The 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development and the Future of International Environmental Protection

Anton, Donald K.

This opinion piece addresses concerns about the suitability of the continuing use of sustainable development as a concept around which to organize international environmental protection. Despite advances made in international environmental law over the last 40 years, progress in abating global greenhouse gas continues to be slow, and predictions about global average temperature increases remain disturbing. The upcoming GEO5 publication based on the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Environmental Outlook data portal reveals that prospects for improvements in global environmental standards are grim. Some of the challenges facing the advancement of international environmental law can be largely attributed to inefficiencies associated with treaty congestion; however, there is a more fundamental reason why international environmental law remains ineffective. There has been little, if any, progress because we have been focusing solely on the concept of sustainable development for the last quarter century. It is clear that ‘sustainable development’ has become too malleable a theory to serve its vital purpose. Consequently, it needs to be replaced with a straightforward title for the environmental movement. The international community needs to reconsider its approach in dealing with today’s pressing environmental concerns.


Also Published In

Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development

More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth Institute
Published Here
December 3, 2015