Our Story

Our Story


In September 2009, one of the world’s leading academic journals, Nature, published a seminal article entitled “A Safe Operating Space for Humanity”, which introduced the concept of Planetary Boundaries. The article, written by the co-founders of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Johan Rockström and Carl Folke, along with an international team of scientists, concluded three boundaries had been crossed relating to climate, biodiversity and the biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus.


In October 2009, the Nobel Committee awarded Elinor Ostrom the Nobel Prize for economics for her work in identifying principles for effective management of common resources, research of direct importance for managing the global commons. Ostrom, who died in 2012, was a US political scientist and board member of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.


The Global Environment Facility commissioned two scientific organizations, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and the Stockholm Resilience Centre, to produce a report on the global commons in the Anthropocene. In the same year scientists announced a fourth planetary boundary relating to deforestation had been transgressed.


The report, The Global Commons in the Anthropocene: World Development on a Stable and Resilient Planet, was published in November at an event convened in Washington DC by the Global Environment Facility. The report concluded that a stable, resilient planet is a critical global commons, but in the Anthropocene this stability and resilience is now at risk. All interconnected systems that support this stability and resilience should be considered global commons and protected. The event brought together leaders from business, science, advocacy, the media and policy. It focused minds on the urgent need to safeguard the global commons and the need to adopt new thinking and approaches to scale action.


Naoki Ishii, the leader of the Global Environment Facility, presented the global commons on the TED stage.


In June 2019, the Global Commons Alliance was launched at the EcoProsperity event in Singapore. The Earth Commission, the scientific arm of the Global Commons Alliance, was launched. The Science Based Targets Network, which provides a platform for cities and businesses to adopt targets for all global commons, was launched. The network identified the initial global commons upon which to focus: biodiversity, climate, land, ocean and water.


Over 50 organisations are now part of the alliance. The first guidance for businesses to prepare for targets for all global commons was published. A major media partnership with Now This to create Now This Earth was launched. Systems Change Lab was launched to monitor, learn from and advance transformational change.


The GCA underwent a strategy development process and transitioned to GCA 2.0 with a new governance structure and strategic direction in place. The Global Commons Alliance Accountability Accelerator was established.


GCA 2.0 is based on strong governance and leadership, a robust integration plan between the components, and the right teams with the necessary resources in place to deliver innovative products. Jane Madgwick is appointed GCA’s first ever Executive Director.

Read more about GCA’s orign story in Founder Patrick Frick’s words.

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