By Neil Lock
April 10th, 2023
In this, the third essay in a set of five, it’s time to begin to tell the back-story of the green agenda, at least insofar as it affects the “climate change” issue. Today, I shall tell the tale as far as the Rio “Earth Summit” of 1992.
I am well aware that “global warming” or “climate change” is only one aspect of the green agenda. “Clean air” (originally dubbed “acid rain” and later “air quality”), and “biodiversity” (or “species extinctions”), are two others that are still live. Since, prior to 1992, there was far less difference between the different strands of the agenda than there is now, I have included in this essay some material relevant to those parallel strands.
The main drivers of the green agenda
The green agenda affects every single individual on the planet, most of us negatively. But it’s easy to identify two institutions, that have done more to drive the agenda along than any others. They are the United Nations and the UK government.
The UN’s role
The UN is an unelected, politicized and unaccountable élite, with a strong globalist and controlling tendency. It has dozens (at least) of agencies, through which it keeps a finger in every pie in matters that affect people all over the world.
Maurice Strong, first director of the UN Environment Programme and a central figure in crafting, gaining support for, and disseminating the climate accusations, all but admitted intent to destroy our industrial civilization in an interview published in 1997 in National Review magazine. He said: “Frankly, we may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse.”
Starting in oil, Strong had a scandal-ridden business career alongside his many projects at the UN. Later, he was implicated in the Oil-for-Food scandal of 2005, went to live in China, and died in 2015. An incomplete (and somewhat admiring) biography of Strong is here: [].
The UK government’s role
The UK government has also been a major driver of the agenda. The UK is, supposedly, a democracy. But as you will see, the UK political classes have no concern at all for the interests of the ordinary people they are supposed to serve.
In this, a key figure has been John Selwyn Gummer (now Lord Deben). Gummer was Tory environment secretary from 1993 to 1995, and chair of the CCC (Climate Change Committee or Committee on Climate Change, take your pick) until last year.
Margaret Thatcher, though she later walked back on some of her views, was the individual responsible in 1990 for making the “climate change” issue into a political football: []. Since then, successive UK prime ministers have actively driven the agenda along: John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson.
Current incumbent Rishi Sunak is regarded by supporters of the agenda as ambivalent on the issue. But I, for one, have not noticed in him any inclination to move against, or even to soften, the agenda and its bad effects on ordinary people. Indeed, he announced just recently that car makers will be fined if they fail to ensure that 22 per cent of all vehicles they sell in Britain are all-electric by 2024: []. That’s next year!
The 1970s: the drums start beating
If I had to put a date on the start of the green agenda, it would be around 1968. In 1968, UNESCO held in Paris a Biosphere Conference, which led to a “Man and the Biosphere” program. And in 1969 the UN made the decision to hold what in 1972 became the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment.
The first Earth Day
You can trace the green agenda all the way back to the first Earth Day in 1970: []. The then UN secretary-general, U Thant, approved the date. He also personally proclaimed the second Earth Day the following year: [].
Scares of the 1970s
In the 1970s, alarmist pundits competed to paint the scariest scenarios they could about where our civilization was headed. By 1980, they said, air pollution would be so bad that city dwellers would need to wear gas masks; and life expectancy in the USA would be down to 42 years. By 1995, three-quarters or more of all species of living animals would be extinct. And by 2000, not only would there be famines throughout most of the world. Not only would we have run out of oil and of many metals. But there would also have been global cooling of up to 6 degrees Celsius. (Yes, that’s not a misprint!).
See here for some scare balloons that were being flown at the time: []. How many of those scares actually panned out?
The 1972 Stockholm conference
The UN continued to stoke the green fires. In 1972, they convened a Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. This was a follow-up to UNESCO’s 1968 Biosphere Conference in Paris, which led to the “Man and the Biosphere” program.
Olof Palme, the controversial Swedish socialist prime minister, was host. Maurice Strong, none other, was secretary-general of the conference. The UK and USA were among 113 nations attending. This produced a conference report, including a Declaration and an Action Plan: []. It also led to the creation of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), with Strong as its first director: [].
The Declaration seeks “to inspire and guide the peoples of the world in the preservation and enhancement of the human environment.” And it claims to be “for the benefit of all the people and for their posterity.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?
But there are some nasty things in there, too. For example, Principle 6 required that “the release of heat, in such quantities or concentrations as to exceed the capacity of the environment to render them harmless, must be halted.” Odd words, those, in the light of the global warming accusations that came later. And particularly since, at the time, global cooling was seen as the likely problem, not warming. Moreover, Principle 16 provided apparent justification for the Chinese communists’ inhumane and failed one child policy.
