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Environment and Society, International Issues

Rio Conference, modern economies, international response, Framework Convention, United Nations Conference

The United States has been involved in efforts to coordinate an international response to environmental issues that effect the worldwide environment. The most notable example is the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. Known as the Rio Conference, this meeting of international leaders addressed complex environmental problems. Although the participants did not reach binding agreements on all the issues raised, they made progress in a number of areas. The conference resulted in the adoption of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, an agreement to limit the amount of greenhouse gases that nations could emit. The conference also adopted nonbinding resolutions encouraging sustainable development throughout the world and urging industrialized nations to provide financial assistance to developing nations so that they could expand their economies with minimal environmental damage.

However, the United States refused to sign the Convention on Biological Diversity, which sought to protect plant and animal species and their habitats. The United States objected to provisions granting biotechnology companies access to genetic material from species around the world in exchange for a guarantee that developing nations share the benefits gained from any products manufactured from the genetic material. The U.S. government felt that the treaty did not adequately protect the rights of biotechnology companies.

The Rio Conference also revealed conflicts between industrialized nations and countries that were still struggling to develop modern economies. Many developing nations complained that nations with high levels of industrial development and consumption should not ask less developed nations to slow their industrial growth. Developing nations pointed out that they were being asked to conserve their natural resources, when developed nations, particularly the United States, were consuming a very large proportion of the world’s total resources. Many of these developing countries had large and growing populations of poor citizens. Many had few choices other than economic activities that endangered the environment; the alternative in many cases was poverty and starvation.



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