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Published: September 1, 2010

Major global sustainability conference focusing on solutions announced

Press release |

The UK has successfully bid to host a major international science conference in 2012. The London conference, Planet Under Pressure: new knowledge, new solutions, aims to attract 2500 of the world's leading thinkers on global-change research.

Chief scientific advisor: Elinor Ostrom
Co-chairs: Mark Stafford Smith (CSIRO), Lidia Brito (UNESCO)

The UK will host a major international science conference in 2012. The London conference, Planet Under Pressure: new knowledge towards solutions, aims to attract 2500 of the world's leading thinkers on global-change research.

The four-day conference is sponsored by the International Council for Science's (ICSU) global environmental change research programmes. It will bring together natural, physical and social scientists, together with economists. It will also involve  engineers, health specialists and many others disciplines, plus with national and international policymakers, industry representatives, technologists, NGOs and development experts.

The conference, 26-29 March 2012, will take two months prior to the next UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, scheduled for May 2012. Presenting the latest research findings, the London conference is anticipated to provide a solid scientific foundation for the summit.

The conference has been initiated by ICSU's International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). IGBP Executive Director, Professor Sybil Seitzinger says, "We need a planetary conference focusing on solutions."

"We need to set research priorities that fully integrate diverse groups of people. We need to communicate a comprehensive picture of the state of the planet and its future to the institutions charged with global environmental stewardship. We will work with these institutions to help develop a planetary management approach that tackles all the challenges in a truly integrated way," she added.

An overarching aim of the conference will be to discuss solutions to two challenges: what will it take to make food, energy and water accessible to nine billion people in a way that is sustainable? And, what inevitable environmental changes must we prepare for?

In the UK, the conference will be hosted by the Royal Society, the Living With Environmental Change programme (LWEC, which represents all the UK's main agencies and government departments tackling environmental change) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK's largest funder of environmental science.

Professor Lorna Casselton, Foreign Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society, said: "It is a tribute to the quality of UK science that London has been chosen as a venue for the conference.  The Royal Society is dedicated to building international links within the science community and is therefore delighted to be hosting an event that will bring together such a wide range of specialists from around the globe to address many of the big challenges of our time."

Director of Living with Environmental Change, Professor Andrew Watkinson, said, "An overarching aim of the conference will be to discuss solutions to the environmental challenges we face. We need to find ways to increase the speed with which we move to a low carbon society and ensure food, water and energy security for the billions of people across the globe in a changing world.  The Living with Environmental Change partners are already addressing these critical issues, so I am very pleased that we are co-hosting the 2012 conference, which I am sure will become a catalyst for more innovative research collaborations to address the needs of society."

The conference follows the influential 2001 Amsterdam Open Science Conference. That conference led to the Amsterdam Declaration, a defining moment in the development of Earth system science and indeed the launch of the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP). The declaration acknowledges the Earth as a single system comprised of physical, chemical, biological and human - or socioeconomic - components. It stated that the accelerating human transformation of the Earth's environment is not sustainable and it led to new approaches to delivering global environmental science.

Since the 2001 conference, new science has emerged about the scale, speed and unprecedented nature of environmental change caused by growing human demands. By 2012, the scientific community wants to be working more closely with governments, international policymakers, industry and society at large to address these challenges. The conference will offer an important forum to consolidate these relationships and discuss the future.

Notes for editors

More information:

Owen Gaffney
Director of communications
International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme
Tel: +46 86739556
Mob: +46 730208418
Skype: owengaffneyigbp

Alice Henchley, Senior Press Officer
Royal Society
Tel. +44 (0)20 7451 2514
Email: alice.henchley@royalsociety.org

Ruth Welters, Communications Specialist
Living with Environmental Change
Tel. office: +44 (0)1603 593906; mob: +44 (0)7780 993084
Email: ruth.welters@lwec.org.uk

Marion O'Sullivan, Senior PressOfficer
Natural Environment Research Council
Tel. +44 (0)1793 411561; mob. +44 (0)7917 086369
Email: pressoffice@nerc.ac.uk

1. International Council for Science
The International Council for Science (ICSU) is a non-governmental organisation representing a global membership that includes both national scientific bodies (117 members) and international scientific unions (30 members). ICSU sponsors the four leading international global environmental-change programmes:  DIVERSITAS (an international biodiversity programme), the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) and the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP).

DIVERSITAS - an international biodiversity programme (www.diversitas-international.org)
International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (www.ihdp.unu.edu)
International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (www.igbp.net)
World Climate Research Programme (www.wcrp-climate.org)
The four Programmes form the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP).

2. The Royal Society
The Royal Society is an independent academy promoting the natural and applied sciences. Founded in 1660, the Society has three roles, as the UK academy of science, as a learned Society, and as a funding agency. It responds to individual demand with selection by merit, not by field. As we celebrate our 350th anniversary in 2010, we are working to achieve five strategic priorities, to:

    * Invest in future scientific leaders and in innovation
    * Influence policymaking with the best scientific advice
    * Invigorate science and mathematics education
    * Increase access to the best science internationally
    * Inspire an interest in the joy, wonder and excitement of scientific discovery

More information: www.royalsociety.org

3. The Living with Environmental Change
The Living with Environmental Change programme is a partnership of 20 UK organisations that fund, carry out and use environmental research, including the Research Councils, government departments, devolved administrations and delivery agencies. For more details of the partner organisations and accredited activities, see www.lwec.org.uk

4. The Natural Environment Research Council
The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is the UK's main agency for funding and managing world-class research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. It coordinates some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on earth, and much more.  NERC science is delivered under seven themes, namely Climate system; Biodiversity; Sustainable use of natural resources;  Earth system science;  Natural hazards;  Environment, pollution and human health; and Technologies. www.nerc.ac.uk

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