Recommendation 70 in the conference report is also interesting in the climate context. Here is its text: “It is recommended that Governments be mindful of activities in which there is an appreciable risk of effects on climate, and to this end: (a) Carefully evaluate the likelihood and magnitude of climatic effects and disseminate their findings to the maximum extent feasible before embarking on such activities; (b) Consult fully other interested States when activities carrying a risk of such effects are being contemplated or implemented.”
Recommendation 79 also gave the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a UN agency, a role of guiding and co-ordinating individual countries’ efforts to “monitor long term global trends in atmospheric constituents and properties which may cause changes in meteorological properties, including climatic changes.” It also empowered the WMO, at need, to “establish new programmes to understand better the general circulation of the atmosphere and the causes of climatic changes whether these causes are natural or the result of man’s activities.”
The Tory manifesto of 1979
Now to a little bit of UK political history. Socialist Old Labour had been mis-managing the UK economy since 1974. (And the Tories before them hadn’t been much better). By 1978, the combination of this mis-management and the earlier oil price shock had led to significant inflation. Government efforts to reduce inflation led to many of the trade unions, usually Labour’s staunchest supporters, taking their members out on strike. The effects were made worse by an unusually cold winter.
The resulting chaos – known as the Winter of Discontent – provided the opposition Tories with a perfect opportunity to lever themselves back into power. I myself had voted with my feet, and moved to the Netherlands in 1977. So, I only experienced the Winter of Discontent for two weeks, over Christmas and New Year. Other than that, I was all but oblivious to the politics that was going on in the UK.
With hindsight, it is most interesting – and galling – to read the Tory party manifesto for the 1979 general election: []. There are two references to “environment.” One says: “All energy developments raise important environmental issues, and we shall ensure the fullest public participation in major new decisions.” The other, a brief section entitled “Protecting our Environment,” talks about past achievements in reducing pollution. And “subject to the availability of resources,” they would improve waste disposal, river pollution, and home insulation. There was nothing there about signing up everyone in the UK to, for example, the UN’s World Charter for Nature, which followed in 1982.
The voters bought it. Not, I suspect, because of anything in the Tory manifesto, least of all the environmental commitments. The main reason enough people voted Tory to put them into power, was that very many people had come to hate Labour because of what they had done to the economy. That brought the start of 18 years of Tory government.
The 1980s: Leviathan grows
Meanwhile, the UN were, more or less quietly, expanding the scope of their ambitions in the environmental field.
The World Charter for Nature
You can read the UN’s 1982 resolution called the World Charter for Nature; you can download this from []. Oddly, the Charter doesn’t even mention climate. But it does contain some extreme statements, like Article 11: “Activities which might have an impact on nature shall be controlled.” Article 11(b): “Their proponents [of activities which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature] shall demonstrate that expected benefits outweigh potential damage to nature.” And, in the same Article: “Where potential adverse effects are not fully understood, the activities should not proceed.” Red meat for those with tyrannical leanings!
You can also see some fingerprints, which presage many of the troubles we are suffering today, above and beyond the “climate change” issue. Article 3: “Special protection shall be given to … the habitats of rare or endangered species.” Article 9: “The allocation of areas of the earth to various uses shall be planned.” Article 10(c): “Resources, including water, which are not consumed as they are used shall be reused or recycled.” Article 15: “Knowledge of nature shall be broadly disseminated by all possible means, particularly by ecological education as an integral part of general education.”
But the kicker is at the very end, Article 24. “Each person has a duty to act in accordance with the provisions of the present Charter; acting individually, in association with others or through participation in the political process, each person shall strive to ensure that the objectives and requirements of the present Charter are met.” What possible right could any bunch of politicians ever have had to make such a huge, open-ended commitment on behalf of every single individual in a democracy, without at the very least a full and open debate, an objective and accurate cost-benefit analysis, and a referendum on the issue?
The resolution was passed by 111 votes to 1, with 18 abstentions. Only the USA voted against. The UK voted for the resolution! Among all world leaders, only Ronald Reagan seems to have been wise to what was going on. In my view, every “democratic” government that signed up to that resolution, including Thatcher’s, committed treason against the people they were supposed to serve. They all breached the cardinal tenet of Enlightened government: that government must always act for the benefit of, and with the consent of, the governed. And for the benefit of every single individual among the governed, real criminals excepted.
I call foul on Thatcher, the Tory party, and anyone else that was involved in the deceptions that led to the UK voting for the World Charter for Nature. It looks as if Thatcher, along with virtually all other Western leaders, failed, whether knowingly or not, to discern and to oppose the tyrannical and anti-human agenda being pushed by Maurice Strong and his ilk.
Our Common Future
You can read the 1987 UN report Our Common Future, which set the scene for the agenda that has brought us all to this pass. The report is here: []. On its 30th anniversary, I wrote a review of that report: [].
