The Earth System Governance New Directions Initiative was launched in 2016 to develop a new, ambitious Science and Implementation Plan for the Project that will inspire and guide research in the years to come, and to form a new leadership team to oversee the implementation of this next research agenda. It was successfully completed in November 2018 with the presentation of the new Science and Implementation Plan at the 2018 Utrecht Conference on Earth System Governance.

Coordinating Lead Authors of the New Directions Initiative presenting the new Earth System Governance Science and Implementation Plan at the 2018 Utrecht Conference.

The Earth System Governance Project was created in 2009 as a Core Project of the former International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP). Since then, the Project has grown into what it is today, with an annual major conference series, numerous projects and broad taskforces, a global alliance of Earth System Governance Research Centres, several publication outlets, and most importantly, a lively community of hundreds of Research Fellows and Lead Faculty. The New Directions Initiative will help ensure the continuation of the Project over the next ten-year period.

The New Directions Initiative represents all world regions, all relevant disciplines, all levels of governance from local to global, and is overall gender-balanced. Crucially, the new Science and Implementation Plan will live up to high scientific standards, including extensive consultations within the community as well as internal and external peer-review. The process will be open to the entire Earth System Governance network. The current Scientific Steering Committee and the International Project Office provide general support and facilitation of the New Directions Initiative, and will oversee the overall review and consultation process. This set-up will ensure that new ideas, new people and new ways of organizing the research agenda can emerge in an open, community-driven process.

The Team

The New Directions Initiative is led by six Coordinating Lead Authors in collaboration with about 20 Lead Authors.

Coordinating Lead Authors

Prof. Sarah Burch, University of Waterloo, Canada

Dr. Aarti Gupta, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

Dr. Agni Kalfagianni, Utrecht University,
The Netherlands

Dr. Åsa Persson, Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden

Dr. Cristina Yumie Aoki Inoue, University of Brasilia, Brazil

Lead Authors

Dr. Carolina Adler, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Switzerland

Dr. Michael John Bloomfield,  University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Riyanti Djalante,
United Nations University – Institute of Environment and Human Security, Germany

Prof. John S Dryzek, University of Canberra, Australia

Dr. Victor Galaz, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden

Prof. Andrea K. Gerlak, University of Arizona, United States  of America

Prof. Christopher Gordon, University of Ghana, Ghana

Atsushi Ishii, Tohoku University, Japan

Dr. Sikina Jinnah, American University, United States of America

Dr. Rakhyun E. Kim, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Prof. Lennart Olsson, Lund University, Sweden

Dr. James Patterson, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Dr. Michelle Scobie, The University of the West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago

Dr. Jeroen van der Heijden, Australian National University and University of Amsterdam, Australia

Dr. Judith van Leeuwen, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

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

Dr. Fariborz Zelli, Lund University, Sweden

The Process

The New Directions Initiative has been in the works over the course of three years. The following explains the process that led to the initiative growing into what it is today.

Coordinating Lead Authors of the New Directions Initiative presenting the new Earth System Governance Science and Implementation Plan at the 2018 Utrecht Conference.

Prior to the launch of the New Directions Initiative, the founding chair of the Earth System Governance Project, Frank Biermann, and the Project’s Executive Director, Ruben Zondervan, had extensive informal consultations with numerous researchers in the network, exploring ideas and suggestions for the New Directions initiative.

The question of new directions was first opened up and discussed broadly at a plenary town-hall meeting during the 2014 Norwich Conference on Earth System Governance and in an Early Career Researcher workshop prior to the conference. A subsequent plenary town-hall meeting during the 2015 Canberra Conference on Earth System Governance was entirely dedicated to the issue of new directions.

It all started with an informal dinner

At the aforementioned Canberra Conference, a group of attendees was invited for an informal dinner, at which the future of earth system governance research was intensively discussed. Two months later, these talks led to the participants, along with an additional group of scholars who could not attend the dinner, being invited to officially contribute to the New Directions Initiative. This marked the institutionalization of the initiative. In a self-organized process including deliberations and voting, six people were appointed to lead the process, which takes place mainly through e-mail lists and teleconferences.

At the 2016 Nairobi Conference on Earth System Governance in December, the lead authors held a one-day workshop, and a first draft outline of a new Science and Implementation Plan was presented in plenary. After this presentation and intense conversations by the Coordinating Lead Authors with the broader community present, the writing process started.

From first draft to final review

A first comprehensive draft of the new Science and Implementation Plan was presented at the 2017 Lund Conference on Earth System Governance in October 2017. This was followed by a 1,5-day workshop of the lead authors, taking place back to back with the Lund Conference.

To ensure participation and ownership from as broad a part of the community as possible, the New Directions Initiative hosted a roundtable to engage members of the Environmental Studies Section (ESS) and the broader ISA community in debating and reviewing the draft Science and Implementation Plan at the at the Annual Convention of the International Studies Association (ISA), in April 2018 in San Francisco, USA.

In May-July 2018, an elaborate open commenting and consultation process was launched to strengthen the final product. This process is currently ongoing. All review comments are taken into account, ensuring that the Plan builds on broad support and thorough scrutiny from the community.

In this review process, the sitting Scientific Steering Committee and the International Project Office provided general support and facilitation. 

The Earth System Governance Research Framework