Launched in 2015, Future Earth is a 10-year initiative to advance Global Sustainability Science, build capacity in this rapidly expanding area of research and provide an international research agenda to guide natural and social scientists working around the world. But it is also a platform for international engagement to ensure that knowledge is generated in partnership with society and users of science.
Future Earth builds on more than three decades of global environmental change research through the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), DIVERSITAS and the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP). IGBP, Diversitas and IHDP were merged into Future Earth. In 2012, the scientific conference Planet Under Pressure, sponsored by the global environmental change programmes, called for a new approach to research to address mounting pressure on the Earth system and the urgent need to seek global sustainability solutions. The conference declaration called for a new approach to research that is more integrative, international and solutions-oriented, reaches across existing research programmes and disciplines and has input from governments, civil society, local knowledge, research funders and the private sector.
This call was echoed in the Rio+20 declaration and the United Nations Secretary General’s Global Sustainability Panel report, with the latter calling for a major global scientific initiative to strengthen the interface between policy and science. The design phase of Future Earth was led by a committee, the “Transition Team”, comprised of seventeen people from a wide range of disciplines and countries, and also included ex-officio members representing the main partners of the Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability, which included the ISC’s predecessor organisations ICSU and ISSC. The Alliance transitioned into what is today called the Future Earth Governing Council.
⭐ The ISC and Future Earth
Future Earth is sponsored and governed by the Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability comprising the International Science Council (ISC), the Belmont Forum of funding agencies, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations University (UNU), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Along with the other co-sponsors, the ISC contributes to the development and approves strategy and activity plans, as well as associated budgets. The ISC also establishes and appoints international steering/advisory committees, with the possibility for ISC members to submit nominations as part of the process. The ISC is also in charge of reviewing Future Earth, defining review terms of reference, appointing review panel members, and funding ISC representatives.
Photo by Robert Simmon on Visible Earth, NASA