Key issues on the Earth System Governance agenda

Climate & Natural resources30 Nov 2009Pedro Fidelman

December is shaping up to be an important month for the debate, and hopefully some decisions and actions too, on global environmental change. From the 7th of December, environmental ministers and officials from 192 countries will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark, in an attempt to agree a new climate treaty, a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. The week before, about 200 researchers and practitioners from around the world will gather at the 2009 Amsterdam Conference on Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change to attend to the Earth System Governance. Though not associated with, and much smaller than, the Copenhagen meeting, the Amsterdam conference is expected to play an important role in the debate about global environmental governance.

The Earth System Governance is a new concept that promotes more inclusive approaches to governance, encompassing people, places, networks and organizations at all levels of human society, from local to global. It emerges as a response to the traditional institutions and governance regimes that have been unable to govern, in an adequate manner, our relationships with the environment. As a result, human activities have generated considerable negative impacts on the planet’s social and ecological systems.

In order to move towards these new governance approaches, we need to develop a much better understanding on the complex mechanisms that regulate human-environment interactions. We need, for example, to improve our knowledge of the architecture of earth system governance – the intertwined sets of principles, institutions and practices that shape decision making at all levels. Improved understanding is also needed on the role of private and non-state actors. Adaptation, accountability, allocation and access are also key issues on the Earth System Governance agenda. These and other prominent topics on global environmental governance comprise the programme of the 2009 Amsterdam conference.

The conference will feature more than 20 internationally renowned speakers, who will share their views on Earth System Governance in a number of semi-plenary sessions. About 250 papers will be presented at the event, covering different aspects of global environmental governance. In addition, the conference will serve as the launch of the Earth System Governance Project, a ten-year international research programme on global environmental change. The Amsterdam conference promises indeed to be an excellent opportunity for the global environmental change and earth system governance research community to engage in intense, lively exchange and discussion on the challenging and exciting road ahead towards a more sustainable planet.