'environment' is where we all live, and 'development' is what we all do in attempting to
improve our lot within that abode"
The apparent conflict between the interests of economic development and the
interests of environment has created problems all round the world. In 1983 the
United Nations appointed an international commission to propose strategies for
"sustainable development" - ways to improve human well-being in the short term
without threatening the local and global environment in the long term.
The Commission was chaired by Norwegian Prime-Minister Gro Harlem
Brundtland, and it's report "Our Common Future*", published in 1987 was widely
known as "The Brundtland Report". This landmark report helped trigger a
wide range of actions, including the UN "Earth Summits" in 1992 and
2002*, the International Climate Change Convention and worldwide "Agenda 21" programmes. It
was the Brundtland Report which inspired towns and cities in Northern Europe to initiate
the Brundtland City Energy Network in 1990. The Network has taken energy use as a
starting point for action.
"Our Common Future" - the background:
"Over the course of the 20th century the relationship
between the human world and the planet that sustains it has undergone a profound change
....... major, unintended changes are occurring in the atmosphere, in soils, in waters,
among plants and animals, and in the relationships among all of these. The rate of
change is outstripping the ability of scientific disciplines and our current capabilities
to assess and advise. It is frustrating the attempts of political and economic
institutions, which evolved in a different, more fragmented world, to adapt and cope
To keep options open for future generations, the present generation must begin now,
and begin together, nationally and internationally.
"Our Common Future" - on energy:
"The environmental risks and uncertainties of a high energy future are
disturbing and give rise to several reservations. Four stand out:
- the serious probability of climate change generated by the "greenhouse
- urban-industrial air pollution caused by atmospheric pollution from the
combustion of fossil fuels
- acidification of the environment from the same causes
- the risks of nuclear reactor accidents
It is clear that a low energy path is the best way towards a sustainable
future. But given efficient and productive uses of primary energy, this need not mean a
shortage of essential energy-services. Within the next 50 years, nations have the
opportunity to produce the same levels of energy-services with as little as half the
primary supply currently consumed. This requires profound structural changes in
socio-economic and institutional arrangements and is an important challenge to global
*Note: the 1992 Earth Summit was held in Rio, Brazil.
The 2002 meeting,
"Rio+10" will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa.