To ensure a safe and just future for people, nature and the planet, Earth System Boundaries must include justice, researchers find

In a new study published in Nature Sustainability an international team of scientists from the Earth Commission, convened by Future Earth, investigates how global biophysical boundaries need to be adjusted to ensure a safe and just future for people, nature and the planet. This new framework integrates methods to reduce harm to people, increase access to resources, address tradeoffs, and challenge powerful interests whilst addressing inequality between generations and between humans and nature within discussions on Earth system boundaries. “These topics still require debates and engagement with different knowledge systems – to meet the principles of procedural and recognition justice – on the structural and systemic changes that are needed to ensure a more just resource consumption so that the needs of all people can be met whilst ensuring justice between species and a stable Earth system”, lead author Joyeeta Gupta, Co-Chair of the Earth Commission and Professor of Environment and Development in the Global South at the University of Amsterdam, explained. The research comes ahead of an associated Earth Commission report due out in early 2023 that defines ‘safe and just’ ‘Earth System Boundaries’ (ESBs) to safeguard a stable and resilient planet. These ESBs will underpin the setting of new science-based targets for businesses, cities and governments to address the polycrises of: increasing human exposure to the climate emergency, biodiversity decline, mass extinction of species that threaten the stability of the planet. In the paper, researchers argue that Earth System Boundaries must not only ensure the stability of the planet but also protect humans and other species from significant harm. This might require more stringent targets; however, such stringent targets may also influence the access of people to basic resources and the allocation of resources.