Embargo: Thursday, March 29, 2012
04:15 EDT / 08:15 GMT / 09:15 British Summer Time
Attached is the final conference statement from the 4-day Planet under
Pressure conference, London.
Live audio stream of the concluding news conference starts at
10:15 GMT (11:15 British Summer Time) , Thursday March 29
Planet Under Pressure conference organizers and experts are also available
for phone interviews.
* * * * *
The State of the Planet Declaration is by the Co-Chairs of the Planet Under
Pressure conference, Dr Lidia Brito and Dr Mark Stafford Smith, supported by
the conference Scientific Organizing Committee.
1. Research now demonstrates that the continued functioning of the Earth
system as it has supported the well-being of human civilization in recent
centuries is at risk. Without urgent action, we could face threats to water,
food, biodiversity and other critical resources: these threats risk
intensifying economic, ecological and social crises, creating the potential
for a humanitarian emergency on a global scale.
2. In one lifetime our increasingly interconnected and interdependent
economic, social, cultural and political systems have come to place
pressures on the environment that may cause fundamental changes in the Earth
system and move us beyond safe natural boundaries. But the same
interconnectedness provides the potential for solutions: new ideas can form
and spread quickly, creating the momentum for the major transformation
required for a truly sustainable planet.
3. The defining challenge of our age is to safeguard Earth’s natural
processes to ensure the well-being of civilization while eradicating
poverty, reducing conflict over resources, and supporting human and
4. As consumption accelerates everywhere and world population rises, it is
no longer sufficient to work towards a distant ideal of sustainable
development. Global sustainability must become a foundation of society. It
can and must be part of the bedrock of nation states and the fabric of
5. The Global Environmental Change Programmes (DIVERSITAS, International
Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, International Human Dimensions Programme on
Global Environmental Change and World Climate Research Programme) with the
International Council for Science convened the Planet Under Pressure: New
Knowledge Towards Solutions conference to assess the state of the planet and
explore solutions to impending global crises. The conference brought
together nearly 3000 leading experts and decision-makers to discuss global
challenges and offer new solutions. And at least 3000 people across the
world participated in the conference online.
A. NEW KNOWLEDGE
6. Humanity has taken a huge leap and become a planetary-scale force.
Significant changes have occurred since the 1950s, and the rate of change is
accelerating. Researchers observe unsafe levels of pollution, ecological
change and resource demand, with potentially catastrophic consequences for
our global civilisation.
7. The past decade has seen the emergence of important areas of new
scientific understanding by which to define what we are witnessing:
* Humanity’s impact on the Earth system has become comparable to
planetary-scale geological processes such as ice ages. Consensus is growing
that we have driven the planet into a new epoch, the Anthropocene, in which
many Earth-system processes and the living fabric of ecosystems are now
dominated by human activities. That the Earth has experienced large-scale,
abrupt changes in the past indicates that it could experience similar
changes in the future. This recognition has led researchers to take the
first step to identify planetary and regional thresholds and boundaries
that, if crossed, could generate unacceptable environmental and social
* The Earth system is a complex, interconnected system that includes the
global economy and society, which are themselves highly interconnected and
interdependent. Such systems can confer remarkable stability and facilitate
rapid innovation. But they are also susceptible to abrupt and rapid changes
and crises, such as global financial meltdowns or the volatility of the
global food system.
* Assessments of current mechanisms for governing global environmental
change show why existing international arrangements are not dealing quickly
enough with current global challenges such as climate change and
biodiversity loss. There is growing evidence that diverse partnerships
amongst local, national and regional governments as well as business and
civil society provide essential safety nets should singular global policies
fail – a polycentric approach for planetary stewardship.
8. These insights from recent research demand a new perception of
responsibilities and accountabilities of nation states to support planetary
stewardship. This requires goals aimed at global sustainability in order to
achieve universal sustainable development. A crucial transformation is to
move away from income as the key constituent of well-being and to develop
new indicators that measure actual improvements in well-being at all scales.
Equity in opportunities to improve well-being and eradication of poverty at
the individual level will also play pivotal roles in the transition towards
B. NEW SOLUTIONS
9. Interconnected issues require interconnected solutions. Rapid scientific
and technological progress can provide potential solutions – if adopted in
timely manner – to reduce the risk of deleterious consequences for societies
everywhere. But technological innovation alone will not be enough. We can
transform our values, beliefs and aspirations towards sustainable
10. Research plays a significant role in monitoring change, determining
thresholds, developing new technologies and processes, and providing
solutions. The international global-change research community proposes a new
contract between science and society in recognition that science must inform
policy to make more wise and timely decisionsand that innovation should be
informed by diverse local needs and conditions. This contract needs to
encompass three elements:
* Integrated goals for global sustainability based on scientific evidence
are needed to provide essential targets for societies. In support of this,
the international scientific community calls for a framework for regular
global sustainability analyses that link existing assessments that build on
the foundations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and other
ongoing efforts. Such analyses can be designed to bring coherence to the
* The challenges facing a planet under pressure demand a new approach to
research that is more integrative, international and solutions-oriented. We
need to link high-quality focused scientific research to new policy-relevant
interdisciplinary efforts for global sustainability. This research must
integrate across existing research programmes and disciplines, across all
domains of research as well as local knowledge systems, across the North and
South, and must be co-designed and implemented with input from governments,
civil society, research funders, and the private sector. As part of this new
collaboration, at this conference the global-environmental-change programmes
support a major research initiative, Future Earth: research for global
* New mechanisms to facilitate an interactive dialogue on global
sustainability among the various stakeholders and the policy-making
community at different scales. Such interactions should be designed to bring
societal relevance and trust to science-policy interfaces, and more
effectively inform decision-making to keep pace with rapid global change.
