Early efforts to address specific issues arising from biotechnology and
gene transfer, such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, had set the
stage for a regulatory regime for biotechnology development and use, to
ensure that 'the planet's biological diversity (including human systems)
will be able to coexist with this powerful technology' (UNEP 2000). Such
efforts lead to the founding of a new international regulatory body in
the early 2010s, patterned on the International Atomic Energy Agency but
with greater authority.
Despite these challenges the signs of positive change strengthen the
resolve to ensure that the agreed targets will be met. The initial responses
of the institutions increase their legitimacy and stature. Events such
as the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and World Bank and the 50th
anniversary of UNEP present occasions to celebrate the progress that is
being made, but also to acknowledge the challenges that remain and to
reassert the need for continuing action.
The demands of continued population and economic growth still outweigh
many incremental advances in sustainable production. Regional conflicts,
often over contested resources, persist in several parts of the world,
directly causing social and environmental damage, as well as diverting
scarce resources from other priorities. And tropical storms, droughts,
floods, wildfires, earthquakes, chemical spills and other industrial accidents
remind society that natural and technological systems do not always behave
according to plan.
It takes time for many to accept the idea of global public policy for
the pursuit of sustainable development. Furthermore, the path pursued
has meant adopting a highly technocratic approach and has not engendered
a widespread shift in basic attitudes and behaviour. This makes certain
policy actions either unfeasible or less effective than had been assumed.