June 3 marks the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which is now remembered as an important symbolic milestone in the perception of the concept of sustainable development in world politics and global public opinion. The UN Conference on Environment and Development, which was held in Brazil in June 1992, was figuratively dubbed the ‘Earth Summit’. The very tradition of holding such meetings had originated twenty years earlier, in June 1972, when the first such UN conference was held in Stockholm, so this June also marks the 50th anniversary of that meeting.
Incidentally, the Soviet Union boycotted the 1972 conference because the GDR delegation was not allowed to attend. The Chinese delegation at the conference entered a heated debate with the United States. Thus, geopolitics began to have an impact on the global environmental movement from its very beginning. Another fault line that emerged at the Stockholm conference was the difference in approaches between the developed and developing countries. The states of the Third World, which had only recently freed themselves from colonial oppression, irately pointed out that the introduction of environmentalist restrictions on production without appropriate compensatory support could obstruct the development of their national industries.
Then the thesis arose that when the countries of the West carried out their industrial revolution in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, they hadn’t thought about environmental protection at all. Thus, the argument went that the developed countries were entirely to blame for the pollution of our planet. Now, it was said, these countries are using the fashionable theme of ecology as a tool to perpetuate existing social and economic inequalities in the world, and as a result deny the poorest countries the right to development. All these views and fears took shape in the concept of “environmental neo-colonialism”. The Valdai Club has already addressed the current state of discussions in this regard; the thesis of “environmental neo-colonialism” has been supplemented by a new postulate of “carbon neo-colonialism”
. In general, this emphasis on the contradiction between ecology and development has become, in our opinion, one of the main obstacles in pursuing further processes. The Rio conference tried to reconcile these two points of view.