Planet Under Pressure Planet Under Pressure

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Planet Under Pressure: Background


The research community has a responsibility to provide the knowledge needed to move society towards effective stewardship of the planet. Scientists have a duty to communicate the urgency of this challenge to society. But science alone is not enough. The 2012 Planet Under Pressure conference is intended to be a major opportunity to link global-change science in a two-way engagement with the wide range of other stakeholders working towards global sustainability.




Research delivers the knowledge to assess the nature and magnitude of global environmental change, its drivers and the risks it poses to society. It must also help society mitigate dangerous changes, cope with changes we cannot avoid, and illuminate opportunities. This requires partnerships with policy and industry decision-makers.


Based on the latest scientific evidence, the Planet Under Pressure conference will provide a comprehensive update of our knowledge of the Earth system, the pressure our planet is now under and a vision for the future. Drawing on our knowledge about the past, the present and future, the conference will focus attention on the latest research in climate science, ecosystem services, land use, biodiversity loss, planetary thresholds, and food, water and energy security.


The coincident drivers of these changes – globalization, urbanization and consumption – continue to intensify. We need a more effective ‘global innovation system’ to respond to the implications of the increasing rates of change in the drivers of global change. The conference will contribute to this challenge and leave a legacy of new partnerships to help forge a sustainable future. It will examine governance across temporal and spatial scales, links with poverty alleviation, human well-being, and engineering and technological solutions.


Who will attend?


The conference programme is designed to attract a wide range of stakeholders including:

  • researchers and academics from many disciplines across the natural and social sciences
  • senior policymakers
  • private sector leaders (energy, water, food, finance, insurance, construction.)
  • NGOs
  • development agencies
  • media
  • engineering and technology sectors


The sponsors are committed to strong participation from the developing world and from youth.


Exploring solutions


Conference participants will explore options, barriers and opportunities for policy, the private sector, society at large and research as we move towards a sustainable future. Delegates will discuss and propose solutions across all scales, from local to regional to global, and near term to longer term. The corporate world, engineers and technologists are particularly encouraged to contribute.


International policy (Rio+20)


The Planet Under Pressure conference takes place six weeks before the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20 (Rio de Janeiro, May 2012). During 2011, in preparation for Rio+20, the global-change science community will develop a series of policy briefs and white papers on selected key topics and their interconnections. These white papers will be discussed and developed at the Planet Under Pressure conference and presented at Rio+20 and related meetings during the preparatory process.


Working space


The conference will include plenary and parallel sessions, panels, workshops, posters, trade displays and interactive sessions. Venue: Excel Centre.


Conference Vision


The global scientific community must deliver to society the knowledge necessary to assess the risks humanity is facing from global change. It must provide knowledge of how society can effectively mitigate dangerous changes and cope with changes we cannot manage.


Based on the latest scientific evidence, the London Planet Under Pressure conference will provide a comprehensive update of our knowledge of the Earth system and the pressure our planet is now under. The London conference will focus the scientific community’s and the wider world’s attention on climate, ecological degradation, human well-being, planetary thresholds, food security, energy, governance across scales and poverty alleviation.


The conference will discuss solutions, at all scales, to move societies on to a sustainable pathway. It will provide scientific leadership towards the 2012 UN Rio+20 conference, also in 2012.


Guiding the direction for the conference is the International Council for Science’s five grand challenges for global sustainability research: observations, forecasting, thresholds, governance and economic requirements, and innovation (technological, political and societal). The conference will also support international assessment processes, for example the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the new biodiversity assessment, plus the Millennium Development Goals.


The programme will be designed to attract senior policymakers, industry leaders, NGOs, young scientists, the media, health specialists, and academics from many disciplines.


A new vision for trans-disciplinary research and broader partnerships


The London conference will act as a platform to strengthen and enlarge the global-change research community and mark a move to a new vision for global-change research. Further, the vision is for a conference that connects leading social and natural scientists with business, investors and the development agenda to create a new understanding and environment for tackling global sustainability challenges.


Solutions that cross scales


Working across scales will be a strong theme for the conference. The scientific community will stress that there must be many governance and technological solutions at all levels, from local and national, to regional and global. It will stress that while there are many threats, global change also provides many opportunities.


The event will include strong policy interaction and a dedicated policy day. Through workshops and seminars, delegates will be encouraged to discuss options and solutions to climate change, energy, food security, water, poverty and other pressing issues.


Details of the initiative
Joined documents