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Chapter 1 Origins and evolution of sustainable development and finance

From the book De Gruyter Handbook of Sustainable Development and Finance

  • Timothy Cadman and Tapan Sarker


This introductory chapter provides a broad-brush presentation of the intergovernmental regime for sustainable development that has arisen since the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), also known as the Rio Earth Summit, and beyond. The chapter begins with an outline of the origins of sustainable development as an intergovernmental and international policy agenda and delineates some of the main outcomes arising from UNCED. These include the various conventions guiding global environmental policy today, as well as the Global Environment Facility, one of the most significant channels of finance for sustainable development. Also explored are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 2000-2015 and their successors, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is followed by a discussion of the role of the private sector in financing sustainable development and the challenges inherent in unlocking private finance. The chapter continues with an exploration of the future for sustainable development and finance in the light of the alternative approaches to understanding and valuing capital and in the context of COVID-19. A final section summarises the contributions of the various authors in this section, who explore a range of issues confronting the current practice of, and potential for, sustainable development and finance.

© 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston
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