Earth system governance

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Earth system governance is a recently developed paradigm that builds on earlier notions of environmental policy and nature conservation, but puts these into the broader context of human-induced transformations of the entire earth system.


The integrative new paradigm of earth system governance has evolved into an active research area that brings together a variety of social science disciplines including political science, sociology, economics, ecology, policy studies, geography, sustainability science, and law.

Conceptual framework

The Earth System Governance Project organizes its research according to a conceptual framework guided by five sets of research lenses according to their 2018 Science and Implementation Plan: [1]

These centre around four contextual conditions:


Major international conferences on ‘Earth System Governance’ have been held in Amsterdam (2007, 2009), Berlin (2008, 2010), Colorado (2011), Lund (2012, 2017), Tokyo (2013), Norwich (2014), Canberra (2015) and Nairobi (2016). In 2017, the 8th Annual Earth System Governance Conference took place in Lund, Sweden. This conference was co-hosted by Lund University during its 350 year celebration. [2] In 2018 it was held in Utrecht, The Netherlands [3] . In 2019, the conference took place in Mexico. In 2020, it is due to be held in Brastislava.

Policy engagement

On 16–19 May 2011, more than twenty Nobel Laureates, several leading policy-makers and some of the world’s most renowned thinkers and experts on global sustainability met for the Third Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability [4] at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. The Nobel Laureate Symposium concluded with the Stockholm Memorandum, [5] calling for "strengthening of Earth System Governance" as a priority for coherent global action. [6] This memorandum has been submitted to the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability appointed by the UN Secretary General and fed into the preparations for the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

In 2014, the Project’s chair Frank Biermann was invited to speak in the United Nations General Assembly. [7]


The new paradigm of earth system governance was originally developed in the Netherlands by Professor Frank Biermann in his inaugural lecture at the VU University Amsterdam, which was published later in 2007. [8] Based on this pioneering contribution, Biermann was invited by the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change to develop a long-term comprehensive international programme in this field, which became in 2009 the global Earth System Governance Project.

Key researchers who have applied the earth system governance framework in their work include Michele Betsill, John Dryzek, Peter M. Haas, Norichika Kanie, Lennart Olsson, and Oran Young.

In 2012, 33 leading scholars from the Project wrote a blueprint for reform of strengthening earth system governance, which was published in Science. [9]

Today, the term ‘earth system governance’ is mentioned on 84000 sites according to Google.

The Earth System Governance Project

In 2009, the UN-sponsored global change research networks have set up a long-term research programme in earth system governance, the Earth System Governance Project. The Earth System Governance Project currently consists of a network of around 370 active and about 2,300 indirectly involved scholars from all continents. [10] Since 2015 it is part of the overarching international research platform Future Earth. The International Project Office is hosted at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. [11]

Research centres on ‘Earth System Governance’ have been set up or designated at the University of Ghana; the University of Brasília; Utrecht University; the German Development Institute; the CETIP Network; VU University Amsterdam; the University of Amsterdam; the Australian National University; Chiang Mai University; Colorado State University; Lund University; the University of East Anglia; the University of Oldenburg; the Stockholm Resilience Centre; the University of Toronto; the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Yale University. In addition, strong networks on earth system governance research exist in China, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Russia.


There are four major publication series of the Earth System Governance Project.

The Journal Earth System Governance was launched in 2019. [12]

The book series on earth system governance by the MIT Press is about the research objections of earth system governance. Interdisciplinary in scope, broad in governance levels and the use of methods, the books are aimed at investigating earth governance systems and finding conceivable amendments. They are hence addressing the scientific community and professionals in politics. [15] [16]

The Earth System Governance Project is also collaborating with Cambridge University Press to summarize the research conclusions of 10 years Earth System Governance Project. [31]

The Cambridge Elements series on Earth System Governance focuses on current governance research relevant for practitioners and scientists. The series is aimed at providing ideas for policy improvements and analysis’s of socio-ecological systems by interdisciplinary and influential scholars. [37]

