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Call for papers

Call for papers

2022 Toronto Conference on Earth System Governance

“Governing accelerated transitions: justice, creativity, and power in a transforming world”

21-23 October 2022

University of Toronto (St. George campus)

The call for papers is now closed.

The 2022 Toronto Conference is hosted by University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo and Earth System Governance Project. As organizers, we understand that on-site participation is desired by many within the Earth System Governance community, but possibilities for attendance may be limited by the ongoing uncertainty related to travel or public health concerns. Therefore, the 2022 Toronto Conference on Earth System Governance will be planned for on-site attendance, with opportunities for virtual access and paper presentations.

The 2022 Toronto Conference stands in a long tradition of global conferences on earth system governance, from Amsterdam (2007 and 2009) to Colorado (2011), Lund (2012), Tokyo (2013), Norwich (2014), Canberra (2015), Nairobi (2016), Lund (2017), Utrecht (2018), Oaxaca (2019), Virtual Forum (2020), Bratislava (2021).

Key Dates:

  • Full papers due: 1st September,  2022

Conference Streams

The 2022 Toronto Conference will be organized around the five analytical lenses structuring the new earth system governance research agenda, as captured in the 2018 Earth System Governance Science and Implementation Plan; and a sixth stream focusing on specific issues and challenges that emerge as efforts are made to accelerate the social, political, and technological shift towards more fundamentally sustainable and inclusive social-ecological systems, societies and polities.

  1. Architecture and Agency. We invite papers that address institutional frameworks and actors implicated in earth system governance and how these institutions and actors resist or respond to change and evolve over time. Core questions include: How are environmental issues influenced by complex global networks across sectors, scales and decision-making arenas? What are the implications for earth system governance of growing diversities and power disparities among agents? What forms of architecture and agency are most effective in earth system governance across scales? Which changes and new developments of global governance architecture are needed to address the challenges posed by contemporary global environmental change?
  2. Democracy and Power. We invite papers that address how old and new conceptions of democracy and power can make sense of, and craft responses to, trends in collective problem-solving in earth system governance in particular in respect to transition to new democracies in Europe and globally. Core questions include: What is the nature of the relationship between democracy and sustainability in earth system governance? Does the Anthropocene exacerbate existing power inequalities or create new opportunities for the legitimate exercise of power? How do power asymmetries in earth system governance affect management of natural resources? Can community regimes and collective actions such commons foster transformations towards sustainable and low carbon economy across scales?
  3. Justice and Allocation. We invite papers that normatively or empirically address the justice and allocation of resources, rights and access in earth system governance. Core questions include: which new demands for justice and allocation are emerging in the context of profound transformations of the earth system? What types of steering have been effective towards implementing various conceptions of justice and allocation? Who bears the costs and benefits of transformations towards sustainability and how are rights and livelihoods affected?
  4. Anticipation and Imagination. We invite papers that address how to govern proliferating anticipation processes that seek to imagine and govern future sustainability challenges, as well as how anticipation and imagination themselves become sites of politics. Core questions include: How do processes of anticipation and imagination interact with each other in shaping efforts to steer societies towards more sustainable futures? What kinds of institutions and practices underpin processes of anticipation and imagination? To what extent are ongoing processes of anticipation legitimate and inclusive, and what are their geopolitical implications? Which are the most relevant differences in the processes/capacities of anticipation and imagination among different actors and groups?
  5. Adaptiveness and Reflexivity. We invite papers that address how societies can navigate change towards global sustainability in adaptive and reflexive ways, such as supporting the sustainable provision of ecosystem services and adapting to climate change over both the short and long-term. Core questions include: How can adaptiveness and reflexivity as qualities of earth system governance be assessed and compared? What kind of governance attributes (e.g. polycentricity or centralization, market or hybrid, flexibility or stability) are best suited to cultivating adaptiveness and reflexivity? Which factors enhance or hinder adaptiveness and reflexivity in diverse cultural and economic contexts? Do socio-environmental conflicts and social movements favor or halt adaptiveness and reflexivity?
  6. Accelerating Just and Inclusive Transitions. We invite papers that explore the dynamics of acceleration toward more fundamentally sustainable social-ecological systems, societies and polities, including the politics and governance dimensions of those transitions.  Core questions include: What governance approaches enable inclusive and creative sustainability policy design and implementation? What creative tools are materializing that can accelerate action toward desirable futures? How can acceleration be conceptualized beyond simply increasing the pace of change, to include the depth, scale, and quality of change? What social, political, and behavioral dynamics have historically inhibited transformations, and how are these dynamics resurfacing now? How do politics shape the inclusion of diverse knowledge and perspectives in the governance of transitions?

Please read the 2018 Earth System Governance Science and Implementation for more context in regards to the organisation of the conference streams.

Types of Proposals

Individual papers

We invite submissions of abstracts of up to 400 words that address either the main conference theme; one or more of the six conference streams; or any other topic that is relevant to the Earth System Governance Project. All abstracts will be anonymized and evaluated in double-annonymous peer-review by generally five members of our conference review panel. Please submit your abstracts through the Conference Portal. Authors are only allowed to present maximum of two papers each, although the same author may be listed as an author on other Individual Papers presented by others.

Full panels

In addition, we invite panel proposals that address the main conference theme; one or more of the six conference streams; or any other topic relevant to the Earth System Governance Project.

Panel proposals must include a description of the panel (300 words or less), 4-5 abstracts (each up to 400 words), as well as the name of a chair and a discussant. Please note that all paper abstracts should be submitted together with the Full panel proposal and not separately. All paper abstracts of the panel will be evaluated individually in the general double-anonymous peer-review of the conference, with the possible outcome that only some papers submitted for a panel might eventually be accepted. Only panels with three or more accepted papers will be included in the programme. If fewer than three papers for the panel are accepted, these accepted papers will be integrated into other panels.

Full panel proposals, and all individual papers of the panel, can be submitted through the Conference Portal.

Innovative sessions

We also welcome proposals for non-traditional sessions, such as roundtables (which may include policy-makers, academics, or representatives of social movements and non-governmental organizations), policy games, book launches, and book seminars (that may discuss recently published academic works in the field). All non-traditional sessions will be proposed through the Conference Portal. Proposals should include a description of the session (maximum 300 words) and a list of participants. Innovative Session Proposals will be reviewed by the conference organizers.

Early Career School – 21-22 October 2022

We plan to organize an Early Career School on Earth System Governance directly prior to the conference. More information will be announced in due time at the conference website.

Taskforce & Meeting Day on 24 October 2022

On 24 October 2022, extensive meeting space will be provided for back-to-back events of our Project’s Taskforces, Working Groups and Affiliated Projects. Suggestions for such meetings can be submitted to by 1 May 2022 (in exceptional cases, also later). We will ensure wide dissemination of the events through our network, and assist with formal registration. All interested conference participants can select the event they plan to participate in through the conference registration form.

Field Trips

The conference will offer field trips in the greater Toronto area. More information will be announced soon on the conference website.

Additional information

The organizers are undertaking all efforts to secure travel support for participants who are based at institutions in developing countries and for early-career researchers. To the extent that travel funds are available, they will be disbursed on a merit basis according to the relative ranking of the abstract. Acceptance of a paper for presentation does not guarantee travel support.

Details on abstract submission and answers to frequently asked questions are available at our conference website

More information on the Earth System Governance Project can be found at

We look forward to welcoming you to Toronto in October 2022!


Email: / Twitter: @ESG_Project #ESG2022

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Karen O’Brien at the 2021 Conference for Earth System Governance. The official opening session of the 2021 Bratislava Conference on Earth System Governance was hosted at the conference venue and streamed live to virtual attendees.

Introduction by the conference chair: Professor Tatiana Kluvánková (SlovakGlobe at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, and the Slovak University of Technology, and CETIP – Earth System Governance Research Centre)

Earth System Governance International Project Office

If you have any questions about the 2022 Toronto Conference on Earth System Governance, you can reach out to our international project office. We will get back to you regarding your questions within a few working days.


Utrecht University
Faculty of Geosciences
Princetonlaan 8a
3584 CB Utrecht, The Netherlands