Last week The Post described how Birmingham City Councillors are burying their heads in the sand over the threat of climate change and the need for a sustainable approach to city projects. Among the most vocal detractors was Coun Len Clark. Here, our Environmental Reporter Joanna Geary explains some of the issues for the benefit of Coun Clark
Among the most vocal critics of Councillor Bedser's report at last week's city council scrutiny committee was senior Conservative councillor Len Clark.
He labelled sustainability as being in danger of becoming "the new religion" and a "vague theory" that had risen in just five years to be a requirement in every report.
The concept of sustainability, however, has been around for much longer than five years and the term has been in existence for nearly two decades.
Sustainability was coined in a 1987 in a report by the World Commission on Environment and Development.
The document – known as the Brundtland Report – said sustainability was "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".
This focuses on two main concerns. The first – often the better understood – is that some human activities can cause long term damage to our environment, our wildlife and the lives and health of other people.
The second is that many of the resources used to build our modern world – such as oil, gas and coal – will one day run out.
Sustainability is about trying to prevent both from happening – protecting our planet and the organisms that live on it and being efficient with our resources so that, before they run out, we have enough time to develop renewable alternatives.
Other places where sustainability has been taken seriously:
- The 1992 United Nations 'Earth Summit' in Rio de Janeiro. Sustainability was the key theme of this summit and was recognised as internationally important by over 100 heads of state.
- The formation of the UK's Sustainable Development Commission in 2000. This independent body advises on sustainability and acts as a Government watchdog.
- The 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. The title says it all – this summit tried to find ways to make human development more sustainable.
- and, in the words of Conservative Party leader David Cameron: "Just as Britain led the world in industrialisation, I hope that we will in the future lead the world in sustainability."