Science for society

Below is the introduction to our latest newsletter. To read newsletters in full, sign up now or subscribe on Linkedin.

Dear Planetary Steward, Dear friend of the Global Commons Alliance,

The Earth Commission, GCA’s scientific cornerstone, has announced the start of its second major scientific assessment, which will refine and expand on the Safe and Just boundaries and quantify  boundaries for new domains such as ‘Novel Entities’ (including toxic substances) and the Ocean. It is exciting that this new phase of work will also increase the Earth Commission’s focus on the transformations necessary across all of society in order to move toward the Safe and Just space, including the most promising levers of change and underlying governance and economic requirements. This hugely significant work is going to enable us to move with more certainty from science to action.

Earth Commissioners

Earth Commissioners

I join the whole Alliance in welcoming Prof. Fatima Denton, Director of the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) and holder of the Prince Claus Chair in Equity and Development at Utrecht University on Just Transitions. Prof. Denton has joined Prof. Johan Rockström as Co-chair of the Commission, alongside a renewed cohort of natural and social scientists who bring insights and experience from a wide range of geographies and cultures. Prof. Denton, commenting on her appointment, said she is “honored to be joining the Earth Commission as it continues in its mission of science for society. It is a critical time. Many people across the world are already living in the Earth System Boundaries’ danger zone.”

The intensifying danger zone of extreme heat that threatens humanity was highlighted last week in a global summit held by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Heat is seen as a ‘silent killer’ compared to other extreme weather events like floods, storms and wildfires with clearly linked fatalities. Last year was the hottest year in history, with 3.8 billion people – half the world’s population – suffering in extreme heat for at least one day. A Global Sprint of Action on Extreme Heat was launched at the summit to help countries increase their resilience.

Meanwhile, the world’s fossil-fuel producers are on track to quadruple the extracted oil and gas from new projects by the end of this decade. Big banks are backtracking on their climate commitments despite demand from shareholders, and the planet’s biodiversity, nutrient cycles and freshwater systems have shifted well beyond the Safe and Just boundaries, which is undermining Earth’s resilience and having devastating, direct impacts on nature and human well-being. Soon I will be heading to Kuala Lumpur for the Planetary Health Summit 2024, to gather with experts and practitioners to define a call to action – setting out exactly how we can bust the silos and work together across the health, humanitarian and environment sectors for a healthier society, linked to a healthier planet.

Transforming the way our economies work is going to be critical, so I’m also delighted to see that Systems Change Lab (SCL), another key component of GCA, is launching the Circular Economy system on its data platform this week.  The data highlights severe inequalities in resource use and extraction alongside major challenges inherent in trying to shift away from our current consumption patterns to close the loop. The six shifts covered by SCL are shown below:

Circular Economy

In 2022, 26% of the world population living in the highest per capita material footprint countries consumed 55% of the global share. Inequitable resource use deserves far more attention as a root cause of the polycrisis, which is why the Earth Commission’s second assessment is so crucial – to guide how actors can best combine interventions for safe and just outcomes.

Last week I spent time with GCA’s core team, who gathered in the Netherlands for an important strategy workshop. We had the opportunity to reflect on stakeholder advice regarding upcoming challenges and opportunities for GCA. We also welcomed our two newest – and brilliant – team members: Alejandra Piazzolla Ramirez and Mira-Bai Simon (pictured below right), who bring new energy and expertise to our work.

GCA team

We look forward to putting our ideas into action and sharing them with you very soon.

With all my best wishes,


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