Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving Earth System Governance

Earth System Governance Project • Mar 16th, 2012
Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving Earth System Governance

In an article published in Science on 16 March 2012, 32 leading governance experts from the Earth System Governance research alliance argue for a fundamental overhaul of global environmental governance.

They state that in order to reduce the risk of potential global environmental disaster, a “constitutional moment” is required, comparable in scale and importance to the reform of international governance that followed World War II.

Stark increases in natural disasters, food and water security problems and biodiversity loss are just part of the evidence that humanity may be crossing planetary boundaries and approaching dangerous tipping points. A more effective environmental governance system needs to be instituted soon, according to the article.

In particular, the group argues for the creation of a UN Sustainable Development Council to better integrate sustainable development concerns across the UN system, with a strong role for the twenty largest economies (G20).

The article also suggests upgrading of the UN Environment Programme to a full-fledged UN agency – a step that would give it greater authority, more secure funding, and facilitate the creation and enforcement of international regulations and standards.

In addition, the article calls for stronger consultative rights for representatives of civil society in global governance, based on mechanisms that balance differences in influence and resources among civil society representatives. 

In order to improve the speed of decision-making in international negotiations, the article calls for stronger reliance on qualified majority-voting in international decision-making.

The scientists also argue for increased financial support for poorer nations, including through novel financial mechanisms such as air transportation levies. 

The assessment underlying this article has been mandated by the organizers of the huge science conference “Planet under Pressure”, to be held 26-29 March 2012 in London, with several thousand scientists participating. It is also a key contribution of the science community to the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”).


Full reference: Biermann, F., K. Abbott, S. Andresen, K. Bäckstrand, S. Bernstein, M. M. Betsill, H. Bulkeley, B. Cashore, J. Clapp, C. Folke, A. Gupta, J. Gupta, P. M. Haas, A. Jordan,  N. Kanie, T. Kluvánková-Oravská, L. Lebel, D. Liverman, J. Meadowcroft, R. B. Mitchell, P. Newell, S. Oberthür, L. Olsson, P. Pattberg, R. Sánchez-Rodríguez, H. Schroeder, A. Underdal, S. Camargo Vieira, C. Vogel, O. R. Young, A. Brock, R. Zondervan. 2012. Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving Earth System Governance. Science, Vol. 335 No. 6074, 1306-1307, 16 March 2012. [available at]

Tags: accountability,allocation & access,architecture,civil society,Council for Sustainable Development,Earth System Governance Project,economic governance and institutions,emerging technologies,finance / funding,Policy Assessment on the Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development,qualified majority voting,reform of UNEP,sustainable development,trade
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Too bad

"Science" costs money - you keep these things secret from the poor, like me.  Oddly, amonst the great unwashed public it's the right-wing inclined - who are more likely to argue against the idea of global governance - who can most easily join in the conversation.  Here I'd been excited to find that serious research had been undertaken along the lines I'd envisioned ..