See also

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  1. Earth System Governance Project. 2018. Earth System Governance. Science and Implementation Plan of the Earth System Governance Project. Utrecht, the Netherlands.
  2. 2017 Lund Conference on Earth System Governance
  3. "2018 Utrecht Conference on Earth System Governance". Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  4. Third Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability
  5. "Stockholm Memorandum: Tipping the Scales towards Sustainability". Archived from the original on 11 December 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011.
  6. The Stockholm Memorandum
  7. Earth System Governance TV
  8. Biermann, Frank (2007). "'Earth system governance' as a crosscutting theme of global change research" (PDF). Global Environmental Change. 17 (3–4): 326–337. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.11.010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 August 2017.
  9. Biermann, F.; Abbott, K.; Andresen, S.; Backstrand, K.; Bernstein, S.; Betsill, M. M.; Bulkeley, H.; Cashore, B.; Clapp, J.; Folke, C.; Gupta, A.; Gupta, J.; Haas, P. M.; Jordan, A.; Kanie, N.; Kluvankova-Oravska, T.; Lebel, L.; Liverman, D.; Meadowcroft, J.; Mitchell, R. B.; Newell, P.; Oberthur, S.; Olsson, L.; Pattberg, P.; Sanchez-Rodriguez, R.; Schroeder, H.; Underdal, A.; Vieira, S. C.; Vogel, C.; et al. (2012). "Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving Earth System Governance". Science. 335 (6074): 1306–1307. Bibcode:2012Sci...335.1306B. doi:10.1126/science.1217255.
  10. Dryzek, John S. (2016). "Institutions for the Anthropocene: Governance in a Changing Earth System". British Journal of Political Science. 46 (4): 937–956. doi:10.1017/S0007123414000453.
  11. Earth System Governance International Project Office
  12. "Journal Earth System Governance".
  13. "Frank Biermann, Kyla Tienhaara, Jeroen van der Heijden, Sarah Burch, Aarti Gupta, Cristina Y.A.Inoue, Agni Kalfagianni, Åsa Persson, Andrea K. Gerlakg, Atsushi Ishiii, James Patterson, Jonathan Pickering, Michelle Scobie, Joost Vervoort, Carolina Adler, Michael Bloomfield, Riyanti Djalante, John Dryzek, Victor Galazr, Christopher Gordon, Renée Harmon, Sikina Jinnah, Rakhyun E.Kim, Lennart Olsson, Judith Van Leeuwen, Vasna Ramasar, Paul Wapner, Ruben Zondervan, Oran R. Young, Louis J. Kotzé. 2019. Volume 1. Earth System Governance, 1, 100001".
  14. "Frank Biermann et al. 2019. Volume 2. Earth System Governance, 2, 100032".
  15. "MIT book series on ESG".
  16. "MIT press on ESG".
  17. "Susan Park, & Teresa Kramarz. (Eds). 2019. Global Environmental Governance and the Accountability Trap. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  18. "Norichika Kanie, & Frank Biermann. (Eds). 2017. Governing through Goals - Sustainable Development Goals as Governance Innovation. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  19. "Oran R. Young. (Ed.). 2017. Governing Complex Systems- Social Capital for the Anthropocene. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  20. "Michael John Bloomfield. (Ed.). 2017. Dirty Gold - How Activism Transformed the Jewelry Industry. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  21. "Simon Nicholson, & Sikina Jinnah. (Eds). 2016. New Earth Politics - Essays from the Anthropocene. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  22. "David Ciplet, J. Timmons Roberts, & Mizan R. Khan. (Eds). 2015. Power in a Warming World - The New Global Politics of Climate Change and the Remaking of Environmental Inequality. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  23. "Diarmuid Torney. (Ed.). 2015. European Climate Leadership in Question - Policies toward China and India. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  24. "Walter F. Baber, & Robert V. Bartlett. (Eds). 2015. Consensus and Global Environmental Governance - Deliberative Democracy in Nature's Regime. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  25. "Frank Biermann. (Ed.) 2014. Earth System Governance - World Politics in the Anthropocene. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  26. "Sikina Jinnah. (Ed.) 2014. Post-Treaty Politics- Secretariat Influence in Global Environmental Governance. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  27. "Aarti Gupta, & Michael Mason. (Eds). 2014. Transparency in Global Environmental Governance - Critical Perspectives. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  28. "Olav Schram Stokke. (Ed.). 2012. Disaggregating International Regimes - A New Approach to Evaluation and Comparison. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  29. "Frank Biermann, & Philipp Pattberg. (Eds). 2012. Global Environmental Governance Reconsidered. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  30. "Oran R. Young. (Ed.). 2010. Institutional Dynamics - Emergent Patterns in International Environmental Governance. Cambridge, MA & London: The MIT Press".
  31. "Cambridge University Press book series".
  32. "Frank Biermann, & Rakhyun E. Kim. (Eds). 2020. Architectures of Earth System Governance - Institutional Complexity and Structural Transformation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press".
  33. Betsill, Michele M; Benney, Tabitha M; Gerlak, Andrea K, eds. (2020). Agency in Earth System Governance. doi:10.1017/9781108688277. ISBN   9781108688277.
  34. Linnér, Björn-Ola; Wibeck, Victoria (2019). Sustainability Transformations. doi:10.1017/9781108766975. ISBN   9781108766975.
  35. Van Der Heijden, Jeroen; Bulkeley, Harriet; Certomà, Chiara, eds. (2019). Urban Climate Politics. doi:10.1017/9781108632157. ISBN   9781108632157.
  36. Biermann, Frank; Lövbrand, Eva, eds. (2019). Anthropocene Encounters: New Directions in Green Political Thinking. doi:10.1017/9781108646673. ISBN   9781108646673.
  37. "Cambridge Elements series on ESG".
  38. Dryzek, John S.; Bowman, Quinlan; Kuyper, Jonathan; Pickering, Jonathan; Sass, Jensen; Stevenson, Hayley (2019). Deliberative Global Governance. doi:10.1017/9781108762922. ISBN   9781108762922.

