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Transition Update #1 – Scaling Up Global Sustainability Science

By Cornelia Krug, Director of bioDISCOVERY
and Chair of Future Earth’s Implementation Team

The year 2020 is coming to an end, and it has been very different from what many had imagined it to be. Instead of commitment to increase ambition to safeguard the natural world, 2020 has seen many challenges for the global community. Extensive wildfires, the hottest year on record for the arctic, and, above all, Covid-19, have brought into sharp relief what is at stake in our deteriorating relationship with the environment, especially for those of us working to advance global sustainability science.

At Future Earth, we recognize that scaling up global sustainability science is an urgent and crucial step towards transforming our relationship with the environment into one that ensures good and fair lives for all within a stable and resilient Earth system. Last year, Future Earth’s Governing Council commissioned a formal review of the organization’s governance, science programs and research projects, finances, and overall impact, with the aim of scaling up the reach of Future Earth to meet the challenges posed by our growing planetary emergency.

June this year saw Future Earth’s first virtual Summit. Bringing together representatives from its diverse communities, it played a key role in securing their inputs to this reform process. Out of this important collaboration came the establishment of a Post-Summit Committee, mandated to put the decisions of the Summit into action. This Committee has now evolved into an Implementation Team made up of representatives from across Future Earth’s networks working to implement the mechanisms, process and policies for the transition. Since October, the Implementation Team has engaged the entire Future Earth community in extensive consultations and collective decision-making, helping ensure that this reform process is driven from the bottom up.

There have already been several important outcomes of this effort, approved by the Governing Council, that will help scale up Future Earth’s advancement of sustainability science around the globe. First and foremost among these is the opening of a call for expressions of interest to establish new Global Secretariat Hubs. These will help facilitate transdisciplinary research at national, regional, and international levels. A Terms of Reference for this call has recently been finalized and will be released shortly, along with relevant FAQ’s. Additional informational events are planned for early next year.

The Implementation Team, along with Future Earth’s Executive Team, will continue to provide regular updates on this process as we move forward. To that end, you’ll find below a loose timeline of planned updates and announcements:

February 2021

March 2021

  • Virtual Q&A Sessions for Global Secretariat Hub and Global Coordination Hub Call for Expressions of Interest:
    • Asia and Pacific Virtual Q&A: March 3rd at 03:30 – 05:00 UTC (20:30 MT, 22:30 EST, 4:30 CET, 11:30 CST, 12:30 JST, 14:30 AEDT)
    • Europe and Africa Virtual Q&A: March 5th at 13:00 – 14:30 UTC (6:00 MT, 08:00 EST, 14:00 CET, 15:00 SAST)
    • Americas Virtual Q&A: March 9th at 16:00 – 17:30 UTC. (9:00 am MT, 11:00 am EST, 1:00 pm UYT, 5:00 pm CET)
    • Please email Hannah Moench  at for a calendar invitation. 

April 2021

  • Target date for final approval of Future Earth institutional structure documents
    • Governance and Assembly Terms of Reference
    • Global Research Networks Terms of Reference
    • Guiding principles for use of the Core Fund
    • National Committees Terms of Reference

May 2021

  • May 1st: Call for Expressions of Interest to become a Global Secretariat Hub Closes

June-August 2021

  • First Meeting of the new Future Earth Assembly
  • First Meeting of the new Future Earth Governing Council
  • Future Earth Assembly and Governing Council approve and/or ratify the first Global Secretariat Hubs and the Global Coordination Hub
  • Future Earth in Transition Synthesis Report released
    • This publication will provide a detailed overview of the reform process to date, from the commissioning of the formal review through the 2020 Future Earth Summit and up to approved decisions to date.
  • Consideration of additional submissions for Gloabl Sec. Hubs will begin in October, 21/22

As this turbulent year comes to a close, the Implementation Team at Future Earth is working to lay the foundations to bring global sustainability science to scale in 2021 and the years to come. Keep an eye on this space for more updates on the process in the weeks ahead.

For more information, please contact:

Hannah Moench