Ministère de l'Environnement
et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques

On the agenda of major world summits for over a decade

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The concept of sustainable development was popularized with the 1987 release of Our Common Future (also called the Brundtland Report) by the World Commission on Environment and Development. The report defined sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Two concepts are inherent to this notion:

  • The concept of “needs” and particularly the essential needs of the most vulnerable, to whom it is agreed the greatest priority must be given, and

  • The idea of limits imposed by the present state of our technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet current and future needs. Thus, the objectives of economic and social development are defined according to duration, which is the case for all countries—developing or developed, with a market economy or a planned economy. Interpretations may vary from one country to another, but they must include certain common elements and agree on the fundamental notion of sustainable development and a strategic framework to achieve sustainability.

Development implies a progressive transformation of the economy and society. This transformation, in the most concrete sense of the term, may theoretically occur even in a rigid sociopolitical framework. This said, it cannot occur if development policies do not take such factors as access to resources and distribution of costs and benefits into account. Even in the strictest sense of the term, sustainable development presupposes a concern for social equity between generations, a concern that must extend, logically, throughout one generation.”

Our Common Future, 1987

Later, in 1992, in Rio de Janeiro, parties to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development endorsed this concept, sending a clear message to all levels of governments on the urgency of reconciling economic and social development, and environmental protection. Sustainable development is essential to ensuring the well-being of human communities and the preservation of life-sustaining ecoystems.

In 2002, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, leaders in attendance renewed their commitment to the objectives set in Rio de Janeiro by pledging to take action on their positions, notably by implementing national sustainable development strategies. The Québec has taken this road.

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