Conference Background

The 2009 Amsterdam Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change will be the 9th conference in the well established series of European conferences on human dimensions research. This series began in 2001 with the first Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change. The 2007 Amsterdam Conference brought about the Europeanisation of this successful conference cycle. The European conferences are mid-size annual events (much smaller than Open Meetings of IHDP or IGBP) of about 150-250 international participants, selected through rigorous international peer review. Each conference has a clear thematic focus that allows for intense exchange and discussion. Conference themes are selected with a view to bringing new and emerging topics to the European and global debate, thus ensuring the continuous innovative thrust of the conference series. Special conference features, including panels on teaching and targeted programmes for doctoral students, add to its innovative character.

The European Conferences on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change are endorsed by the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) and the World Academy of Art and Science. The International Steering Committee ensures close integration with the overarching Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) and other networks.

In addition, the European Conferences on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change aim to further the integration of the European research projects in order to assist in shaping a European research area in the field of the human dimensions of global environmental change. Plenary and semi-plenary presentations of major European research programmes, as well as side-events and poster sessions, form an essential part of the conference series.

Past Conferences

2008 - 'Long-Term Policies: Governing Social-Ecological Change' (Berlin)

The 2008 Berlin Conference has been organised by the Oldenburg Centre for Sustainability Economics and Management, CENTOS, Oldenburg University, and the Environmental Policy Research Centre (FFU) of the Freie Universität Berlin. This 2008 Berlin Conference has been the eighth event in the series of annual European Conferences on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, and the first International Conference of the German Social-Ecological Research Programme. It has been held in Berlin on 22-23 February 2008. It particularly targeted at bringing together trandisciplinary research results on long-term policies from various fields and provided ample opportunities to advance social-ecological research into international debates and to discuss future perspectives of this field. The conference also involved representatives of the particular actor groups such as businesses, civil society and NGOs, politics and the natural and social sciences to integrate their particular expertise. A mutual exchange between the different actor groups has been facilitated and the practicability of problem-solving transdisciplinary work discussed.

The 2008 Berlin Conference has been endorsed by the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), by the Earth System Governance Scientific Planning Committee, and by the German Association for Ecological Economic Research (VÖW). The 2008 Berlin Conference ‘Long-Term Policies: Governing Social-Ecological Change’ has been generously supported by the Social-Ecological Research Programme of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Global Governance Project. More information is available at the conference website.

2007 - 'Earth System Governance: Theories and Strategies for Sustainability' (Amsterdam)

What are the appropriate theories and strategies for sustainable earth system governance? This question stood at the centre of the 2007 Amsterdam Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, held 24-26 May 2007 at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

All 175 presentations in parallel sessions and 24 keynote presentations in ten plenary and semi-plenary sessions showed the breadth of ‘earth system governance’ as a crosscutting field of global change research and addressed one or several of the following themes:

Theories and Methods for Analysing Earth System Governance: papers that addressed new theoretical advances and methodological tools to better analyse earth system governance, including new methods and tools that combine quantitative and modelling approaches - also from the natural sciences - with qualitative, case-based methods and participatory, stakeholder-oriented methods; Architectures of Earth System Governance: papers that addressed the effectiveness of the overall governance system including problems of institutional fragmentation, interlinkages, and change; Adaptiveness in Earth System Governance: papers that addressed the ways in which institutions at all levels - ranging from local to global - can adapt to large-scale changes in their natural environment; Agency Beyond the State: papers that addressed the influence of non-state actors in earth system governance, including the effectiveness of private governance and stakeholder involvement at all levels; Accountability and Legitimacy of Earth System Governance: papers that addressed the democratic foundations of earth system governance at the local, national, and global levels; Allocation Mechanisms in Environmental Governance: papers that addressed distributive effects of global and national environmental institutions and governance mechanisms; and The Reflexive Governance of Global Public Goods: papers that addressed the institutional analysis of participatory decision-making, deliberative policy-making and capacity building in the governance of global public goods.

Back-to-back with the 2007 Amsterdam Conference, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the University of Maastricht jointly offered an International Summer School on Earth System Governance for PhD students and other researchers in their early career stages. This international summer school was supported by the Netherlands Research School for Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment (SENSE) in co-operation with the Dutch national research programme Climate for Space—Space for Climate.

The conference organisers at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam could rely on generous support from a number of Conference Co-hosts, without which the congress would not have been possible: AIRD - Environment Canada and IRES - University of British Columbia, Canada; the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (MNP); the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (Global Change Committee); the Netherlands Research School for Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment (SENSE); the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, United Kingdom; and the European research projects ADAM—Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies: Supporting European Climate Policy; Glogov.org—The Global Governance Project; NeWater—New Approaches to Adaptive Water Management under Uncertainty; and REFGOV—Reflexive Governance in the Public Interest.

More information is available at the conference website.

