Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment

2018 Utrecht Conference on Earth System Governance: Governing Global Sustainability in a Complex World - Key Research Insights & New Research Directions

Date: 05 November 2018 - 08 November 2018
Location: Utrecht

The 2018 Utrecht Conference stands in a long tradition of global conferences on earth system governance, from Amsterdam (2007 and 2009) to Colorado (2011), Lund (2012), Tokyo (2013), Norwich (2014), Canberra (2015), Nairobi (2016), and Lund (2017). In this long-standing event series, the Utrecht Conference will have a special status: in 2018, the Earth System Governance Project’s current Science and Implementation Plan will be replaced by a new 10-year science plan; and new, enthusiastic leadership will take over the helm of our project.

This conference will hence focus on harvesting the many findings of our community over the last decade, combined with a bold outlook to the future and the next scientific challenges for earth system governance research.

Conference Streams

The 2018 Utrecht Conference will be organized around the core analytical problems that have structured the last decade of earth system governance research, while providing an outlook on emerging themes and new directions. Abstracts can be submitted to one of the following six conference streams:

  1. Architectures of Earth System Governance. We invite papers that reflect on the complexity of governance systems in the context of increasing cross-sectoral and cross-scale interdependencies, and growing institutional interplay between environmental and non-environmental domains (e.g. global trade, security, technology). Core questions include: How can we evaluate the performance of complex governance architectures? What is the relationship between complexity and concepts such as fragmentation and polycentricism? How and why can complex earth system governance architectures be governed more effectively?
  2. Agency in Earth System Governance. We invite papers that build on the knowledge created over the past ten years and that further advance understanding of the actors and agents that drive earth system governance and the ways in which authority is granted to them and how it is exercised. We welcome papers on the influence, roles and responsibilities of both state actors and non-state actors, such as NGOs, cities, corporations, public-private partnerships, or science networks. Core questions are: How is authority shifting in earth system governance and with what kind of implications? How do different agents exercise agency in earth system governance, and how can we evaluate their relevance? Which are the emerging actors and how will they influence earth system governance in the years to come?
  3. Accountability, Legitimacy and Democracy in the Anthropocene. We invite papers on the accountability, legitimacy and overall democratic quality of earth system governance. What are the sources of accountability, legitimacy, and democracy in earth system governance? What are the effects of different forms and degrees of accountability and legitimacy, as well as types of democracy and authoritarianism for the performance of governance systems? What institutional designs can produce the accountability, legitimacy and democratic quality of earth system governance in a way that guarantees balances of interests and perspectives in a world of increasing diversity?
  4. Allocation, Access and Equity in Earth System Governance. Earth system governance is, as is any political activity, fundamentally about the distribution of material and immaterial resources and values. It is, in essence, a conflict about the access to goods and about their allocation – it is about justice, fairness, and equity. How can we reach interdisciplinary conceptualizations and definitions of allocation and access and of planetary justice? What (overarching) principles underlie allocation, access and equity? How can broader justice demands be reconciled with governance effectiveness?
  5. Adaptiveness, Resilience, and the Transformation of Earth System Governance. We invite papers on the adaptiveness, resilience, and transformation of earth system governance, a theme that includes related concepts such as adaptation, adaptive management, vulnerability and reflexivity. What are the politics of adaptiveness and transformations? Which governance processes foster it? What attributes of governance systems enhance capacities to adapt or transform? How, when and why does adaptiveness influence earth system governance transformation?
  6. Theoretical and Methodological Foundations of Earth System Governance. Finally, we invite papers that analyse the theoretical foundations and implications of new ways of thinking about governance and earth system transformations, including concepts such as the Anthropocene, earth system stewardship, planetary boundaries, and the extent to which they are related and to which they differ. Moreover, we invite papers that seek to identify and further develop the appropriate methods to study earth system governance, including papers that study options for integrating social science-based work with study programmes grounded in the natural sciences, computer-based modelling, imagination and anticipation experiments, and scenario work. Finally, we welcome papers that critically discuss the role of science and scientists in the Anthropocene, and that discuss how scientific communities can become agents of resistance, change, and transformations.

 Abstract submission dealine: 19 March 2018

> More information