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Earth System Sustainability Initiative (ESSI) replaces WCRP, IGBP, IHDP, DIVERSITAS and ESSP
Decision taken at the ICSU General Assembly 2011 in Rome
In Rome, ICSU members endorsed the Earth System Sustainability Initiative (ESSI) that would bring the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP; established 1980), International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP, 1986), DIVERSITAS: an international programme of biodiversity science (1991), International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP, 1996) and the Earth System Science Partnership" (ESSP, 2001) together into one programme, thereby influencing the directions and conduct of international science in the field of global environmental change over the next few years. Aimed at effectively delivering solution-oriented research for sustainability, this new international collaboration effort would provide global coordination for science to respond to the most pressing societal and environmental challenges. The engagement of natural sciences, social sciences and humanities should provide a fuller understanding of global change, its impacts on people, and people’s responses to it.
Collaboration with a wide range of other international organisations – the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UNESCO and the United Nations University (UNU), which hosts the IHDP – is an important element of the new initiative. A crucial partner is the Belmont Forum with members of the International Group of Funding Agencies for Global Change Research (IGFA). The scientific community concerned by these developments and represented in several ICSU Union Members, sees the influence of the funders in shaping the ESSI agenda with some scepticism and this was the sub-context of the discussion on that issue at the General Assembly.
ESSI is still in the planning phase. Its launch will be in June 2012, at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), or “Rio+20” conference. The transition to the Initiative’s permanent governance structure is scheduled for December that year.
For the Swiss scientific community involved in global environmental change research, the above developments are of great relevance, as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has recently reoriented its funding instruments in this field. From 2013, the SDC will only support research closely related to its activities and with a special value to its “Global Programmes” Climate, Water, Nutrition, Health and Migration. The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) will evaluate project applications. As the SDC’s Global Programmes will most likely be compatible with ICSU’s Earth System Sustainability Initiative, an increased involvement and exchange of researchers at Swiss research institutions would be desirable. Following the example of the Swedish Secretariat for Environmental Earth System Sciences (SSEESS), the strategy paper on international cooperation prepared for the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences (swiss-academies) therefore proposes a joint effort by SDC, SNSF and swiss-academies to support such an endeavour.
Author: Roger Pfister, SCNAT.
Part of the report from the ICSU General Assembly 2011.