Stockholm Seminar

10 Principles and a Protocol: How cities and businesses can translate Earth System Boundaries

Photo: Clement Souchet via Unsplash

Professor Xuemei Bai, Australian National University and Earth Commissioner introduces how strategic and transparent procedures can help cities and businesses align their sustainability efforts with Earth system boundaries

Earth system boundaries (ESBs) define safe and just limits – in relation to the climate, the terrestrial biosphere, freshwater, nutrients, and air pollution – within which a functioning Earth system can be maintained without incurring significant harm to people.

Yet before they can be operationalised by cities and businesses, the safe and just boundaries have to be ‘translated’.

In this talk, Professor Xuemei Bai presents a range of new principles and a protocol, designed to support local actors – specifically, cities and businesses that are often overlooked in sustainability plans but whose decisions can have widespread environmental impacts – so that they can contribute meaningfully to global efforts to live within safe and just boundaries.

“Respecting ESBs requires concerted actions from diverse actors – including states, cities, businesses – based on a clear and shared understanding of their fair share of resources and responsibilities,” Professor Bai explains, highlighting the importance of collaboration and shared commitment to implement this work.

Translating ESBs across actors operating at different scales and in different contexts is still in its infancy. By developing common principles and a clear protocol, the aim is to ensure ESB translation is robust, transparent, fair, and comparable across domains and geographies.Read the full article in Nature Sustainability here.

Read the full article in Nature Sustainability here.

About the speaker

Bai is Professor of Urban Environment and Human Ecology at the Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University. She is also an Adjunct Professor at Beijing Normal University.

Her research focuses on several frontiers of urban sustainability science and policy, including the drivers and consequences of urbanisation, structure, function, processes, and the evolution of urban socio-ecological systems, urban metabolism, urban sustainability experiments and transition, cities and climate change, and urban environmental policy and governance.

Professor Bai has authored and co-authored over 100 publications, including several in Nature and Science. She served as a Lead Author for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the Global Energy Assessment, and is a Lead Author for IPBES Global Assessment and IPCC AR6.

Professor Bai served as an inaugural member of the Science Committee of Future Earth, is an Earth Commissioner and Deputy Editor of Global Sustainability, amongst many other accolades.

She is a Fellow of Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia since 2017, and was named one of the World's 100 Most Influential People in Climate Change Policy in 2019. She is the 2018 Laureate of the Volvo Environment Prize.

Published: 2024-01-18

Event details

Thursday 25 January 2024, 14.00-15.00 CEST

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Lilla Frescativägen 4A, Stockholm

No registration required


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