2006 - 'Resource Policies: Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Equity' (Berlin)

The sustainable use of natural resources has been a challenge for environmental policies from their very beginning. Without an appropriate institutional setting, scarce resources such as water, materials, energy sources or land are overused, following the infamous logic of the tragedy of the commons. Related to this are issues of effective resource policies, efficient resource consumption, and equity on a global scale. These issues have been at the centre of the 2006 Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change. Core questions were: How effective address governments, public and private actors around the world these problems? Given the rising demand for industrial goods, what are the potentials and limitations of strategies to increase resource productivity and the cleaning of waste streams? What are the most promising entry points for governmental interventions? Are regulatory policies, such as take-back obligations for waste, a viable instrument towards cleaner production chains? To what extent are recent efforts to develop product policies likely to be effective and efficient? To what extent are institutions by private actors such as the Marine Stewardship Council or the Forest Stewardship Council a promising approach? What strategies are adopted in developing countries to safeguard access to and sustainable use of natural resources and how do they work? More information is available at the conference website.

2005 - ‘International Organisations and Global Environmental Governance’(Potsdam)

The 2005 conference addressed the role of international organisations in global environmental governance, including the United Nations system, intergovernmental agencies outside the UN system, regional integration schemes such as the European Union, and nongovernmental transnational actors. Papers addressed the effects of international organisations in global environmental governance; the relevance and effects of organisational design; the interplay of international organisations within larger regimes; environmental policy integration within international organisations; and new theoretical concepts to understand organisational behaviour.

The 2005 conference was chaired by Frank Biermann and Bernd Siebenhüner and managed by Anna Schreyögg. It was hosted by the Global Governance Project (Glogov.org) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Financial support was provided by Volkswagen Foundation, Germany (more)

2004 - ‘Greening of Policies: Interlinkages and Policy Integration’ (Berlin)

The 2004 conference addressed the obstacles to integrated decision-making and successful strategies of policy integration, with an emphasis on interactions between regimes and policies on international and national levels. Core questions included: What types of institutions succeed in strengthening policy integration? In how far are integration efforts affected by economic and political globalisation, the shift from government to governance, or the transition from environmental protection to sustainable development? What methods allow for an ex ante evaluation of the economic, social and environmental effects of policies and programmes? To what extent do international regimes affect the capacities for a greening of policies at the national level, and vice versa? The 2004 conference featured more than 100 speakers from all continents and various disciplines in 30 panels as well as 11 keynote speeches.

The conference was chaired by Klaus Jacob and managed by Daniel Pentzlin. It was hosted by the Environmental Policy Research Centre of the Freie Universität Berlin, in co-operation with the Global Governance Project (Glogov.org), on behalf of the Environmental Policy and Global Change Section of the German Political Science Association. (more)

2003 - ‘Governance for Industrial Transformation’ (Berlin)

The 2003 conference focused on political strategies to limit the overuse of natural resources and emissions from industrial activities. Participants addressed the historical experiences with the management of industrial transformation, stimulation of environmental innovations and the emergence of markets for environmental technologies; methods and indicators for the forecast of future technological development; new strategies and instruments, such as the so-called ‘third generation policy instruments’ and evolutionary approaches; and the interconnectedness of levels of policy-making and actors. The meeting brought together 130 participants from 20 countries, with 57 papers presented.

The conference was chaired by Klaus Jacob and managed by Bianca Barth. It was hosted by the Environmental Policy Research Centre of the Freie Universität Berlin in co-operation with the Sustime project led by the University of Applied Sciences Lausitz, the Global Governance Project (Glogov.org), and the German Association for Ecological Economic Research (VÖW), with financial support by the German Science Foundation and additional support from the IHDP core project ‘Industrial Transformation’ and its project office at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. (more)

2002 - ‘Knowledge for the Sustainability Transition: The Challenge for Social Science’ (Berlin)

The 2002 conference focussed on the intellectual foundations of global environmental governance. Do we need new kinds of knowledge or new ways to generate knowledge for the sustainability transition? How does knowledge affect decision-making for sustainability, and how do societal systems influence the ways in which sustainability knowledge is generated? How can social and scientific institutions be designed, and possibly reformed, to generate better sustainability-relevant knowledge and increase its use for decision-makers? About 220 scientists from 29 countries participated in the meeting, which included a total of 111 plenary and panel presentations.

The conference was chaired by Frank Biermann and managed by Sabine Campe. It was hosted by the Global Governance Project (Glogov.org) on behalf of the German Political Science Association. (more)

2001 - ‘Global Environmental Change and the Nation State’ (Berlin)

The 2001 conference aunched the now regular series of European Conferences on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change. The meeting focussed on the ways in which global environmental change and the emerging system of global governance has affected the role and sovereignty of the nation state. Participants discussed ways in which the nation state is today constrained through global institutions, and ways in which it has gained importance as the pioneer of new approaches, policies and technologies and as the key agent in the global diffusion of new ideas. The conference also featured case studies on national environmental policies that compared the ‘vertical influence’ of international institutions with the ‘horizontal influence’ of transnational diffusion. The meeting brought together 166 researchers from 28 countries.

The 2001 conference was chaired by Frank Biermann and managed by Klaus Dingwerth, Rainer Brohm and others. It was hosted by the Global Governance Project (Glogov.Org) on behalf of the German Political Science Association. Core support was provided by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and Germany’s Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Energy. (more)