The root causes of global environmental degradation are embedded in social and economic problems such as pervasive poverty, unsustainable production and consumption patterns, inequity in distribution of wealth, and the debt burden.
The continued poverty of the majority of the planet's inhabitants and excessive consumption by the minority are the two major causes of environmental degradation. The present course is unsustainable and postponing action is no longer an option. Inspired political leadership and intense cooperation across all regions and sectors will be needed to put both existing and new policy instruments to work.
Further research is needed on the socio-economic causes of environmental deterioration and the interlinkages within and among environmental and sustainability issues in order to define the priority issues and suggest ways of addressing them. Multisectoral approaches are needed at national level, with planning carefully tailored to local or regional circumstances as appropriate. Stakeholders need to be involved from the start when formulating and introducing integrated policies.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.
The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES), representing business investors, financial institutions and corporations promotes 10 principles of environmental management to its corporate members. The seventh principle states: "We will promptly and responsibly correct conditions we have caused that endanger health, safety or the environment. To the extent feasible, we will redress injuries we have caused to persons or damage we have caused to the environment and will restore the environment.
There exists a notion that environmental degradation is reversible; it can be restored, and rehabilitated. This notion should never be used as a justification for the causing of environmental degradation.