Global Commons Alliance

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= "to encourage the positive transformation of global economic systems needed to safeguard our global commons, through the introduction of science-based targets for companies and cities". [1]


"Some of the organizations collaborating on this initiative include: Circle of Blue, Conservation International, Future Earth, Globaïa, GEF, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Stockholm Resilience Centre, We Mean Business Coalition, World Economic Forum, and the World Resources Institute."



"All life on Earth depends on clean air and water, biodiversity, healthy land and oceans, and a stable climate. These are the global commons: the shared resources that ensure a habitable planet upon which we can all thrive.

Today, they are facing an all-too familiar tragedy of over-exploitation and rapid degradation. Recent scientific reports, including the UN IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5°C and last month’s stark assessment on the state of the world’s biodiversity sent a clear message about what we stand to lose if we don’t act now.

Speaking at the opening of the Ecosperity 2019 conference in Singapore today, Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) acknowledged “the extremely worrying picture” coming from science about the state of the planet, and highlighted a new Global Commons Alliance that is being set-up to help tackle the problem.

“We have pushed our Earth systems to a tipping point,” Ishii said. “If we don’t change the path we’re on we will destroy the stable conditions that are the very foundations for our economies and societies.”

Calling for a “fundamental transformation” of our food, city, energy, and production and consumption systems, she stressed two things “we must do.”

“First, start using science to measure our impact on the global commons, and set targets to reduce the impact,” she said. “Second, we must foster collective action. Only by working together to achieve the same goal of sharing our common resource do we have a chance.”

“This is why a group of like-minded organization have come together to set-up the Global Commons Alliance,” Ishii continued. “I encourage all of you to join us, and to help get the world back on track!”

Naoko Ishii’s speech followed a presentation by Dr. Will Steffen, Emeritus Professor, Australian National University and Senior Fellow, Stockholm Resilience Centre.

“Recent evidence clearly shows that the integrity of Earth's biosphere, on which we depend for critical services, is deteriorating more rapidly than ever,” Steffen said. “Extinction rates are already today well above background levels and are projected to accelerate." (


"Hatched in 2017, the Alliance was born out of a shared frustration with systems change interventions which target natural and human systems—climate, land, biodiversity, freshwater, oceans, the global economy, policies and enforcement, mainstream mental models—in silos. From their ‘Whole Earth’ perspective, the initial members recognized that science-established planetary boundaries—such as staying below 2C of warming and aiming for 1.5C—had to be downscaled to the human level and converted into practical targets that could be reasonably achieved by organizations, companies, and institutions. In other words, big aspirations for sustainable development had to be integrated into day-to-day decision-making and operations globally. They also realized that much of the foundation-setting work remained, such as developing targets for Earth systems well beyond the climate.

Envisioning coherent, integrated action, Alliance members conceived of an effort that would 1) spark massive collaboration within the scientific and conservation community, 2) develop science-based targets for all of Earth’s life-support systems, and 3) engage the largest companies and cities capable of taking swift action to meet those targets. Following two years of research, convenings, and proof of concept, this new platform aims to protect the Global Commons—our shared land, seas, atmosphere, and biodiversity that are critical to supporting life on Earth." (


"The Global Commons Alliance will be comprised of four parts:

  • The Earth Commission - A select team of scientists to synthesize the latest research, anticipate tipping points and assess the limits of the entire Earth system.
  • Science Based Targets Network - A group of international NGOs to turn the science into practical applications for companies and cities to set goals for operating within Earth’s limits.
  • Systems Change - Building new coalitions and partnerships to green our cities and transform economic systems to achieve long term sustainability.
  • Earth HQ - A media portal for the planet, to connect people across the globe and share the big picture of how all Earth systems are performing and tracking progress towards solutions."

