Global and local earth system governance

Inclusive Economy02 Dec 2009Louise Stoddard

We arrived at Hotel Volendam this morning for the start of the Earth System Governance (ESG) conference to a glorious sunrise over the neighbouring cheese factory. If participants at the conference didn’t realize they were in the Netherlands before, then they sure do now.

The plenary kicked off with Frank Biermann outlining the Earth System Governance Project, a ten-year plan with a focus on global, but also local level, governance. Frank briefly outlined the five different areas of focus: Architecture, Agency, Adaptation, Accountability, and Allocation and Access. For more information on these and the project, see this month’s issue of The Broker, which has a report on managing global change.

Frank’s presentation also addressed an issue that has been on my mind for some time – the question of disciplines. ESG can seem a very abstract notion at times, so how do we break it down to a level that can appeal to individual disciplines and also provide very practical ways forward for individuals and local scenarios? Frank highlighted how each of the ‘A’s of ESG corresponds with a discipline, for example Architecture can also fall under International Order. Rik Leeman’s following presentation on Earth System Science Partnerships really started to get down to the nitty gritty of this question by using the example of a GECAFS project in the Himalaya, which is trying to cope with the downstream effects of melting glaciers. The project found that every region in the downstream area is different, with varying agricultural systems. Therefore, climate adaptations and governance should be implemented at very local levels; there is no ‘silver bullet’.

Rik also highlighted the need for individual governance at a very personal level, one which reduces consumption. I was interested to see that questions within the plenary were mostly focused on very specific examples. How would ESG approach rice production in Asia, which accounts for 60% of the population’s daily food intake but is also environmentally damaging? At the moment, there are no specific answers being given to these types of questions, but hopefully this is the kind of issue that can be addressed in the following days.

PS – photos from the event are now live on flickr taken by Ana Marques