To understand sustainability start by considering a simple system or process and describing the qualities by which it could be defined as sustainable. This may suggest that a sustainable system or process is one that:
This suggestion however concentrates on qualities that emphasise environmental sustainability but over the last decades sustainability has more generally been applied to ‘maintaining life on Planet Earth’. But then Planet Earth itself sustains innumerable eco-systems on which life depends. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest global environmental organisation, offered the following definition, “Sustainability is about improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting eco-systems”.
It has to be recognised however that human life is constantly evolving. It is on a path of continuous growth and development and this brings with it social and economic challenges. Accordingly, later definitions concentrate on sustainable development and the universally accepted definition was offered in 1987 by the Brundtland Committee to the United Nations, “Sustainable Development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
The 2005 World Summit further clarified this statement by noting that “Sustainable Development requires the reconciliation of environmental, social and economic demands” which they termed the ‘Three Pillars of Sustainability’.
The Importance of Sustainability
The Earth’s eco-systems are being stressed by the effects of human inhabitation. The exploitation of fossil fuels was inextricably linked with the development of the industrial world, particularly in the 18th, 19th and early part of the 20th centuries. But the stark reality is that these resources are finite and they pollute.
The depletion of the ozone layer, with global warming and climate change its consequence, has been the principal focus of inter-governmental strategies. They have given commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to help developing countries make similar commitments but without damaging their economic development and future living standards. See web reference ‘Climate Change’
It is clear that action is required across a broad front. The continued rise in global population and the unsustainable consumption of the Earth’s resources present serious challenges. These include:
Legislation Relating to Sustainability
The legislative framework regarding sustainability in the UK has emanated from the Government’s legally binding commitment to three tiers of sustainability policies. In other words, those commitments have been given at global, European and domestic levels.
Inter-governmental (global) Legislative Framework
The Kyoto Protocol was established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992. It was forged after taking key scientific input from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was created by the United Nations in 1988. The Kyoto Protocol committed developed countries, including the European Union, to targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2012. It also committed them to helping the developing nations through the provision of funds.
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 and became legally binding in 2005; essentially ratified by nations responsible for 55% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
European Policy and Strategy
UK Domestic Policy
To give effect to EU directives the following legislation was introduced in the UK:
|Home | Contact Us|