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Maurice Strong: a study in leadership - Corporate Sector

Scientific community: The direct participation of the scientific community in the intergovernmental process, inter alia, through the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), resulted in the first-ever comprehensive study of man’s impact on the climate. The study, sponsored by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was conducted in June-July 1971 in Stockholm.14/ It became one of the underpinnings for Recommendation 79 – establishment of monitoring networks – in the Stockholm Action Plan.

Corporate sector: Inclusion of the corporate sector in the preparatory work through seminars and conferences involved the International Chamber of Commerce and leading corporate representatives from several countries. Although this presence was not felt at the time, it was an important precursor to later developments.

With this involvement of non-State stakeholders, the first steps were taken towards broader participation in agenda setting in the environmental area. During the preparations for the Stockholm Conference, this was particularly noticeable in the increasing influence of the scientific sector in policy-making and in the growing interaction between the NGO community and governments. The latter had the effect of energizing delegations, particularly from industrialized countries, to produce results that would have resonance in their own domestic public opinion.

In some cases, the process had to (i) steer clear of non-productive political controversy or (ii) go forward with a lowered level of ambition in the overriding interest of achieving the best possible overall result.

For example, in the first category, the population question figured prominently in the early preparatory discussions but did not appear on the agenda as a specific subject. Åström already had taken the view that this issue was too big and contentious for separate treatment,15/ and Strong took the same position, given the fact that the UN had already scheduled a world population conference for 1974.16/ However, with projections that world population would double by the year 2000 and increase pressure on the ecosystems, the issue was – and remains – a burning one. Differing religious beliefs, political and social attitudes and perspectives continue to make it difficult to deal constructively with the matter at the global level. The issue was raised by governments in both the working group on the Declaration and during consideration of the Action Plan at the Conference, but with no conclusive results.

A crucial decision on the orientation of the draft action plan at the end of the summer of 1971 exemplified the impact of the second category. Four options had been defined for the theme of the action plan:

planning and management
knowledge (research, monitoring, education, training)
application (legislation, regulation, criteria, standards, etc.)

14. Inadvertent Climate Modification, Report of the Study of Man’s Impact on Climate (SMIC), sponsored by MIT, hosted by The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, The MIT Press, 1971).

15. Memo Bäckstrand 1969-04-30.

16. Herter and Judy, p. 37.