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Transforming governance and institutions for global sustainability: key insights from the Earth System Governance Project

Biermann, Frank, Kenneth Abbott, Steinar Andresen, Karin Bäckstrand, Steven Bernstein, Michele M. Betsill, Harriet Bulkeley, Benjamin Cashore, Jennifer Clapp, Carl Folke, Aarti Gupta, Joyeeta Gupta, Peter M. Haas, Andrew Jordan, Norichika Kanie, Tatiana Kluvánková-Oravská, Louis Lebel, Diana Liverman, James Meadowcroft, Ronald B. Mitchell, Peter Newell, Sebastian Oberthür, Lennart Olsson, Philipp Pattberg, Roberto Sánchez-Rodríguez, Heike Schroeder, Arild Underdal, Susana Camargo Vieira, Coleen Vogel, Oran R. Young, Andrea Brock, and Ruben Zondervan. 2012. Transforming governance and institutions for global sustainability: key insights from the Earth System Governance Project. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 4(1): 51-60.

Abstract

The current institutional framework for sustainable development is by far not strong enough to bring about the swift transformative progress that is needed. This article contends that incrementalism—the main approach since the 1972 Stockholm Conference—will not suffice to bring about societal change at the level and speed needed to mitigate and adapt to earth system transformation. Instead, the article argues that transformative structural change in global governance is needed, and that the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro must turn into a major stepping stone for a much stronger institutional framework for sustainable development. The article details core areas where urgent action is required. The article is based on an extensive social science assessment conducted by 32 members of the lead faculty, scientific steering committee, and other affiliates of the Earth System Governance Project.

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