To give a brief summary: Our Common Future was the nexus where two strands of UN activity, one environmentalist and the other internationalist or globalist, joined together. The early history of the environmentalist strand, I have covered above. The globalist strand came out of Willy Brandt’s commission which in 1980 produced A Programme for Survival, followed in 1983 by Common Crisis North-South: Co-operation for World Recovery.
The chair of the 23-strong commission that wrote Our Common Future over four years was former Norwegian prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland. She later served two more terms as prime minister. She was also a vice-president of the Socialist International, and has had several posts with the UN, including director-general of the World Health Organization and “special envoy on climate change.”
What connected the commissioners to each other? A strong, deep seated environmentalist conviction was common to many of them. A long connection with the UN was also shared by several. Socialism was a third connecting thread. No less than four of the commissioners came from communist countries. Two more, including the chairman, were social democrat politicians. And Brundtland herself noted, in the Foreword to the report: “As we worked, nationalism and the artificial divides between ‘industrialized’ and ‘developing,’ between East and West, receded. In their place emerged a common concern for the planet and the interlocked ecological and economic threats with which its people, institutions, and governments now grapple.” Reading that, let no-one try to claim this was not a “conspiracy!”
The report raised concerns about 14 issues, including desertification, forest clearing, loss of biodiversity, acid rain from pollution, catastrophic global warming caused by CO2 emissions, ozone layer depletion, loss of coral reefs, and population growth. It also introduced a novel and central concept of “sustainable development,” that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
When, in 2017, I reviewed how far we had come in addressing these concerns, I found that desertification no longer appears to be a problem. De-forestation has been greatly reduced. Allegations of species or bio-diversity loss cannot be substantiated without far more hard evidence. The problem labelled “acid rain” has been fixed, by hugely cutting emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides; though the doomsayers have sought to keep up their alarums, by re-badging the problem, first as “air quality,” then most recently as “clean air.” Allegations of causing catastrophic global warming, as I confirmed in detail in the first essay of this set, are no longer scientifically credible; they have become an entirely political matter. Ozone depletion, whatever its cause, seems to be all but solved. Claims that coral reefs would be all but gone by the early 2000s have been shown to be false. And population growth is not a problem in the developed world; indeed, birth rates in almost all Western countries are below replacement levels. Haven’t we done well?
And yet, the activists and alarmists continue to scream their accusations and imprecations at the tops of their voices. And recent events in Sri Lanka and the Netherlands have shown that catastrophic consequences come, not from environmental damage caused by human civilization, but from policies implemented in the name of “sustainable development.”
The IPCC and its First Assessment Report
You can read about the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), founded in 1988. In its own words, it “prepares comprehensive Assessment Reports about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place.” [].
That last clause seems to me a bit odd, because it assumes that “climate change” is something that can be reduced. But then, the IPCC is a UN organization, and the UN is biased towards green policies. I think of the IPCC as the fox the UN put in charge of the hen-house.
The IPCC produced its First Assessment Report in 1990. At that time, scientists could not detect any signal of human CO2 emissions causing any temperature rise over and above “natural” variation. The report projected a “best estimate” rise of 0.3 degrees C per decade in global temperatures, leading to 2025 temperatures that would be about 1 degree C higher than 1990’s. The actual temperature rise to 2022 has been less than half this.
The Rio “Earth Summit” of 1992
You can read about the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, which then UK prime minister John Major attended. Indeed, Major was the first Western leader to announce that he would be there. It was, of course, a UN meeting. And at it, Major and his aides signed up, without having consulted the people they were supposed to be serving, to the extreme green agenda.
Perhaps the Tories may have thought that their general election win of April 1992 had given them a mandate for such actions. Their 1992 manifesto [] makes, with hindsight, interesting reading. They said: “Other parties promise the earth. We have taken action – both nationally and internationally – to preserve it.” And then: “Environmental protection can impose financial costs on producers, consumers and taxpayers, so we must make sure the threat of damage is a real one. But we also accept the precautionary principle – the need to act, where there is significant risk of damage, before the scientific evidence is conclusive.” Now, the first sentence, about costs, is spot on. But the second is nonsense. It contradicts the words “make sure” in the first. And it misconstrues the precautionary principle. As I’ll discuss later, this misconstruction was the thin end of a very large wedge indeed.
A number of different agreements were made. I’ll say a few words about four of them.
Framework Convention on Climate Change
You can read the Framework Convention on Climate Change [], in which Western countries agreed to restrict their greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2000. Even at the time, this was already a binding agreement. The Convention sought to achieve “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
Moreover, it re-defined “climate change” as: “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.” So, now we know. “Climate change,” because of the way the UN defines it, has to be our fault! So much for the presumption of innocence.