Selected publications

  1. "Planetary boundaries and earth system governance: Exploring the links". doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2012.02.016.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. "Earth system governance".
  3. "'Earth system governance' as a crosscutting theme of global change research". doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.11.010.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. "Accountability and legitimacy in earth system governance: A research framework". doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.04.008.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. "Navigating the Anthropocene: improving earth system governance". doi:10.1126/science.1217255.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. "Transforming governance and institutions for global sustainability: key insights from the Earth System Governance Project". doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2012.01.014.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. "2009 Science and Implementation Plan of the Earth System Governance Project" (PDF).
  8. "Exploring the agency of global environmental consultancy firms in earth system governance". doi:10.1007/s10784-011-9149-7.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. "Governing for a Healthy Population: Towards an Understanding of How Decision-Making Will Determine Our Global Health in a Changing Climate". doi:10.3390/ijerph9010055.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. "owards a comprehensive absolute sustainability assessment method for effective Earth system governance: Defining key environmental indicators using an enhanced-DPSIR framework". doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.03.063.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. "Agency in earth system governance: refining a research agenda". doi:10.1007/s10784-011-9147-9.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. "Global democracy and earth system governance". doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.01.021.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  13. "ccess and allocation in earth system governance: water and climate change compared". doi:10.1007/s10784-010-9139-1.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. "2018 Science and Implementation Plan of the Earth System Governance Project" (PDF).
  15. "Earth system governmentality: reflections on science in the Anthropocene". doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2008.10.002.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. "Diversity and pluralism in earth system governance: Contemplating the role for global administrative law". doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.01.024.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. "Geoengineering governance-by-default: an earth system governance perspective". doi:10.1007/s10784-017-9374-9.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)