainable development to move forward, the system needs to be streamlined and given more resources and authority from participating states.

For more information please visit: United Nations Environment Programme and United Nations Division for Sustainable Development.

Helen Beynon on Canada Day


1. Securing Political Commitment to Sustainable Development

All the leaders involved in the conference need to make concrete commitments. We need leaders to take responsibility – we want their assurance that they will make every effort to develop sustainably. Canada is a key player in securing international commitment. We are a global leader, and if we make a real commitment, others will follow!

3. Current International Agreements

Several commitments to sustainable development have been made at past UN conferences, including Agenda 21 (1992), the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992) and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (2002). Before we can move forward, we need to look at how far we’ve come in honouring these commitments. More information on past conferences and commitments can be found in the Background section of the website.

3. Addressing New and Emerging Challenges

Many of the challenges we face have become more urgent as they occur simultaneously with other problems; we need to address them before they get worse. These challenges include the financial crisis, a growing food security crisis, water scarcity, forced migration and natural disaster preparedness. Canada must take the lead in addressing these challenges, many of which affect countries much poorer than our own.