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Chp 45, Earth Summit 1992 – Forty years champion for the environment

Earth Summit 1992

An empty chair where Hong Kong government’s representative was to have been – the picture that splashed across the newspaper front pages was transmitted by the Conservancy Association, non-governmental participants at the 1992 Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro.

With 176 countries participating, the Earth Summit from 30 May to 14 June 1992 was the biggest international event on the environment since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972. In Rio de Janeiro as in Stockholm, CA was the only Hong Kong presence. The 8-member delegation were led by CA Chairman Fung Shiu Wing, with Stephen Chan as Deputy Leader. Other team members included Hung Wing Tat, Ng Cho Nam, Peggy Poon, James Buchanan, Gordon Ng and Lister Cheung.

The preparation began way before the event itself. A year before, CA’s Gordon Ng participated in the National Development and Sustainable Development Conference in South Africa, a preparatory conference for the Earth Summit. On 15 April 1992, CA initiated the Tree of Life programme, inviting citizens to write down on a leaf one environmental commitment and one wish for government action. The following week, on Earth Day 22 April, CA launched a five-week signature campaign in support of the Hong Kong Environment Charter developed by the Association. By the time of the Earth Summit, more than 3,000 Tree-for-Life leaves and 23,472 signatures for the Hong Kong Environment charter were collected and taken to Brazil.

For the Earth Summit itself, CA published the Hong Kong Environment Profile to be shared at the Global Forum of the Summit. The group also presented a paper entitled “Environment and Social Development – the Case of Hong Kong”. Being NGOs, CA delegates were not eligible to attend official meetings of the Summit, but they took part actively in meetings and NGO rallies throughout the conference. The CA delegation also organized meetings with the Chinese and British government delegations.

The Earth Summit delivered a few historic documents, including

  • the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, with its 27 Principles on various aspects of sustainable development;
  • Agenda 21, a comprehensive plan of action for the global effort on sustainable development;
  • the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC); and
  • the Biodiversity Convention.

Upon their return to Hong Kong, the eight representatives of CA convened a press conference on 27 June reporting on the Summit and declaring that the main challenge for Hong Kong was no longer pollution control but sustainable development. CA’s recommendations to the government were subsequently published in a booklet titled “The Earth Summit: Implications for Hong Kong”, which sought to urge the government to:

  1. ratify the Convention on Biodiversity;
  2. ratify the Convention on Clmate Change as a developed territory;
  3. follow up the Agenda 21;
  4. adopt the Rio Declaration and the Forest Principles; and
  5. develop and implement a sustainable development policy that embraces the Conventions on Biodiversity and Climate Change, the Agenda 21, the Rio Declaration and the Forest Principles and the Hong Kong Environment Charter for a Sustainable Future.

The message was reinforced in an open forum on 3 July on sustainable development, and a lobbying mission on 7 August with members of the Legislative Council. On 2 December, during a LegCo motion debate sponsored by Peter Wong Hong Yuen, CA demonstrated outside LegCo to urge the Hong Kong government to adopt the Earth Summit agreements. The following year, CA continued to push the Earth Summit agenda by publishing its own Agenda 21 for Hong Kong.

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May 22, 2015 - Posted by | Dr WK Chan book

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