Between precarity and possibility: Implications of disruption for Earth System Governance

Virtual Event, 15-17 September, 2020

Original post: ESG, 2020

The 2020 Virtual Forum on Earth System Governance is the first-ever Earth System Governance event to bring together the global research alliance in a virtual setting. This free of charge three-day event aims to spur academic debate and discussions within the domain of earth system governance, meanwhile providing stimulating and meaningful opportunities for our community to engage and interact.

The programme encompasses 2 Plenary Sessions, 6 Semi-Plenary Sessions and 8 parallel Innovative Sessions, as well as room for informal networking and breaks. In addition, side-events will also be held, such as the early career World Café on the 14th September and the Earth System Governance Taskforce & Meeting Day on the 18th September.

Please visit the ESG Project website for further information about registration and the programme for the 2020 Virtual Forum on Earth System Governance.

SDA participation at the 2020 Virtual Forum

We invite you to join us in the following Innovative Sessions:

Day 1 - Innovative session III

Virtual roundtable on the interlinkages between Artificial Intelligence and Earth System Governance

Wednesday, September 16, 2020
4:00 PM – 5:30 PM


Conveners : Veronika Kiss, Klára Hajdu


Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would make it markedly easier to achieve many aspects of sustainability including poverty eradication and reducing inequalities. However, with the current pledges under the Paris Agreement achieving this target seems unlikely. Meeting the 1.5C target would require transformative systemic change based on a significantly increased ambition, which can be enabled among others by a combination of innovative price and non-price policy instruments and a redirection of financial flows towards low-emission investments. However, mitigating trade-offs with other Sustainable Development Goals necessitates stronger coordination and disruptive innovation across scales of governance, which can also provide financial, technological and other forms of support for poor and vulnerable people. This would also imply complementing carbon pricing with sufficient transfers to compensate for their unintended distributional effects. Even though current pledges and policy mixes seem inadequate in this regard, innovative policy instruments combining these requirements have been already proposed. The Energy Budget Scheme (EBS) endorsed by the Resource Cap Coalition, a European alliance of NGOs and scientists has the potential to meet many of these requirements in a holistic way. It is based on the Tradable Energy Quota (UK) and the Energy Entitlement Scheme (Hungary), which were debated (though eventually rejected) by national parliaments. The EBS is based on energy consumption entitlements allocated among all final energy consumers (citizens, public and private entities), covering high-carbon energy use, where underconsumers and overconsumers could trade through the assigned management organisation. Underconsumers would receive interest-free ‘quota-money’ for their unused and traded energy entitlement. The quota-money could be exchanged in a newly created secondary market for products and services with environmental and ethical certification (e.g. outstandingly energy-efficient appliances, organic food produced with low-carbon energy input, solar panels, building insulation services). A Transition Fund would provide interest free loans for energy efficiency and renewable energy investments, as well as for research and innovation to pursue relevant new technologies. While the EBS is able to deliver systemic change in energy use and transform our production and consumption patterns in a socially just manner, the reluctance of decision-makers, researchers and the public even to debate quota schemes for delivering sustainability objectives is a huge impediment today. Our goal is to communicate the effectiveness and sustainability impacts of EBS and compare them with other tools aimed at CO2 emission reduction while considering broader sustainability impacts. We thus developed a software-based strategy game, where the players aim to reduce the CO2 emission by 2050, while enhancing some key environmental, economic and social indicators. The game can be played in teams by 20-40 people (e.g. decision-makers, researchers, policy campaigners, students or the general public). This session provides the opportunity for conference participants to play and strategise for sustainability online during the three-day conference. We collect feedback from the players to advance effective policy scenarios and to improve the game for wider use in climate campaigns. This innovative approach will not only bring education benefits, but also help to create a window of opportunity to debate and introduce policy innovation on a systemic level.

Day 2 - Innovative session V

New approach in educating about innovative climate

Tuesday, September 15, 2020
5:00 PM – 6:30 PM


Convener : Ina Möller


The increasing relevance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in areas like agriculture, security, natural resource management, health and human-machine interaction raises questions that link to core concerns of Earth System Governance research. Intelligent machines represent new actors in the governance landscape that moderate the way in which humans engage with resources and with their natural environment. On the one hand, they can lead to more efficiency, precision and foresight in areas like industry and transport, providing a way to minimize environmental harm and better anticipate or mitigate environmental catastrophe. On the other hand, the production and use of AI is linked to differences in power and can be used in ways that are destructive to both social and environmental systems, for example in the course of wars or in authoritarian systems that use intelligent surveillance systems. As such, AI is a double-edged sword, or ‘dual-use’ technology, that holds both promises and perils for the future of democracy and environmental governance. Further, while much of the research in this area focuses on the legal, political and ethical implications for humans, scant work assesses how AI might affect other entities present in the environment or entire ecosystems. This session aims to explore these linkages and gaps in the format of a virtual roundtable, in which invited experts are asked to present their take on several key questions. After this initial discussion, sufficient time will remain for conference participants to engage with the invited speakers in a Q&A session.

All sessions will be fully available via streaming to registered participants in order to allow for focused discussions.

All times are listed in Central European Summer Time.

View the full programme schedule for the 2020 Virtual Forum on Earth System Governance here >>