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Unpicking yesterday's treaties

Basel, Montreal, Rio, Kyoto, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Cartagena - these and other cities saw their names conferred on the global treaties which amounted to a great success for environmental diplomacy from the late 1980s onwards. They addressed chemicals, waste, climate change, the ozone layer, biosafety and other issues, and were vital to the prospects of safeguarding the planet's life support systems, the conservation of its ecosystems and the health of human beings from the pressures of growing populations and economic development. They seemed, for a while, like secure achievements which provided stepping-stones to a brighter - or at least less bleak - future.

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