Major global change conference focusing on solutions announced – 2012

The UK has successfully bid to host a major international science conference in 2012. The London conference, Planet Under Pressure: new knowledge, new solutions, aims to attract 2500 of the world’s leading thinkers on global-change research.

The four-day conference is sponsored by the International Council for Science’s (ICSU) global environmental change research programmes. It will bring together natural, physical and social scientists, together with economists. It will also involve engineers, health specialists and many others disciplines, plus with national and international policymakers, industry representatives, technologists, NGOs and development experts.

The event, provisionally booked for 7-10 May 2012, will take place prior to the next UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, also scheduled for that year. Presenting the latest research findings, the London conference is anticipated to provide a solid scientific foundation for the summit.

The conference has been initiated by ICSU’s International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). IGBP Executive Director, Professor Sybil Seitzinger says, “We need a planetary conference focusing on solutions.”

“We need to set research priorities that fully integrate diverse groups of people. We need to communicate a comprehensive picture of the state of the planet and its future to the institutions charged with global environmental stewardship. We will work with these institutions to help develop a planetary management approach that tackles all the challenges in a truly integrated way,” she added.

An overarching aim of the conference will be to discuss solutions to two challenges: what will it take to make food, energy and water accessible to nine billion people in a way that is sustainable? And, what inevitable environmental changes must we prepare for?

In the UK, the conference will be hosted by the Royal Society, the Living With Environmental Change programme (LWEC, which represents all the UK’s main agencies and government departments tackling environmental change) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK’s largest funder of environmental science.

Professor Lorna Casselton, Foreign Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society, said: “It is a tribute to the quality of UK science that London has been chosen as a venue for the conference. The Royal Society is dedicated to building international links within the science community and is therefore delighted to be hosting an event that will bring together such a wide range of specialists from around the globe to address many of the big challenges of our time.”

Director of Living with Environmental Change, Professor Andrew Watkinson, said, “An overarching aim of the conference will be to discuss solutions to the environmental challenges we face. We need to find ways to increase the speed with which we move to a low carbon society and ensure food, water and energy security for the billions of people across the globe in a changing world. The Living with Environmental Change partners are already addressing these critical issues, so I am very pleased that we are co-hosting the 2012 conference, which I am sure will become a catalyst for more innovative research collaborations to address the needs of society.”

The conference follows the influential 2001 Amsterdam Open Science Conference. That conference led to the Amsterdam Declaration, a defining moment in the development of Earth system science and indeed the launch of the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP). The declaration acknowledges the Earth as a single system comprised of physical, chemical, biological and human – or socioeconomic – components. It stated that the accelerating human transformation of the Earth’s environment is not sustainable and it led to new approaches to delivering global environmental science.

Since the 2001 conference, new science has emerged about the scale, speed and unprecedented nature of environmental change caused by growing human demands. By 2012, the scientific community wants to be working more closely with governments, international policymakers, industry and society at large to address these challenges. The conference will offer an important forum to consolidate these relationships and discuss the future.

Press Release (11 March 2010) taken from the website of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme.