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Lund Conference on Earth System Governance: Towards Just and Legitimate Earth System Governance – Addressing Inequalities

Event start: 20120417
End date: 20120419

Event description

Lund University, 18-20 April 2012

We invite you to the Lund Conference on Earth System Governance to be held 18-20 April 2012 in Lund, Sweden. This conference is part of a global series organized by the Earth System Governance Project. The first Earth System Governance conference was held in Amsterdam in December 2009 and the second in Fort Collins in May 2011. The 2012 Lund Conference on Earth System Governance is hosted by Lund University and jointly organized by the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS) and the Department of Political Science at Lund University, on behalf of the Earth System Governance Project.

Key Dates

– Deadline for paper abstracts: 5 November 2011
– Notification of acceptance: 5 December 2011
– Full papers due: 15 March 2012


The Earth System Governance Project, a ten-year research programme under the auspices of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), was launched in 2009 to address the problems of environmental governance. In this project earth system governance is defined as the interrelated system of formal and informal rules, rule-making mechanisms, and actor-networks at all levels of human society (from local to global) that are set up to steer societies towards preventing, mitigating, and adapting to global and local environmental change and earth system transformation, within the normative context of sustainable development. 

The Earth System Governance Project’s Science Plan (available at is organized around five analytical problems. Architecture relates to the emergence, design and effectiveness of governance arrangements. Agency addresses questions of who governs the earth system and how. Adaptiveness explores the ability of governance systems to change in the face of new knowledge and challenges as well as to enhance adaptiveness of social-ecological systems in the face of major disturbances. Accountability refers to the democratic quality of environmental governance arrangements. Finally, the theme of Allocation & Access addresses questions of justice, equity, and fairness. The Lund Conference on Earth System Governance will address all of these five analytical problems. The conference will particularly focus on research on accountability and legitimacy, and on allocation and access and will critically examine questions of justice, democracy, legitimacy and accountability in research and practice. 

The 2012 Lund Conference will be organised in four thematic streams:


First, we invite paper submissions that analyse questions of justice and fairness in earth system governance. These papers may address various dimensions of justice and fairness, such as justice between nation states (e.g. North/South); between present and future generations; between groups in society such as the ones based on gender, religion, ethnicity, rural/urban; and even between human and non-human species.

Justice and fairness are key components of a legitimate governance system. Conflicts on these issues abound, for example when it comes to international and national burden-sharing, the historical responsibility for past emissions, or the access to, and ownership of, resources and knowledge. The principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”, reiterated in many global environmental agreements, is one compromise reached in international negotiations, yet its very meaning in concrete cases remains often unresolved. A major challenge is the gross inequality in access to material and immaterial resources as well as the unequal distribution of vulnerability and adaptive capacity between groups and sectors of society and between nation-states. 

Importantly, poor people are often more susceptible and vulnerable to the impacts of environmental change and pollution. Policies are rarely made by poor and marginalised people, yet usually for poor people by others who believe they understand and/or represent poor people’s preferences and aspirations. This is particularly problematic, because both reasons and remedies of poverty are highly contested in the social sciences, as is the role of power in this context. 


Secondly, we invite paper submissions that analyse questions of accountability, legitimacy, and the democratic quality of earth system governance. This can be, for example, about input legitimacy that relates to the participatory quality of decision-making in terms of deliberative quality, participation and accountability. The representation of UN major groups and multi-stakeholder approaches has become increasingly common practice and signifies efforts to shape more legitimate governance. Papers under this conference stream may also address questions of accountability, like the emergence and effects of rules and procedures that identify who takes part in decision-making, who holds whom responsible for what action, and what the consequences are when standards are breached, or on how to decrease the ‘democratic deficit’.  A precondition for holding actors responsible and accountable is here transparency, access to information, and the availability of monitoring mechanisms. The transparency and accountability of various public, private, and hybrid governance mechanisms have increasingly been brought to the fore. Examples include legitimacy, transparency, access and information disclosure of state-led environmental multilateral agreements and private agreements as well the accountability of transnational governance and of public-private partnerships. 


Third, we invite papers that study the interconnections among the five analytical problems identified in the Earth System Governance Project’s Science and Implementation Plan ( We invite papers that explore these linkages and interactions, and in particular those that are relevant for the questions of allocation and access, and accountability. 


Fourth, we invite papers that provide policy-relevant information and analysis on the reform, or transformation, of the institutional framework for sustainable development. The 2012 Lund Conference will be held just two months before the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”). For this reason, the Lund Conference will provide ample opportunities for dialogue with the policy-making community on key issues of justice and legitimacy. The two overarching themes of the Rio+20 Conference – green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and institutional framework for sustainable development – strongly relate to the analytical themes of accountability and legitimacy of multilateral institutions as well as allocation and access in the intersection of multilateral environmental diplomacy and the global economic system. This conference stream will hence critically assess how issues of justice and democratic legitimacy have been incorporated in earth system governance in the forty years since the 1972 Stockholm Conference.

Abstract Submission:

We invite abstracts on these four conference themes. Abstracts must be submitted electronically through the conference website ( by 5 November 2011 and may not exceed 250 words. All abstracts will be evaluated in a double-blind peer-review process by 4-5 members of the conference review panel. For additional information on the Earth System Governance Project, go to Proposals for special sessions are also welcome. Please read the instructions for session proposals at

We look forward to welcoming you to Lund!

Karin Bäckstrand and Lennart Olsson 
Co-Chairs, 2012 Lund Conference on Earth System Governance


Lund Conference on Earth System Governance

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