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Time line

The time line will help you understand the progress of the initiatives that have been collectively taken by the world for the improvement of the environment.

1960s    1970s   1980s   1990s   Source


1968: Biosphere, International Conference for Rational Use and Conservation of the Biosphere by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) is held. Early discussions of the concept of ecologically sustainable development.



1971: Polluter Pays the Principle, OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development) Council says that those causing pollution should pay the costs.

1972: Conference on Human Environment, the historical Conference on Human Environment held in Stockholm in June 1972 was the first global recognition that the environment was endangered and the governments and the industry had to collectively put in an effort. For the first time the developed countries realised that they had completely ignored the impact on the environment during their rapid development. Since then, with the forming of the UNEP (United Nation Environment Programme), almost all countries have undertaken to monitoring the quality of their air, water and other components of the natural world. With an increase in economic activities and its widespread impact in the following years, all lead to the culmination 20 years later of the earth summit at Rio.

1975: CITES, the convention on international trade in endangered species of flora and fauna was signed on 3rd March 1973 in Washington and came into force on 1st July 1975. India became a signatory in October 1976. Its secretariat is at Geneva and till 1998 it had 144 countries as its members. Its main aim is to ensure that the international trade in wild animals and plants and their parts and products is not detrimental to the survival of the species. Each country is responsible for the implementation of the convention within its frontiers. The parties to CITES meet every 2 to 3 years to discuss and decided upon measures to improve the implementation of the convention. NGOs are also permitted to participate. www.nuep.ch/cites.html

1976: Habitat, the first global meeting to link human settlement and the environment was held to highlight the problems being faced due to an increase in the population.

1977: Conference on Desertification, the United Nations holds a Conference on Desertification.

1979: Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution is adopted to develop the best strategies and policies, including air quality management systems, in respect of operation of old, new and rebuilt installations.



1981: World Health Assembly adopts a global strategy for health for all by the year 2000.

1982: The United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea is adopted. It led to the establishment of rules concerning environmental standards as well as enforcement provisions dealing with pollution of the marine environment.

1984: The International Conference on Environment and Economics (OECD) was held. It concluded that environment and economics should be mutually reinforcing. This conference led to the Brundtland Report called "Our Common Future". The findings of this report were compiled to be discussed in the UN Conference on Environment and Development, the Earth Summit at Rio in June, 1992.

1985: Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer was attended by 21 countries and the European Community. It was the same year that the hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctica was first discovered. This convention created a general obligation for countries to take appropriate measures to protect the ozone layer.
In the same year the World Meteorological Society met in Austria to discuss the problems of green house gases and global warming.

1987: Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was finalizing and approval and entered into force in 1989. 36 countries that together accounted for 80% of the CFC consumption ratified it.
It set the table for international action on an environment threat that lay beyond the confines of any country or government. It resulted in a sharp decline in the manufacture and use of CFC.

1988: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) was set up to assess the technical issues that were being raised. Its first report stated that the possibility of global warming had to be taken seriously.

1989: The Basel Convention was drawn up in Basel, Switzerland in March 1989 with over 100 countries signing the treaty. It is an international agreement on the control of transboundary movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal.



1990: UN Summit for Children gave recognition of the impact of the environment on the future generation.

1992: Earth Summit the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), was held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The gathering momentum on environmental issues was given support and global focus and Agenda 21 was set out as a blueprint for action for the 21st century.
The Rio conference was significantly different from the Stockholm conference – it was not about the environment itself but about the world economy and its effects on the world environment. The developed countries came to Rio to solve the issues of climate, forests and endangered species but this did not happen. This time the south was in a position to demand that if the north wanted them to check their consumption of oil and coal and stop deforestation then the north would have to pay for it.

1992: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - the centerpiece of global efforts to combat global warming. It was adopted in May1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, and entered into force on March 21st, 1994. The Convention's primary objective is the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (man-made) interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened, and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

1993: The first meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development was held to ensure effective follow-up to the earth summit, to enhance international cooperation and to rationalize intergovernmental decision making capacity.

1994: United Nations Convention on Desertificationwas held to take into consideration the heavy pressure on natural resources for livelihood etc directly leading to land degradation and pressure on scarce water resources.

1995: World Summit for Social Development was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. For the first time the international community expressed a clear commitment to eradicate absolute poverty.

1995: The First Conference of the Parties (COP-1) to the FCCC, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change took place in Berlin from 28 March - 7 April 1995. It comprised of 170+ nations that have ratified the Convention and is expected to continue meeting on a yearly basis. In addition to addressing a number of important issues related to the future of the FCCC, delegates reached agreement on what many believed to be the central issue before COP-1 - adequacy of commitments, the "Berlin Mandate." Delegates agreed to establish an open-ended Ad Hoc Group on the Berlin Mandate (AGBM) to begin a process toward appropriate action for the period beyond 2000, including that of the commitments of Annex I Parties through the adoption of a protocol or other legal instrument. COP-1 also requested the Secretariat to make arrangements for sessions of the subsidiary bodies on scientific and technological advice (SBSTA) and implementation (SBI). SBSTA serves as the link between the information provided by competent international bodies, and the policy-oriented needs of the COP. SBI was created to develop recommendations to assist the COP in the review and assessment of the implementation of the FCCC and in the preparation and implementation of its decisions.

Source: International Institute of Sustainable Development. 1999 Earth Negotiations Bulletin Vol. 12 No. 123

1996: ISO 1400, this was formally adopted as a voluntary international standard for corporate environment management systems

1997: Kyoto Protocol, 159 nations attending the Third Conference of Parties (COP-3) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (held in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan) agreed to reduce worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases. Delegates to COP-3 agreed to the following specific provisions.
Thirty-eight developed countries agreed to reduce their emissions of six greenhouse gases. Collectively, developed countries agreed to cut back their emissions by at least 5% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. Developing Countries - Countries which are in the process of becoming industrialized but have constrained resources with which to combat their environmental problems, which include China and India, have no formal binding targets, but have the option to set voluntary reduction targets.
The Kyoto Protocol also established emissions trading, joint implementations, and clean development mechanisms to encourage cooperative emission reduction projects between developed and developing countries.


The time line has been compiled from the following sources:

  • The Sustainable Development Timeline by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, through the project ‘Spinning the Web’.
  • Strengthening Environmental Legislation in India, document by Centre for Environmental Laws, WWF-India