Article 3(4) also required “policies and measures to protect the climate system against human-induced change.” And developed countries, including the UK, committed to “the return by the end of the present decade [1990s] to earlier levels of anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol.”
Two big changes seem to have happened between Stockholm and Rio. First, the focus on the human environment, the environment for human beings, had been entirely lost. Something called the climate system, and a project to “solve” some claimed problem by reducing human-caused emissions of certain gases, had been elevated so that they now took precedence over the rights, freedoms, prosperity and aspirations of human beings. Something called “the environment” was now to be seen as more important than the environment we human beings need in order to flourish and prosper. And second, representatives from Western countries that were supposedly democracies had signed up to an internationalist project that, inevitably, would cause great pain to the people they were supposed to be serving.
This Convention also set up the UN’s Conference of the Parties (CoP) meetings, which have led to many subsequent commitments by governments.
Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
You can read the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development [], which brought to prominence the all-embracing goal called sustainable development.
The preamble to this document talks of “establishing a new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of co-operation among States, key sectors of societies, and people.” Sounds like a globalist wet dream to me.
And there’s lots more pap to come! Principle 3 says: “The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.” And Principle 8: “States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.” A recipe for global tyranny, methinks. Meanwhile, Principles 20 to 22 highlight the important roles they envisaged for women, youth and indigenous people. Sexist, ageist and racist, eh?
Moreover, with this Declaration, the precautionary wedge became bigger. Principle 15 states: “In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” Now, I find that idea rather bizarre. For, if you don’t have a high degree of scientific certainty about the size and likelihood of a problem, how can you possibly assess whether or not a proposed counter-measure is cost-effective? Yet, with an abandon typical of dishonest, irresponsible, unaccountable politicians, they signed up to it anyway.
You can read Agenda 21: []. But I don’t recommend it. This was a first blueprint for the kind of world the élites want to, and are now trying harder and harder to, enforce on us. They envisaged a deeply green and feminist world, with recycling all but a religion, most of us crammed into cities and using “high-occupancy public transport,” and a “culture of safety.”
Agenda 21 subsequently morphed in 2000 into the Millennium Development Goals, then in 2015 into the Sustainable Development Goals (also sometimes called Agenda 2030). I have written about those goals here: []. These goals, and the Agenda 21 blueprint that underlies them, seem to be a major driver of the bad policies we are having to fight against today, such as the London ULEZ, traffic restrictions and “15-minute cities.”
The Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity is here: []. This is rather more detailed than the other agreements. The Preamble reports a concern that “biological diversity is being significantly reduced by certain human activities,” without actually saying what those activities were. In fact, Article 8 exhorts contracting parties to seek out activities which might reduce biological diversity, and to regulate or manage them.
That sounds like a wet dream for bureaucratic meddlers. Which has, indeed, eventuated. In the name of preserving the habitats of different animal species, they have trashed our habitat. They have trashed the habitat of peace, human rights, objective justice, and maximum freedom for all, which we human beings need in order to flourish.
I noticed that the “lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures” malarkey is in the Preamble of this document too. As is politically correct obeisance to indigenous peoples and to women.
I did, though, notice one very interesting statement: “conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity is of critical importance for meeting the food, health and other needs of the growing world population.” Yeah, right. They just did exactly the opposite of that to the Sri Lankan farmers, didn’t they? As to the Dutch farmers, their ongoing dispute with the EU and their own government seems to have reached an impasse: [], []. An impasse which, absent a government back-down, I can’t see being broken short of violence.
To sum up
Everything that took place regarding the green agenda prior to 1992, was part of the build up to the Rio Earth Summit. I find it impossible to believe that all this wasn’t carefully planned, not only by Maurice Strong and other UN functionaries, but by a significant number of politicians and government officials in many countries around the world.
In the late 1960s, the green leviathan was born. It was nurtured in the 1970s and 1980s, most notably by means of the World Charter for Nature and Our Common Future. At Rio in 1992, it broke out of its pupa, and became the monster we face today; although at that stage of its development, it was a lot smaller than it is now.
And our “representatives” lapped it up! At Rio, they signed up to a whole raft of commitments, that they must surely have known were utterly opposed to the interests of those they were supposed to represent. They set something they called “the environment” up on a pedestal, like a god. They made out that this “environment” was more important than the human environment. In the name of “preserving habitats,” they set out to trash our habitat, the habitat we human beings need in order to prosper and flourish. So, we ordinary people were set, against our wills and without any chance to object, on a course that would inevitably lead to us losing our freedoms and prosperity. And they seem to have done it gladly!
As I like to put it, they sold us all down the Rio.
[] You can download this from https://www.un.org/en/conferences/environment/stockholm1972/