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About the Project

The Earth System Governance Project is a global, interdisciplinary research network advancing knowledge at the interface between global environmental change and governance. The project aims to explore political solutions and novel, more effective governance systems to cope with global environmental change. The network connects and mobilizes scholars from the social sciences and humanities working from local to global scales.

Mission and Vision

Our mission is to stimulate a vibrant, pluralistic, and relevant research community.

Our vision is to understand, imagine and help realize just and sustainable futures.

A shared research agenda helps to foster interdisciplinary conversation from diverse perspectives.


The need for earth system governance research was originally recognised in 2007 by the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) to explore political solutions and novel, more effective governance systems to cope with global environmental change.

Earth System Governance refers to ‘the interrelated and increasingly integrated system of formal and informal rules, rule-making systems, 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, in particular, earth system transformation, within the normative context of sustainable development’ (Biermann et al., 2010).

The term ‘earth system governance’ signals a paradigmatic change from governing environmental problems at a local level, towards dealing with a more fundamental transformation of the earth system. The scale and rate of natural and human systems change is accelerating which makes improved governance more urgent than ever.


The Earth System Governance Project operates under the direction of a Scientific Steering Committee. A shared research framework and agenda come from the Project’s 2018 Science and Implementation Plan. 

The project has a long tradition of global conferences which are hosted annually with partners in universities throughout the world. The annual conference is the key activity of the network each year. 

The International Project Office is hosted and supported by the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

In 2015, the Project became a core project of the Global Research Network of Future Earth – the overarching international research platform that seeks to provide the scientific knowledge needed to accelerate transformations towards a more sustainable world. 

We aim to

  • Expand the global mobilization of earth system governance researchers
  • Stimulate and facilitate research collaborations
  • Inform and advise at the science-policy interface 

Research Centers

The research alliance strongly relies on a broad network that reflects the interdisciplinary, international and multi-scale challenge that lies ahead.