11. To these ends, the initiatives above must be supported by:
* A greater commitment to fund and support capacity-building in
science and education globally, and particularly in developing countries.
* A strong commitment to both applied and pure research and increased
efforts to bring together disciplines, across all research domains.
* Strengthened support for observing systems, particularly in
developing countries, including the new observations needed to support
decision-making for global sustainability. New approaches should fully
integrate global observing systems for environmental and social issues.
* Continued exploration of new areas of knowledge, such as theoretical
and applied research in behavioural science and economics addressing
ecological and social tipping points and irreversibility at multiple levels.
C. NEW OPPORTUNITIES: SCIENCE IN SUPPORT OF RIO+20
12. The United Nations Rio+20 Conference is an opportunity the world must
seize at this crucial juncture. The UN Secretary-General’s Global
Sustainability Panel report, Resilient People, Resilient Planet, provides a
strong strategic framework for a sustainable future while calling for a
marked strengthening of the interface between science and policy. The
findings of the Planet Under Pressure conference support the key
* Fundamental reorientation and restructuring of national and international
institutions is required to overcome barriers to progress and to move to
effective Earth-system governance. Governments must take action to support
institutions and mechanisms that will improve coherence, as well as bring
about integrated policy and action across the social, economic and
environmental pillars. Current understanding supports the creation of a
Sustainable Development Council within the UN system to integrate social,
economic and environmental policy at the global level. There is also strong
support for strengthening global governance by including civil society,
business and industry in decision-making at all levels.
* A commitment to the proposal for universal Sustainable Development Goals
is needed, as goals for Global Sustainability. Theseshould be developed to
take account of the synergies and trade-offs in and between areas such as
food, water and energy security, maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem
services, sustainable urbanisation, social inclusion and livelihoods,
protection of seas and oceans, and sustainable consumption and production.
The research community should be involved in the development of goals,
targets and indicators, recognising interconnected issues and building on
existing measures of well-being. They should apply to all levels of
* Recognition of the monetary and non-monetary values of public goods such
as ecosystem services, education, health and global common resources such as
the oceans and the atmosphere. These must be properly factored into
management and decision-making frameworks at the national and sub-national
levels to ensure that economic activities do not impose external costs on
the global commons. Corrective measures that internalize costs and minimize
the impacts on the commons need to be identified and implemented through
regulatory and market-based mechanisms.
2012: A DEFINING MOMENT IN HISTORY
13. Our highly interconnected global society has the potential to innovate
rapidly. The Planet Under Pressure conference has taken advantage of this
potential to explore new pathways. It has marked a new direction for global
change research. The international scientific community must rapidly
reorganize to focus on global sustainability solutions. We must develop a
new strategy for creating and rapidly translating knowledge into action,
which will form part of a new contract between science and society, with
commitments from both sides.
14. Society is taking substantial risks by delaying urgent and large-scale
action. We must show leadership at all levels. We must all play our parts.
A strong contribution from all stakeholders should make the UN’s Rio+20
conference a defining moment that sparks global innovation to move us
towards a sustainable future. We urge the world to grasp this moment and
London, 29th March 2012
* * * * *
For more information:
Planet under Pressure conference (London, UK, March 26-29):
Planet under Pressure has convened specialists from physical, natural,
health and social sciences, the humanities and engineering and technology;
international policy making, NGOs, industry and development. It offers an
important forum to consolidate these relationships and discuss the future.
The conference includes 160 breakout sessions and plenaries on a daily
theme: 1) the state of the planet, 2) options and opportunities, 3) barriers
to progress, and 4) the way forward: a conference statement offering an
interdisciplinary, interconnected perspective on creating a sustainable
All 160+ breakout sessions: planetunderpressure2012.net/sessions.asp
Full conference programme: planetunderpressure2012.net/programme.asp
Follow events online at planetunderpressure2012.net:
Live streaming of each day’s plenaries and news conferences;
A daily 60-minute broadcast of highlights, including interviews with
high-level plenary speakers, topic features and more, anchored by Julian
Rush, former Science & Environment Correspondent, UK Channel 4 News.
The Royal Society, UK
Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) programme http://www.nerc.ac.uk/
The International Council for Science
Planet under Pressure Conference Organizers
International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme IGBP provides essential
international scientific leadership and knowledge of the Earth system to
help guide society onto a sustainable pathway during rapid global change.
By linking biology, ecology and social sciences, DIVERSITAS produces
socially relevant new knowledge to support sustainable use of biodiversity.
International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change IHDP
provides international leadership in framing, developing and integrating
social science research on global environmental change, and promotes key
findings of this research to help address these challenges.
World Climate Research Programme
WCRP improves climate predictions and our understanding of human influence
on climate through observations and modeling of the Earth system and the
policy-relevant assessment of climate conditions.
Earth System Science Partnership
ESSP is a partnership of the four international global change programmes. It
is an integrated study of the Earth System, the ways that it is changing,
and the implications for global and regional sustainability.
Scientific sponsor of the conference: International Council for Science.
The International Council for Science (ICSU) is a non-governmental body with
a global membership of national scientific bodies (120 Members, representing
140 countries) and International Scientific Unions (31 Members). Its mission
is to strengthen international science for the benefit of society.