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First Global Meeting

1972

The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, meeting in Stockholm and attended by 113 nations, is the first global meeting of nations to consider environmental concerns

The Conference Declaration opens with the finding that “The protection and improvement of the human environment is a major issue which affects the well-being of peoples and economic development throughout the world; it is the urgent desire of the peoples of the whole world and the duty of all Governments … In our time, man’s capability to transform his surroundings, if used wisely, can bring to all peoples the benefits of development and the opportunity to enhance the quality of life. Wrongly or heedlessly applied, the same power can do incalculable harm to human beings and the human environment. We see around us growing evidence of man-made harm in many regions of the earth: dangerous levels of pollution in water, air, earth and living beings; major and undesirable disturbances to the ecological balance of the biosphere; destruction and depletion of irreplaceable resources; and gross deficiencies, harmful to the physical, mental and social health of man, in the man-made environment, particularly in the living and working environment.”  Participant nations agree to 26 general principles, including Principle 6: “The discharge of toxic substances or of other substances and the release of heat, in such quantities or concentrations as to exceed the capacity of the environment to render them harmless, must be halted in order to ensure that serious or irreversible damage is not inflicted upon ecosystems,” and Principle 12: “Resources should be made available to preserve and improve the environment, taking into account the circumstances and particular requirements of developing countries and any costs which may emanate from their incorporating environmental safeguards into their development planning and the need for making available to them, upon their request, additional international technical and financial assistance for this purpose.” The very first recommendation under the Conference’s “Action Plan,” under “Identification and Control of Pollutants of Broad International Significance,” is Recommendation 70, targeting climate change:  “It is recommended that Governments be mindful of activities in which there is an appreciable risk of effects on climate, and to this end: (a) Carefully evaluate the likelihood and magnitude of climatic effects and disseminate their findings to the maximum extent feasible before embarking on such activities; (b) Consult fully other interested States when activities carrying a risk of such effects are being contemplated or implemented.”*

*Report of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, 5-16 June, 1972, http://www.un-documents.net/aconf48-14r1.pdf

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