The 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, agreed a document called Agenda 21. This recognised that many of the actions required to achieve sustainable development need to take place at the local level. As such, a specific responsibility was given to local governments around the world to work with their communities to prepare local action plans for sustainable development to achieve the objectives of Local Agenda 21.
In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development was held in Johannesburg. This focussed on the most urgent issues that need addressing – biodiversity, energy and climate, desertification, forests, globalisation, water and governance. The summit called for local authorities across the world to move from Local Agenda 21 to Local Action 21.
Devon County Council initiated the Devon Local Agenda 21 Network in 1995. Devon 21, an independent charity came out of this network to promote and support sustainable development across the county. Devon 21 has now been merged into the Devon Conservation Forum as a working group within its organisation.
Devon County Council produced a local action plan for sustainable development titled ‘A Better Devon a Better World’. This pulled together examples of projects within the county that implemented the principles of sustainable development and demonstrated that a more sustainable future is achievable. Since then, the sustainable development agenda has shifted and government legislation has given sustainable development and Local Agenda 21 a higher priority and profile.