For more information on the concept of Earth System Law, see the paper “Earth system law: The juridical dimensions of earth system governance” by Task Force members Louis Kotzé and Rak Kim, published in the Earth System Governance Journal (in press)

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Task Force on Earth System Law

The Earth System Governance Project set up a new global research initiative, the Task Force on Earth System Law. This Task Force will establish an interdisciplinary community of scientists working in the fields of sustainability law and governance at all levels of social organization.

The concept of earth system law is intended to reflect the legal dimensions of large-scale transformations, which range from traditional environmental policy problems to the governance of earth system transformation. A major objective of this Task Force 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.

In light of the potential far-reaching epistemological, ontological, ethical and normative implications of the Anthropocene, the Task Force on Earth System Law aims to address pressing questions of the Anthropocene by searching for fresh, radical and innovative legal approaches for enabling and governing planetary transformations.

The Task Force invites both theoretical and empirical research related to earth system law. Key themes and questions might include:

1. Analytical Perspectives on Earth System Law

  • What is earth system law, what are its sources, authors, main addressees, normative status, composition and objectives?
  • What are the primary theories and theoretical concepts underlying earth system law and which novel theoretical approaches might be useful for its conceptualization?
  • How does earth system law help us go beyond conventional legal theories in order to address the many and varied dissonances between the law today and novel challenges in the Anthropocene?
  • What is the role of nature in law and what is the external logic of earth system law?
  • How can earth system law best reflect social and ecological justice, and also inter and intra species justice?
  • Accepting that coherence in law is crucial, how can coherence in the body of earth system law be further enhanced?
  • What is the central ethic of earth system law?


2. Normative Approaches to Earth System Law

  • What standards of judgment and behavior have to be respected by the human artifact of law in order to safeguard the integrity of all human and non-human life on earth?
  • How can earth system law help to overcome inequalities and pervasive hierarchies in the Anthropocene, specifically between humans and non-humans, and between and among geographical regions and countries?
  • How can justice for future generations (intergenerational equity) be achieved in the Anthropocene, through earth system law, including legal and institutional means, e.g. involving the representation of future generations?
  • What windows of opportunities exist for implementing interspecies justice?
  • How can earth system law ensure a sustainable way of exploiting resources, directing investments, and orienting technological development and institutional change without eroding earth system integrity?
  • By what means can non-human rights be strengthened in law and governance?


3. Transformative Potential of Earth System Law

  • How can novel concepts of eco-constitutionalism advance the challenge of earth system law?
  • To what extent could adaptive legal systems serve as a transformative concept for law in the Anthropocene?
  • What is the potential and possible impact of transformation through non-binding goals and development guidelines, such as the Sustainable Development Goals?
  • How could critical issues such as compliance and enforcement, transparency and public participation be reimagined in the context of earth system law?
  • In how far does the integration of issue areas (e.g. climate, forests, human rights, trade, finance and development, corporate accountability) take place in earth system law?


The Task Force on Earth System Law invites scholars from different disciplines, regions, and career stages who want to broaden their view on earth system law in the Anthropocene. It aspires to launch, first, a Task Force website and a webinar series. Further, it aims to create interdisciplinary workshops and panels on thematic issues at Earth System Governance conferences and other conferences. The Task Force also pursues joint publications, namely edited volumes and special issues with major university presses.



  • Invitation to a Book Project on Earth System Law and a Task Force Meeting at the 2018 Utrecht Conference on Earth System Governance on 8 November 2018. Read the full invitation here.
  • First workshop of the Task Force on Earth System Law at the 2017 Conference on Earth System Governance in Lund, Sweden. Further information will be provided on the Earth System Governance Project website.


Scientific Coordinators

Dr. Rak Kim, assistant professor, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (

Prof. Dr. Dr. Louis Kotzé, professor, North-West University, South Africa (


Task Force Manager

Catherine Blanchard, PhD candidate, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (


Associate Earth System Governance Lead Faculty Members

Prof. Dr. Frank Biermann, professor, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (

Prof. Dr. Kenneth Abbott, professor, Arizona State University, USA (

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


Associate Earth System Governance Senior Research Fellows

Prof. Dr. Tim Stephens, professor, University of Sydney, Australia (

Prof. Dr. Harro van Asselt, professor at University of Eastern Finland Law School; senior research fellow at Stockholm Environment Institute, (

Prof. Dr. Margot Hurlbert, associate professor, University of Regina, Canada (

Dr. Timothy Cadman, research fellow, Griffith University, Australia (