Scientists and policy-makers discuss Planetary Boundaries

03/04/2016 - How can humankind limit global environmental change and stay within a safe operating space for development? This question is an issue both for scientists investigating environmental guardrails as well as for policy makers looking for feasible pathways. The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) together with Berlin-based science policy thinktank ”adelphi research” and the Stockholm Environment Institute brought together leading international scientists and German policymakers in a workshop to discuss opportunities and limits for an operationalization of the Planetary Boundaries framework for national governance. The role of policies for increasing resource efficiency were a key issue throughout the meeting.
Scientists and policy-makers discuss Planetary Boundaries
Researchers discussing Planetary Boundaries. Photo: PIK

"Many of the developments that are today endangering the state of our planet have their origin in the volume of exchange of materials between the environment and human societies, be it the amount of resources extracted from Earth or of wastes and emissions dumped back in," says Wolfgang Lucht, co-chair of PIK's research domain Earth System Analysis and co-host of the meeting. "It is essential that we start looking more systematically at regulating and potentially limiting these material flows. Resource efficiency policies are an important contribution to this effort. Quantifying them at a national or European level within a global framework of limits to tolerable change is the task of scientists."

The Planetary Boundaries concept provide a framework for analysing Earth system states and their interactions, including freshwater use, biosphere integrity, ocean acidification, land use and climate change. Applied to transformative environmental policy, the concept could strengthen horizontal policy coherence along these dimensions as well as its vertical coherence across spatial scales, linking the global to the national.

Participants of the workshop included representatives from the European Commission's Directorate General for the Environment, the OECD, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment and the German Environmental Agency from the policy side. From science, leading experts in their fields included Detlef van Vuuren from the Netherland's Environmental Assessment Agency PBL for socio-economic analysis, Michael Obersteiner from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) for analysis of environmental pressures, and Paul Ekins from the Institute for Sustainable Resources of the University College London.

Outcomes of the workshop will contribute to the formulation of next steps in environmental policies and national sustainability strategies.


Weblink to the Planetary Boundaries Research Network: