Agenda 21 is a U.N. action plan affirming that the entire planet has an interest in environmental affairs and sustainable development, signed by representatives of 178 different countries in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It is a nonbinding, strictly voluntary list of policy suggestions concerning issues such as climate change and global poverty without any force of law. Despite this, it has been the subject of intense criticism in the United States.
Agenda 21 was written in an intentionally uncontroversial manner in order to earn approval from countries as diverse as the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ghana and Laos. The plan was hailed as an achievement initially, as it marked the first time multiple international leaders agreed that sustainable development was a worthy international goal. Agenda 21's policy recommendations include favoring mass transit to reduce harmful carbon emissions and reducing urban sprawl. President George H.W. Bush signed Agenda 21 on behalf of the United States, and President Bill Clinton began implementing some of its recommendations by establishing the President's Council on Sustainable Development via executive order in 1993.
Opponents of the plan generally regard it as a U.N. conspiracy to sacrifice American sovereignty and way of life, believing sustainable development to be synonymous with socialist ideals of redistribution of wealth. Media personality Glenn Beck is one of the most vocal critics, going as far as writing a dystopian science fiction novel titled "Agenda 21" in which the U.N. establishes a socialist society in which Americans are made to jog on treadmills to generate electricity for a planned community. Politicians opposing the plan include Republicans Senator Ted Cruz, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senator Sally Kern, Senator Judy Burges and former Senator Chip Rogers, as of 2015. A Democratic group, Democrats Against U.N. Agenda 21, is also vocal in its opposition.