Planetary Boundaries and the Urgent Need for Societal Transformations

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  • DATE / TIME:
    2011•03•08    13:15 - 2011•03•02    14:45
    New York

    New scientific knowledge indicates that humanity has reached a point in history where continued development is jeopardized because the natural functioning of the Earth’s systems is at risk. Substantial societal transformation is urgently required to achieve a sustainable future. In March 2012, just prior to the UNCSD (Rio+20) conference on sustainable development, the international global-change programmes will hold a major international science conference, Planet Under Pressure. The conference will feature speakers and discussions on a range of topics related to planetary boundaries and societal transitions towards sustainability.

    This Side Event introduces the Planet Under Pressure conference, providing scientific leadership on issues of paramount importance to the UNCSD Rio +20 planning process: green economy and sustainable development.

    Planetary Risks:

    Civilization has developed within the confines of Earth’s natural biological, physical and chemical systems. But since 1950, human production and consumption has accelerated to a point that it is pushing components of the Earth system beyond natural boundaries. There is an urgent need for all societies to confront these risks and develop solutions for planetary stewardship.

    Green Economy:

    A “Green Economy” is often cited as one solution to the joint problems of environmental change and the need for development. But what exactly does Green Economy mean? While the emphasis to date has been on the sustainable use of economic and natural resources, there are many social, political and ethical considerations that must be addressed before societies can be socially as well as economically stable and sustainable over the long term. Major societal transformations are needed to achieve the goal of a Green Economy.

    Science and Policy:

    Failures in national and international governance are sometimes blamed for lack of progress in the transition towards sustainability. How can scientists and policy-makers work together to develop the best solutions for both human well-being and environmental sustainability? What form might some of these solutions take? To promote a green global economy and improved institutional framework for sustainable development, new working relationships, policies and institutions must be developed and supported.


    Planetary and societal risks: why we need planetary stewardship

    Professor Sybil Seitzinger, Executive Director, International Geosphere-Biosphere Progamme

    Societal transformations towards a green economy

    Dr. Deborah S. Rogers, International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) on Global Environmental Change

    Science and policy towards sustainable development

    M. Mame Baba Cissé, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, and Ministre Conseiller, Permanent Mission of Senegal to the UN


    Andrew Revkin

    New York Times

  • Conference Room 6, Temporary North Lawn Building, United Nations Headquarters, New York