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Published: October 26, 2012

Future Earth proposes 3 research themes at final meeting

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Future Earth

News |
The team responsible for the initial design of the new Future Earth initiative met in Paris on 20-21 September to agree on the broad outlines of recommendations for the research framework, governance, stakeholder engagement and communications strategy. In the wake of Rio+20, the Team also agreed on the importance of strategically positioning Future Earth in the science-policy landscape, as a key science provider for the definition of Sustainable Development Goals.
Discussion of the overall research framework of Future Earth was informed by early responses from Scientific Committees of Global Environmental Change Programmes and projects during the month of September. The Team agreed on a conceptual framework and a set of three broad themes for the development of integrated research for global sustainability:

Dynamic planet


Observing, explaining, projecting Earth and societal system trends, drivers and processes, and their interactions; anticipating global thresholds.

Global development


Providing the knowledge for sustainable, secure and fair stewardship of food, water, health, energy, materials and other ecosystem services.

Transformation towards sustainability


Understanding and evaluating strategies for governing and managing the global environment across scales and sectors, to move towards a sustainable Future Earth.

The Transition Team will continue to test their thinking against further consultation responses.

Consultations will resume at a series of upcoming events, including three regional workshops held in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and a meeting with project representatives to be held in Paris at the end of November.

The Transition Team, which began its work in June 2011, will deliver an initial design report at the end of the year to guide the development of the initiative. It is expected that nominations for the Scientific Committee of Future Earth will open in November with a view to the body being appointed by April 2013. The Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability, including the International Council for Science (ICSU), International Social Science Council (ISSC), Belmont Forum, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and United Nations University (UNU), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as observer, will provide interim governance until Future Earth is fully operational in 2014.

Upcoming regional workshops

Future Earth seeks to provide knowledge at multiple scales - global, regional and local – and to address the connections among these scales. The Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability which is establishing Future Earth is keen to seek inputs which can drive regional partnerships and engage a broad range of stakeholders. The International Council for Science (ICSU) will organize an initial series of three regional workshops in Cape Town (31 October-2 November 2012), Kuala Lumpur (21-23 November 2012) and Mexico City (3-4 December 2012). Options to organize meetings in the Middle East and Europe are still in planning.

The main objective of the workshops, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), is to engage regional stakeholders in the design of the initiative. Discussion will focus on issues such as how to link research priorities with regional development challenges, how to implement Future Earth in the regions, and the global research framework.

Each workshop will bring together around fifty regional scientists, development actors, funders and educators working on global and regional environmental change across disciplines. Key questions will include:

What are the main development challenges of the region which could benefit from integrated and solutions-oriented research?

How can Future Earth help you deliver on your priorities and needs?

What are the options to implement Future Earth and strengthen integrated and solutions-oriented Earth system research in the region?

The recommendations from these workshops will inform the strategic priorities of the Transition Team and the to-be-appointed Scientific Committee of Future Earth, to ensure that the regional perspective is firmly embedded in the overall strategy of Future Earth.

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