Today, a multitude of agents plays a significant role in earth system governance, ranging from traditional state actors to international organizations, civil society organizations, science networks, city coalitions, or business associations. At the same time, the overall governance architecture, from local to global levels, is becoming more complex as a consequence of ever increasing needs for governance and policy-development. This situation poses fundamental questions about the impacts of fragmented and complex governance architectures, the overall effectiveness of earth system governance, and the ways in which multiple agents at all levels influence related processes.

This complex architecture with multiple agents is the core research problem to be discussed at the Earth System Governance Tokyo Conference. The conference will bring together scholars from a wide range of disciplines as well as practitioners from diverse backgrounds to address the nexus between the analytical problems of agency and architecture in earth system governance, and will also consider the other analytical problems identified in the Earth System Governance Science and Implementation Plan. The timing of the Tokyo Conference, half a year after the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”), will make these discussions especially pertinent and timely. The conference may open up new and fruitful areas of science-policy interaction and strengthen the interface between science and policy in earth system governance.

We invite papers on six interrelated clusters of questions:

  • Earth System Governance Architectures in the 21st Century: The need for reform of the global institutional architecture for environmental and sustainable development governance has been discussed for many years, yet little progress in the political realm has been made so far. While some propose, for example, the creation of a world environment organization, others argue in favour of more decentralized architectures that try to configure multiple actors effectively. We invite papers that address various aspects of the basic design of the architecture of earth system governance. This includes papers that analyse advantages of centralized or decentralized governance architectures, multi-level governance, or governance and vision in the post-MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) era. Also important here is an investigation of the existing architecture and of the roles of various actors and actor networks in governance.
  • Climate and Energy Governance Architectures: Discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of various governance architectures have been particularly lively and fruitful in the area of climate and energy policy. A nuclear disaster in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan highlighted even more the importance of effective and accountable governance in this domain at all levels. We thus invite papers that explore options for more effective architectures of future climate and energy governance. Papers could address, for example, effective multilevel governance architectures in the nexus between climate and energy security, or the optimal mechanisms to facilitate low carbon technology transfer, or the kind of partnerships that could combine actors of different scales and within and among different regions. Also important is how to fill the policy, implementation and financial gaps in designing the next generation of climate governance architectures.
  • The Nexus between Architecture and the other “A’s” in Earth System Governance: One of the most important research questions in the area of earth system governance is the intersection between architecture and the other four analytical problems (the “5 A’s”) identified in the Earth System Governance Science and Implementation Plan. Hence, we invite papers that explore these linkages and interactions. For instance, how can equity and fairness concerns (‘Allocation and Access’) be addressed in the design and implementation of environmental and development institutions? In what ways can private actors (‘Agency’) be held accountable (‘Accountability’) in environmental governance architectures? What types of resource re-distribution and social conflicts are created (‘Allocation and Access’) by different ways of structuring efforts (‘Architecture’) to enhance the resilience of social-ecological systems (‘Adaptiveness’)?
  • Political Dynamics in the Interface of Agency and Architecture: How can we recognize emerging agents in earth system governance? For example, how does increasing power of the major emerging economies change the political dynamics and thereby influence the overall governance architecture? What would be the role of regional integration? How to avoid politicization of science bodies, while ensuring political influence? We invite here papers that explore political dynamics of earth system governance in the interface of agency and architecture.
  • Methodological Challenges to Complex Architectures and Multiple Agents: Earth system governance research requires new and emerging technology developments as well as collaboration between social sciences, natural sciences and engineering. We thus also invite papers that utilize innovative technology and methodology in analysing problems related to complexity. They may include, for example, new approaches and findings in the application of agent-based modelling, GIS, socio-economic modelling, or more philosophical approaches and further development of the philosophy of science and the role of post-normal science approaches etc.
  • Special Conference Stream on Nuclear Safety and Post-disaster Governance: Nuclear disaster in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan posed many governance questions. How should nuclear be governed? What lessons could we learn from the evacuation process? What is the role of science in the face of emergency? What are the causal relationships between energy governance in Japan, which are centred on strong energy companies, and the effectiveness of the response to the nuclear disaster that began in March 2011? There will be a special conference stream devoted for the issues highlighting nuclear and disaster.