Draft UN Declaration on Planetary Boundaries published

A group of development and sustainability experts, scientists and lawyers have developed a draft UN Declaration on Planetary Boundaries

A group of development and sustainability experts, scientists and lawyers have developed a draft UN Declaration on Planetary Boundaries.

The declaration is a step towards creating a legal framework to ensure that humanity doesn’t breach thresholds of the planet’s ability to support life. Nine key areas are suggested in the declaration, including ozone depletion, ocean acidification and global freshwater use.

Produced following a meeting at Exeter University in October 2011, the declaration states: “Earth-system processes that are necessary for ensuring a safe operating space for humanity should be recognised and respected. We are all responsible for safeguarding those processes from the threats of serious or irreversible damage as a result of human activities.”

The planetary boundaries concept was first publicised in 2009 in the journal Nature, when it was suggested that three of the nine thresholds had already been crossed: climate change, biodiversity and the nitrogen cycle.

The draft declaration’s authors believe that institutions are often caught in conflict between short-term financial gain and long-term sustainability, but sustainable development can only take place within the reality of critical natural thresholds.

A global governance framework that recognises and respects planetary boundaries will ensure the protection of the health and wellbeing of present and future generations, and of nature, the declaration states. It suggests international, regional and local requirements, which could be co-ordinated by a Planetary Boundaries Commission.

The authors hope the report will be discussed in the run-up to Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which is being held in June 2012, 20 years on from the Earth Summit in 1992.

Read it and don’t weep.

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