Future Earth newsletter - October 2012

Future Earth newsletter - October 2012

Welcome to the first Future Earth newsletter! With this quarterly newsletter we will keep you up to date with the latest news from the initiative.

Future Earth is a new 10-year international research initiative that will develop the knowledge for responding effectively to the risks and opportunities of global environmental change and for supporting transformation towards global sustainability in the coming decades.

Future Earth Transition Team proposes three research themes at final meeting in Paris

The Transition Team, responsible for the initial design of Future Earth, met in Paris on 20-21 September to agree on the broad outlines of recommendations for the research framework, governance, stakeholder engagement and communications strategy. In the wake of Rio+20, the Team also agreed on the importance of strategically positioning Future Earth in the science-policy landscape, as a key science provider for the definition of Sustainable Development Goals.

Discussion of the overall research framework of Future Earth was informed by early responses from Scientific Committees of Global Environmental Change Programmes and projects during the month of September. The Team agreed on a conceptual framework and a set of three broad themes for the development of integrated research for global sustainability:

  • Dynamic PlanetTransition Team group photo
    Observing, explaining, projecting Earth and societal system trends, drivers and processes, and their interactions; anticipating global thresholds.
  • Global Development
    Providing the knowledge for sustainable, secure and fair stewardship of food, water, health, energy, materials and other ecosystem services.
  • Transformation towards Sustainability
    Understanding and evaluating strategies for governing and managing the global environment across scales and sectors, to move towards a sustainable Future Earth.
The Transition Team will continue to test their thinking against further consultation responses.

Consultations will resume at a series of upcoming events, including three regional workshops held in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and a meeting with project representatives to be held in Paris at the end of November.

The Transition Team, which began its work in June 2011, will deliver an initial design report at the end of the year to guide the development of the initiative. It is expected that nominations for the Scientific Committee of Future Earth will open in November with a view to the body being appointed by April 2013. The Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability, including the International Council for Science (ICSU), International Social Science Council (ISSC), Belmont Forum, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and United Nations University (UNU), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) as observer, will provide interim governance until Future Earth is fully operational in 2014.

Upcoming regional workshops

Future Earth seeks to provide knowledge at multiple scales - global, regional and local – and to address the connections among these scales. The Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability which is establishing Future Earth is keen to seek inputs which can drive regional partnerships and engage a broad range of stakeholders. The International Council for Science (ICSU) will organize an initial series of three regional workshops in Cape Town (31 October-2 November 2012), Kuala Lumpur (21-23 November 2012) and Mexico City (3-4 December 2012). Options to organize meetings in the Middle East and Europe are still in planning.
The main objective of the workshops, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), is to engage regional stakeholders in the design of the initiative. Discussion will focus on issues such as how to link research priorities with regional development challenges, how to implement Future Earth in the regions, and the global research framework.
Each workshop will bring together around fifty regional scientists, development actors, funders and educators working on global and regional environmental change across disciplines. Key questions will include:

  • What are the main development challenges of the region which could benefit from integrated and solutions-oriented research?
  • How can Future Earth help you deliver on your priorities and needs?
  • What are the options to implement Future Earth and strengthen integrated and solutions-oriented Earth system research in the region?

The recommendations from these workshops will inform the strategic priorities of the Transition Team and the to-be-appointed Scientific Committee of Future Earth, to ensure that the regional perspective is firmly embedded in the overall strategy of Future Earth.

IGFA/Belmont Forum meeting

The International Group of Funding Agencies (IGFA) [1] which has supported the international GEC programmes since the 1990s, and its Council of Principals, the Belmont Forum [2], met in Stockholm in October. Also present at the meeting were the GEC programme secretariats - Diversitas, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP), the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) as well as the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research (APN), the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) and START, the global change System for Analysis, Research and Training.

The IGFA/Belmont Forum was asked, as a member of the Alliance, to prepare for the transition to Future Earth by scaling up research funds for the new initiative. A “Future Earth Funding Strategy” will therefore be developed in close collaboration with the GEC programmes and projects, as well as the GEC regional networks, leading to a shared vision and roadmap. This will help key GEC actors and funders to organize national and regional “Future Earth Funders’ meetings” to ensure a smooth transition to Future Earth in 2014.
A series of funding mechanisms were discussed from secretariat support to basic research. The new International Opportunity Fund, launched in April 2012 by the Belmont Forum, was endorsed as a flexible and effective tool to support Collaborative Research Actions (CRAs) across funding agencies and countries [3]. CRAs can provide support for the types of activities that Future Earth will undertake, such as networking, clustering, emergent research, capacity building, training and engaging new disciplines and users of scientific knowledge. The meeting highlighted the need for broader participation of funding agencies, within and beyond current IGFA members, in the scoping of a second round of CRAs in 2013.
IGFA members were keen to support interdisciplinary research projects, as well as interactions between environmental and development research. A workshop dedicated to linking GEC and development issues and strategies will be held in Africa in 2013.

[1] IGFA gathers about 20 funding agencies from 15 countries.
[2] The Belmont Forum was created in 2009 by key G7 and BRICS funding agencies.
[3] The 2012 call has attracted around 130 pre-proposals, involving more than one thousand partners from around 50 countries.

Upcoming events

31 Oct - 2 Nov 2012 Future Earth - Africa Regional Workshop Cape Town
21 - 23 Nov 2012 Future Earth - Asia Regional Workshop Kuala Lumpur
26 Nov - 7 Dec 2012 COP 18 Doha
28 - 29 Nov 2012 Meeting with GEC programmes and projects representatives Paris
3 - 4 Dec 2012 Future Earth - Latin America and Caribbean Regional Workshop Mexico City
6 Dec 2012 Future Earth Town Hall at the AGU Fall meeting San Francisco
21 - 26 Jan 2013 1st IPBES Plenary Meeting, Bonn Bonn
16 Feb 2013 Future Earth symposium at AAAS annual meeting Boston

Videos and photos

Please go to our brand new Future Earth YouTube channel to see the latest videos from the Transition Team meeting in Paris: www.youtube.com/FutureEarthVideo.

Photos from the 4th Transition Team meeting

Transition Team meeting  Transition Team meeting  Transition Team meeting

For more information, go to www.future-earth-research.org

Future Earth is being established by a partnership for global sustainability including researchers, funders and users of knowledge. The Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability currently comprises:
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2012 International Council for Science