ESG Conference 2022: Governing accelerated transitions

Photo: ESG Project Team at the Conference

ESG Scientific Steering Committee. Photo by Dave Chan.

In October the Earth System Governance conference took place in Toronto and addressed may questions at the interface between global environmental change and governance.

Around 500 social scientists convened for the hybrid 13th instalment of the Earth System Governance (ESG) annual conference, that took place at the University of Toronto, Canada, from 20 to 24 October. Under the conference theme “Governing accelerated transitions: justice, creativity, and power in a transforming world”, and joined by a strong research delegation from IDOS, the participants addressed a plethora of questions for both the environmental governance and sustainable development research community, as well as for policy-makers. What transition processes yield sustainable outcomes in key areas of global development like food, energy, biodiversity, equity and poverty reduction? What makes transitions just – for whom, by whom and how? Which challenges and opportunities are faced by policy makers that seek to advance just and sustainable transitions? How do distinct governance arenas and policy sectors interrelate with each other? What are the most promising tools for policy-makers? Which institutions can be expected to deliver, and under what conditions?

For example, the inherently political nature of just transitions and, indeed, the cross-cutting relevance of energy policy was at the heart of the conference keynote by Tzeporah Berman, chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative. Insisting on “reason for hope in a world on fire” in spite of powerful adversaries engaging in cynicism and outright obstruction, she set a daring, yet constructive tone for the conference. Rather than merely clinging to hope for global change, she called upon the research community to be courageous in communicating inconvenient evidence-based truths to decision-makers. Indeed, Berman’s keynote represented the spirit with which the 2022 ESG conference, even during these especially fraught times, provided qualified reasons for sustaining optimism: not only is a global transformation towards sustainability possible, but immediate steps can be taken now in the imminent climate negotiations, to advance just transitions.

Read more on main takeaways of the 2022 ESG Conference in the Current Column of 26 October 2022.

About the ESG Project

The Earth System Governance Project is a global, interdisciplinary research network that aims to advance knowledge at the interface between global environmental change and governance. The network connects and mobilises scholars from the social sciences and humanities researching at local and global scales. The German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS) is one of the ESG Project’s institutional members and Research Centres.

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