background: The Brundtland Report

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The '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 effect"
- 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 society.

*Note: the 1992 Earth Summit was held in Rio, Brazil.   The  2002 meeting,   "Rio+10" will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa.