Having experienced the repeated failures of world climate conferences, we should now draw a line under all previous attempts at global climate protection and dare to make a radical new start. At world climate conferences two complex approaches – minimum obligations, and CO2 offsetting and trade – have dominated global energy discussions. However, focusing solely on the problem of CO2 is too one-sided and, above all, fails to properly take into account the key question of energy supply. This restriction, as well as the shifting of decisions on energy supply (vital to every national economy) to the global negotiating level, has simultaneously led us to lose sight of the important stimuli which arose from the promising 1992 Earth Summit (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, with its Agenda 21. Agenda 21 listed all the problems with which, sooner or later, almost

everyone will be faced, highlighting the need to act according to new principles. These are either directly, or indirectly, connected with energy supply: from climate change through to destruction of the ozone layer, from encroaching deserts through to soil erosion, from forest decay through to water pollution, from the dangers to health which result from this environmental degradation through to the loss of species diversity, from biotechnological risks through to the burden of waste, from poisonous chemicals through to the destruction of marine life. It also lists the consequences for human living conditions, which are also inevitably linked to forms of energy supply: growing poverty, the loss of food security, environmental quality and living standards. The Rio conference was the first and most spectacular Earth Summit, both for governments and for the NGOs at their Global Forum. It also passed a framework convention on climate protection and formulated fundamental principles for new political and economic action. However, attempts to derive tangible and contractually-binding obligations

and start joint action programmes have been unsuccessful. But what was carved in stone at this Earth Summit was Principle 1 of the Rio Declaration: “Human beings are at the centre of concern for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.” This sustainable development must “be realized so that the developmental and

environmental needs of current and future generations are met in a just manner”. Sustainability became the guiding principle behind ethical responsibility, motivating many people, unprepared to wait for new laws or international agreements, to undertake their own initiatives. “Think global, act local” became their battle cry. The many sources of local activity should develop into a widespread movement which finally involves everyone.66