Earth Commission Milestone Reached – First Assessment Submitted

In June 2022 the Earth Commission achieved some important milestones: Its first major papers were submitted to high impact, scientific journals. Publication and launch of the results will depend on the peer review process, but is anticipated to take place in early 2023.

During the last two years, the Earth Commission and its working groups have performed an extensive assessment to identify safe and just Earth system boundaries for climate, biosphere (natural ecosystem area and functional integrity), freshwater (blue water and ground water), nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and air pollution.

While the safe boundaries are designed to preserve a stable planet and to avoid tipping points in the Earth system, the just boundaries are based on a novel framework for Earth system justice and designed to minimse harm to humans. This means that a just boundary may need to be set at a more stringent level, as serious harm can occur long before the Earth system is destabilised. For instance, many people are experiencing significant harm already at the current level of global warming, and in many parts of the world they are already suffering from pollution.

To achieve a safe and just world, all people need to be granted access to resources for a dignified life or escape from poverty. The Earth Commission quantifies such access levels and the impact they would have on the Earth system. These access levels form the foundation of a safe and just corridor, while the Earth system boundaries constitutes the ceiling. To stay within this corridor, radical transformations are needed – and a portfolio of such transformations is proposed.

In order to operationalise the Earth system boundaries – to make a real change in the world – they have to be made actionable for relevant actors. As a part of the assessment, methods to downscale and translate global boundaries to businesses and cities have been reviewed. This translation step is crucial for the development of Science Based Targets for the Global Commons, that are being developed by Science Based Targets Network – a partner organisation within the Global Commons Alliance.

The work will be presented in one high impact article, one longer report style paper, and a series of working group led papers with the underpinning analyses.