The Earth Commission laid out its approach to defining a “safe and just corridor for people and planet” in a paper published today in Earth’s Future.

The Earth Commission, an international group comprising renowned scientists from around the world, has outlined a challenging and fundamental core framework for their work. In a paper published in Earth’s Future, the Commissioners lay out their conceptualization of a “safe and just” future for people and planet. The “safe and just corridor” framework will assist the Earth Commission in quantifying what conditions for the planet’s systems avoid dangerous tipping points and ensure just sharing of risk, responsibilities and resources for all.

“IIASA is supporting the Earth Commission through assessment and modeling of the safe and just development pathways for people and the planet by integrating complex interlinkages and feedbacks among Earth and human systems”, explains IIASA Emeritus Research Scholar Nebojsa Nakicenovic, a coauthor of the paper who also co-leads one of the Commission’s working groups.  

The Earth Commission considers how all of Earth’s biological and physical systems interact, with consideration of justice for people that rely on these systems.

“Put simply, ‘safe’ means not transgressing the limits of the planet’s systems on which we rely,” said Dahe Qin, a cryosphere specialist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in Lanzhou, China, and a co-chair of the Earth Commission. “That means we need intact ice at the poles and mountain glaciers. It means that we don’t put too much nitrogen or phosphorus into natural waters, so that ecosystems can still function to support a stable and resilient planet.”

“At the same time, we need to see if the safe targets are also ‘just’ and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Joyeeta Gupta, a co-chair of the Earth Commission and professor at the University of Amsterdam. “Our two dimensions of ‘just’ cover ‘harm’ and ‘access’. Given current inequalities, it is possible that meeting the needs of all may lead to transgressing the safe limits, for example, when it comes to land use or nitrogen and phosphorus releases to the environment. At the same time, safe limits from a biophysical perspective may not be safe enough for all people on our planet.”

The Earth Commission assessment of planetary thresholds, due to be published in 2022, will underpin the setting of science-based targets for cities, corporations and governments to ensure the protection of the planet’s safe operating environment. The Earth Commission is hosted by Future Earth, and is a part of the Global Commons Alliance, which works to create a network of actors across many scales to protect the global commons -- the resources all humans need to survive and thrive, shared across the planet --including the implementation of science-based targets.

“Humans are central to the limits and targets. We are taking the decisions that are driving global change and that determine our development pathway,” says Kristie Ebi, an Earth Commissioner and professor at the University of Washington (USA). “Human behavioral choices, dietary choices, to voting, affect planetary systems and affect a just corridor. Understanding these complex, multidirectional interconnections and interactions across physical climate, ecosystems, and human systems, including synergies and trade-offs is critical.”

Ebi says that the Earth Commission report, due to be published in 2022, will be one of the first to put humans at the forefront in a safe and just transition, while addressing the limits of our planet.

“We are pushing the planet too close to tipping points and threatening livelihoods of people across the world. A solution is to scientifically define safe and just targets for human development on a stable and resilient planet. The Earth Commission makes the first attempt of addressing this urgent challenge,” said Johan Rockström, a co-chair of the Earth Commission, first author of the paper, and Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

“The Earth Commission brings together natural and social scientists to integrate justice for the first time into the definition of targets for a stable Earth system for people and planet. The work answers the clarion call from businesses and cities for putting science behind the setting of targets for the global commons: our oceans, land, biodiversity and water, etc.,” said Wendy Broadgate, Global Hub Director-Sweden for Future Earth, hosts of the Earth Commission.

Adapted from a press release prepared by Future Earth.

 

Reference:

Rockström, J., Gupta, J., Lenton, T.M., Qin, D., Lade, S.J., Abrams, J.F., Jacobson, L., Rocha, J.C., Zimm, C., et al. (2021). Identifying a safe and just corridor for people and the planet. Earth’s Future DOI: 10.1029/2020EF001866

News

Morocco West Africa

28 February 2024

A reliable food supply in West Africa requires smarter planning for low-yield events

Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) aims to create a world free of hunger. Africa is not making enough progress towards achieving this target with about 20% of the population experiencing ongoing hunger. In a new study, IIASA researchers developed a model to demonstrate how the reliability of food supply in West Africa can be enhanced in a cost-effective way by accounting for low-yield events.
Madagascar farmers

26 February 2024

Prosocial preferences can provide better risk management for smallholder farming communities amid rising climate risks

Research conducted by scientists from IIASA and Princeton University suggests that a combination of insurance subsidies and policies that promote “prosocial preferences” ― decision-making preferences that account for community wellbeing ― can help facilitate optimal climate risk management and reduce economic losses.     
Dreamstime_Co2

08 February 2024

IIASA research informs the European Commission's recommendation for 90% greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2040

The European Commission set an ambitious mid-term target, supported by an extensive Impact Assessment, paving the way to climate neutrality by 2050.