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Highlights of the State of the Planet Declaration

The International Council for Science was a sponsor of Planet Under Pressure, a four-day conference in London which brought together more than 3,000 experts to assess the state of the planet and explore solutions to impending social and environmental crises. At the close of the conference, a final declaration was issued, with a view to informing the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in June, 2012.

Highlights of the declaration:


  • The defining challenge of our age is to safeguard Earth’s natural resources;
  • Consensus is growing that we have driven the planet into a new epoch, the Anthropocene, in which many Earth-system processes are dominated by human activities;
  • The Earth system is a complex, interconnected system that includes the global economy and society. Such systems are susceptible to abrupt and rapid changes and crises, such as global financial meltdowns or food price volatility;
  • Existing governance mechanisms for global environmental change are not keeping pace with climate change and biodiversity loss, and should make way for a polycentric approach to planetary stewardship, such as diverse partnerships among local, national and regional governments, business and civil society.


  • Interconnected issues require interconnected solutions;
  • A new contract between science and society which comprises a framework for regular global sustainability analyses to bring coherence to the science-policy interface, a new approach to research which is integrative, international and solutions-oriented and new mechanisms to faciliate interactive dialogue on global sustainability;
  • The challenges facing a planet under pressure demand a new approach to research that is more integrative, international and solutions-oriented. We need to link high-quality focused scientific research to new policy-relevant interdisciplinary efforts for global sustainability. This research must integrate across existing research programmes and disciplines, across all domains of research as well as local knowledge systems, across the North and South, and must be co-designed and implemented with input from governments, civil society, research funders, and the private sector. As part of this new collaboration, at this conference the global-environmental-change programmes support a major research initiative, Future Earth: research for global sustainability.

Society is taking substantial risks by delaying urgent and large-scale action. We must show leadership at all levels. We must all play our parts. A strong contribution from all stakeholders should make the UN’s Rio+20 conference a defining moment that sparks global innovation to move us towards a sustainable future. We urge the world to grasp this moment and make history.

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