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2015 Canberra Conference on Earth System Governance: ‘Democracy and Resilience in the Anthropocene’

Date: February 16, 2015

This event is part of the annual conference series organized by the Earth System Governance Project. The conference will be co-hosted by the Australian National University and the University of Canberra. Field-trips and a summer school will be organized around the conference.This is the 6th Conference on Earth System Governance. Previous conferences have been held in Amsterdam (2009), Berlin (2010), Colorado (2011), Lund (2012), Tokyo (2013) and Norwich (2014). The Conference will bring 250-300 leading researchers, early career scholars and policy experts from around the world to the Australian National University to engage in discussions on critical issues in social science governance research on the environment and sustainable development. ‘Democracy and Resilience in the Anthropocene’ is the Conference's overarching theme. Resilience and the Anthropocene are increasingly prominent in contemporary narratives of global environmental change, with important implications for how we think about governance. Can democratic politics at the local, national and global level rise to the challenges that these concepts present? Are the types of governance they appear to promote desirable? What are the consequences of non-democratic politics or polities for resilience, and for transitions and transformations towards more sustainable futures? The Canberra Conference on Earth System Governance will be a lively forum for hundreds of scientists to examine, explore and challenge some of the core ideas underlying earth system governance.

There will be four conference streams (although the organizers also welcome proposals in any area of earth system governance):

1. Environmental Justice in the Anthropocene

Increasing recognition of the Anthropocene, as a new epoch in planetary history, places the earth system’s condition and trajectory at the centre of concern: but what are the implications for environmental justice and the allocation of benefits and burdens within and across social-ecological systems, and generations? How can the Anthropocene be conceptualized in terms of inter- and intragenerational equity?

2. Science and Governance in a Diverse World

Science plays an important role in bringing the dynamics and challenges of the Anthropocene to decision-makers; but how well do we understand the relationships between science and governance across the range of actors, institutions and cultures of our diverse social and political systems? This stream welcomes papers that examine science-policy interface, adaptation pathways, knowledge systems, transdisciplinary approaches and other theoretical and practical research exploring connections between science and governance.

3. Resilient Economies in the Anthropocene

In recent years, particularly since the global financial crisis, there has been a surge of interest in concepts such as the ‘green economy’ and ‘green growth’: but has this moved us toward building economically and environmentally resilient economies? This stream welcomes papers that examine the rise of green economic discourses, the role of financial, trade and investment institutions and actors in environmental governance as well as broader topics such as consumption, ecological modernization, and the limits to growth.

4. Earth System Governance in the Asia-Pacific Region

The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than sixty percent of the world’s population, the largest gross emitter of greenhouse gases (China) and the tiny island states most vulnerable to sea level rise. This diverse region is rapidly emerging as the global economic and political powerhouse of the twenty-first century. This stream welcomes papers that examine the implications of this power shift for earth system governance.

Types of Proposal

1. Individual papers and posters:

Abstracts (400 words or less) addressing the main conference theme, one or more of the above streams or any other topics relevant to the Earth System Governance project can be submitted through the conference website (see below).

All abstracts will be anonymized and evaluated in double-blind peer-review by several members of the conference review panel.

2. Full panels:

Panel proposals addressing the main conference theme, one or more of the above streams or any other topics relevant to the Earth System Governance project can be submitted through the conference website (see below).

Proposals must include a description of the panel (400 words or less) 4-5 abstracts (each 400 words or less) and list a chair and discussant. All panels will be evaluated in double-blind peer-review by several members of the conference review panel.

3. Innovative sessions:

Proposals for non-traditional sessions, such as roundtables (which can include policy-makers, academics, non-governmental organizations etc), policy games, book launches and book clubs (discussing recently published academic works in the field) can be submitted directly to the conference organizers by email ( Proposals should include a description of the session (1 page) and a list of participants. Proposals will be reviewed by the conference organizers and members of the local advisory committee.

4. Working groups/task forces:

If you have a working group or task force that would like to meet over the course of the conference or back-to-back with the conference, please contact the organizers directly ( and they will do their best to provide you with meeting space.

Additional information

The conference organizers are exploring technological/logistical options to enable remote participation for paper presenters – these will be confirmed when registration for the conference opens.

Please note that there while there is no limit on the number of submissions, individuals will only be permitted to present 1 sole-authored and 1 co-authored paper or 2 co-authored papers.

The organizers are undertaking efforts to secure travel support for participants who are based at institutions in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. To the extent that travel funds available, they will be disbursed on merit basis according to the relative ranking of the abstract. Acceptance of a paper for presentation does not guarantee travel support. 

Conference organizers:

Chairs: John Dryzek (UC), Kyla Tienhaara (ANU) & Lorrae Van Kerkhoff (ANU)

Local Advisory Committee:

Robert Costanza (ANU)
Stephen Dovers (ANU)
Lorraine Elliott (ANU)
Sharon Friel (ANU)
Karen Hussey (ANU)
Frank Jotzo (ANU)
Tom Measham (ANU/CSIRO)
Simon Niemeyer (UC)
Barbara Norman (UC)
Will Steffen (ANU/Climate Council)

Earth System Governance Scientific Steering Committee: 

Frank Biermann (Chair) (VU University Amsterdam)
Michele Betsill (Colorado State University)
John Dryzek (University of Canberra)
Chris Gordon (University of Ghana)
Joyeeta Gupta (UNESCO-IHE/University of Amsterdam)
Norichika Kanie (Tokyo Institute of Technology/UNU-IAS)
Lennart Olsson (Lund University)
Heike Schroeder (University of East Anglia)
Michelle Scobie (University of the West Indies)

International Project Office: 

Ruben Zondervan (Executive Director)

Associated Analytical Problems: Accountability, Adaptiveness, Agency, Allocation and access, Architecture

Associated Crosscutting Themes: Knowledge, Norms, Power, Scale