Key pieces of the platform include:

Earth Commission:

Billed as a “compass for humanity,” the Earth Commission convenes leading scientists and experts who will synthesize the latest science to identify thresholds for the stability and resilience of the “Global Commons’—our shared land, seas, atmosphere, and biodiversity that are critical to supporting life on Earth. The Commission then delivers this data to the Alliance. “It’s not just about understanding how far we can push different environmental systems, but how those systems all interact with each other to define a safe operating space for the entire planet,” says Apurva Dave, Director of the Earth Commission secretariat. “Human communities and the natural environment feed back into each other, and so we have to maintain a people-planet perspective across different scales of space and time. Moreover, there is a strong human social, cultural, human geographic context to setting science-based targets, and so our analysis will have to integrate the social science knowledge base around societal transformations, consider traditional and indigenous knowledge systems, and incorporate principles of equity and co-production.”

Science Based Targets Network:

An international NGO collaboration, the Network will convert the Earth Commission’s thresholds into practical pathways for companies and cities—such as specifying how much and how quickly they have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions—and equip them with tools to get started. Companies and cities are crucial because, unlike deadlocked political institutions, they are free agents who can quickly choose to adopt sustainable practices—a “coalition of the willing.” Fortunately, there are many such actors. The Alliance builds on the momentum of the Science Based Targets Initiative, which has already enlisted 750+ companies who are taking action to reduce emissions, such as Coca-Cola, Dell, Kellogg’s Pfizer, P&G, Sony, Tesco, and Thalys. The Network also aims to reach cities representing 50 percent of the global urban population—a critical mass that could catalyze tipping points—by 2025. “You need to bring together a big enough coalition and movement to drive the change you’re looking for but, in doing so, not lose the speed and urgency of action,” says Erin Billman, Executive Director of the Science Based Targets Network. “Designing for both is somewhat uncharted territory.”

Earth HQ:

This “media portal for the planet” will be a one-stop-shop for the latest on what’s happening to Earth’s natural systems and on promising solutions—to help shift narratives among tens of millions of people, generate public demand for action by corporations and cities, and mobilize local leaders. A newsfeed similar to AFP or Reuters, the Earth News Network will enlist leading journalists and documentarians to cover urgent events and deliver compelling stories to an alliance of media partners. An Earth Dashboard will allow the public to visualize and interact with the Earth Commission’s data and insights. Visual storytelling and social media amplification will be key to reaching a lot of people quickly, says Tim Kelly, Executive Director of Earth HQ. “Earth HQ is going to provide transparency around what corporations and cities are doing, and who is taking the lead in making changes.”

Systems Change Lab:

The development of new science-based targets provides guideposts to help committed companies, cities and countries to take proper actions. But SBTs alone will not guarantee that individual companies will be able to take meaningful actions. The right enabling environment, including relevant policy measures and regulations, are required, including introducing proper incentives and allowing for a critical mass of companies to move together. The Systems Change Lab will complement the work of the SBTN and the GCA as a whole by identifying, supporting, and promoting this way of thinking. Committed companies and cities, in turn, will become better equipped with a new portfolio of SBTs that can guide actions on the ground. The Lab ultimately aims to promote transformational change to key economic systems, which will allow for committed companies to meet the targets that they set through the GCA. With the Global Environmental Facility and the World Economic Forum leading, the Lab will distill lessons from the Alliance’s and others’ systems change efforts.

Investors Collaborative:

A collective of core Alliance donors, the Collaborative current includes such funders as Good Energies Foundation, IKEA Foundation, MAVA Foundation, Moore Foundation, Oak Foundation, and Porticus. The Alliance’s fiscal sponsor and consultant, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, will help donors adjust their requirements and expectations to accommodate the unique nature of the Alliance’s efforts—such as by funding over the long-term, reducing reporting burden, and looking beyond short-term outcomes. RPA will also guide Alliance members toward complexity- and systems-aware monitoring, evaluation, and learning approaches, like the recently launched Blue Marble Evaluation.

It will take some time to scale up this global effort and contribute to transforming food systems, greening our cities, decarbonizing the global energy system, and moving towards a circular economy. Though 25 top science and conservation institutions—such as Ceres (Skoll Awardee), The Nature Conservancy, Stockholm Resilience Centre, UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund—already contribute to the Alliance, much of the hard work remains." (

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