Keywords: environment, development, firms, global governance, institutional change, science and technology, sustainability science, sustainable development, universities
The global sustainability challenge: from agreement to action
The United Nations General Assembly will hold the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in 2002. The aim of the summit is to review progress in the implementation of sustainable development goals adopted in 1992 at the historic United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro and map out a strategy for renewed commitment to sustainable development. While there is general agreement that progress towards sustainability has been slow, there is no agreement on why so little has been achieved. The most common explanation is that the political will needed to translate the commitments into action has been lacking. Developing countries, on the other hand, assert that their ability to implement the goals of sustainability has been hampered by the low level of international assistance in general and by the failure of the industrialised countries to honour their promises at the UNCED. This argues that the sustainability transition is a knowledge-intensive process involving considerable investment in science and technology. In addition, it entails significant adjustments in global, regional and national institutions to reflect the imperatives of sustainability. The paper outlines the kinds of institutional adjustments that are needed to promote the transition towards sustainability.