IHDP Knowledge Transfer Database

Earth System Governance Project

Acronym: ESG

Core Project

Open Date:


Humans now influence all biological and physical systems of the planet. Almost no species, no land area, no part of the oceans has remained unaffected by the expansion of the human species. Human activity is generating change that extends well beyond natural variability and at rates that continue to accelerate. It is apparent that institutions, organizations and mechanisms by which humans currently govern their relationship with the natural environment and global biochemical systems are not only insufficient—they are also poorly understood. More effective governance systems are needed. This is the rationale and challenge for the Earth System Governance Project. It defines Earth System Governance as the interrelated system of formal and informal rules, rule-making mechanisms and actor-networks at all levels of human society that are set up to steer societies towards preventing, mitigating and adapting to global and local environmental change and earth system transformation, within the context of sustainable development. The project will also develop policy responses to the pressing problems of earth system transformation. It is designed as nodal point within the four global change research programmes to guide, organize and evaluate research on governance in the various projects.