Skip to content


Global Governance of the Earth System

Do you wish to engage further in education on earth system governance or share resources with students who will be the next generation of researchers and practitioners? This weekly series of lectures beginning in September is open to the research community and beyond. It is the ideal opportunity to become more familiar with earth system governance and its research framework. It will address pressing existing issues, new global trends, and the imperatives for broader societal transformation.

Description of the course

Global Governance of the Earth System is an educational course designed by Dr. Rakhyun E. Kim (Utrecht University, Netherlands). It is primarily developed for postgraduate students at Utrecht University (UU) but fundamental lectures and guest lectures will be available to external students who can sign up via the Earth System Governance Project.

With a specific focus on global-level governance issues related to the earth system, participants can delve into the complexities and dynamics of earth system governance at an international scale, gaining valuable insights into this research field. This comprehensive course offers students and scholars an inclusive overview of the environmental, economic, social, and political global trends that shape the context of future earth system governance research.

Earth system governance research begins with observations of our intricate and ever-changing world, along with the earth system it encompasses. The past decade has witnessed tremendous changes, with both natural and human systems experiencing an accelerated scale and pace of transformation. Particularly in developing urban areas, air pollution has dire consequences for human health and the environment. Moreover, global trends often obscure localized issues and the unequal distribution of environmental pressures and impacts, such as food insecurity, water stress, and vulnerability to natural disasters.

As a result, the empirical context for earth system governance is rapidly evolving, becoming increasingly complex and dynamic compared to a decade ago. Another aim of the course is to identify new relevant themes and concepts, reflecting both a changing empirical context and a changing scientific enquiry.

The course will explore significant trends and drivers of change that are expected to shape the next decade of global envirnmental governance. It acknowledges the coexistence of multiple worldviews and recognizes that drivers and directions of change are often complex and fluid.

Drawing on the research framework of the ESG Project, the course will utilize five research lenses (Architecture & Agency, Democracy & Power, Justice & Allocation, Anticipation & Imagination, Adaptiveness & Reflexivity) and four contextual conditions (Transformation, Inequality, Anthropocene, Diversity).

Research Framework of the ESG Project’s 2018 Science and Implementation Plan

A lineup of 16 guest lecturers from the ESG Project’s community will engage in discussions on pressing existing issues while addressing new global trends and imperatives for broader societal transformation.

While the course lectures are accessible online and for free to external students, it is primarily designed for Utrecht University (UU) students. UU students will benefit from exclusive opportunities to attend supplementary workshops/tutorials and complete assignments, which won’t be available to external participants. Additionally, please be aware that certificates or credits will not be provided to external participants upon course completion.


Deadline: 4 September 2023

Registering for the Global Level Governance and the Earth System course will grant you access to all lecture sessions through Microsoft Teams.


The course includes an introductory lecture, five lectures on the research lenses of the ESG research framework, two policy-oriented lectures on climate and ocean governance, and a review of the role of law. Each lecture is delivered by two leading experts, providing diverse perspectives for a comprehensive learning experience.

Infographic ESG

Examples of cross-cutting research questions


5 September 2023 10:00 – 12:00 CEST Introduction – Key Governance Challenges
12 September 2023 09:30 – 11:30 CEST Architecture and Agency
19 September 2023 10:00 – 12:00 CEST Democracy and Power
26 September 2023 10:00 – 12:00 CEST Justice and Allocation
3 October 2023 10:00 – 12:00 CEST Anticipation and Imagination
10 October 2023 10:00 – 12:00 CEST Adaptiveness and Reflexivity
17 October 2023 10:00 – 12:00 CEST Application 1: Climate Change (Carbon Dioxide Removal)
24 October 2023 09:00 – 11:00 CEST Application 2: Marine Biodiversity (Deep Seabed Mining)
31 October 2023 10:00 – 12:00 CET The Role of Law in Governance Transformation


Rakhyun E. Kim
Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Carole-Anne Sénit
Utrecht University, Netherlands

Frank Biermann
Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Julia Tschersich

Julia Tschersich
Utrecht University, Netherlands

Hyeyoon Park
Lund University, Sweden

Dr. Marie Claire Brisbois
University of Sussex, United Kingdom

Florian Rabitz
Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania

Aarti Gupta
Wageningen University, Netherlands

Joost Vervoort
University of Oxford and Utrecht University, United Kingdom and the Netherlands

Annisa Triyanti
Utrecht University, Netherlands

Jonathan Pickering
University of Canberra, Australia

Catherine Blanchard
Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Miranda Boettcher

Miranda Boettcher
SWP Berlin, Germany and Utrecht University, the Netherland

Sean Low
Aarhus University, Denmark

Pradeep Singh
Research Institute for Sustainability – Helmholtz Centre Potsdam (RIFS)

Louis Kotzé
North-West University, South Africa