About

Frank Biermann is the founder and first chair (2008-2018) of the Earth System Governance Project.

He is a research professor of Global Sustainability Governance with the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Biermann is an internationally leading scholar of global institutions and organizations in the sustainability domain, with widely cited research on international organizations, multilateral regimes, climate refugees, Sustainable Development Goals, the politics of science, global justice, and fragmented architectures of governance.

​Biermann pioneered the ‘earth system’ governance paradigm in global change research in 2005 and was the founder and first chair of the Earth System Governance Project. He currently directs a 2.5-million EUR research programme on the steering effects of the Sustainable Development Goals, supported by an ERC ‘Advanced Grant’ awarded to him in 2018, among other functions.

​Biermann has authored or edited 18 books and published over 200 articles in peer-reviewed journals and academic books, along with over 100 policy contributions. Recent books include Architectures of Earth System Governance (CUP 2020); Anthropocene Encounters: New Directions in Green Political Thinking (CUP 2019); Governing through Goals: Sustainable Development Goals as Governance Innovation (MIT Press 2017) and Earth System Governance: World Politics in the Anthropocene (MIT Press 2014). Biermann’s research has been cited over 18,000 times and his Hirsch-index in Google Scholar is 67. Several of his articles belong to the top-10 most cited papers in their respective journals.

​Biermann is the editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal, Earth System Governance (Elsevier); co-editor of the Earth System Governance series with MIT Press; co-editor of Cambridge Elements in Earth System Governance; and edits a further book series with Cambridge University Press. He is frequently invited to participate in advisory and evaluation committees and has spoken in the United Nations General Assembly, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee.

​From 2003 to 2015, Biermann was professor and head of the Department of Environmental Policy Analysis at the Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University Amsterdam. Towards the end of his 12-year term, this department was evaluated as being ‘world leading’ and ‘one of the highest profile academic research groups involved with sustainability governance from around the world’. From 2007-2014, he was director of the Netherlands Research School for Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment, a national alliance of 11 institutes with 600 PhD students that was evaluated in 2014 as a ‘network of excellence’. In 2001-2011, Biermann led the Global Governance Project, a research programme of 12 European institutes. Other earlier affiliations include Free University Berlin, German Advisory Council on Global Change, Harvard University, Humboldt University of Berlin, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Lund University, University of Maryland at College Park, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Social Science Research Centre Berlin, Stanford University, and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

​Biermann has 26 years of teaching experience in Germany, India, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States. Eighteen of his PhD students have graduated; four with highest distinction and six winning international awards.

​Biermann has won numerous scholarships and awards, including the 2021 Distinguished Scholar Award in Environmental Studies by the International Studies Association (recognizing ‘outstanding scholars whose long history of excellent research and teaching has had substantial impact on fields associated with international relations and environmental issues’); a European Research Council ‘Advanced Grant’ (the highest personal award from EU institutions); Ecological Society of America’s 2019 Innovations in Sustainability Science Award; the 2013 Societal Impact Award of VU University Amsterdam for ‘path-breaking research on global environmental policy’; the 2011 Social Science Research Prize of VU University Amsterdam, for ‘outstanding qualities as a top researcher’ and ‘significant contributions’ in the field of global environmental politics; the 1998 Joachim Tiburtius Prize awarded for the best dissertations of the Berlin universities; a fellowship from Harvard University; and a scholarship from the Talented Students Programme of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Biermann is an elected Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, a group of 700 individuals ‘chosen for eminence in art, the natural and social sciences, and the humanities’.

​Biermann holds a Habilitation in Political Science (2001), a PhD in Political Science summa cum laude from Freie Universität Berlin (1997), and master’s degrees in Political Science (Freie Universität Berlin, 1993) and International Law (University of Aberdeen, 1994), both with distinction.

Related research

  • Global Goals

    Explaining the steering effects of the Sustainable Development Goals through a detailed investigation of their institutional arrangements and actor networks, at international and national levels.

  • Task Force on Earth System Law

    A major objective of the Taskforce on Earth System Law is to explore novel legal developments in and for the Anthropocene, where the earth as a whole is now seen to have become a socio-ecological system with human societies acting as a global geophysical force capable of changing this system, and at once as stewards of earth system care.

  • Taskforce on Climate Governance

    This taskforce strengthens climate policy research within the Earth System Governance community and beyond, and mobilizes the entire breadth and wealth of the network, from the conceptual and theoretical diversity of the hundreds of affiliated ESG scholars to the broad research expertise on other planetary socio-ecological systems beyond climate, such as biodiversity and oceans.

  • Taskforce on Planetary Justice in Earth System Governance Research

    The Taskforce on Planetary Justice in Earth System Governance Research aims to bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars who are concerned with questions of justice on a planetary scale in the context of profound transformations of the earth system.

  • Taskforce on the Sustainable Development Goals

    This taskforce brings together an interdisciplinary global group of scholars and practitioners to advance the scientific understanding of ‘governance by global goals’ and in particular the steering effects of the Sustainable Development Goals.