Global environmental change and earth system transformation have become a key challenge for policy-makers at all levels of decision-making, ranging from the need to limit human large-scale disturbance of natural biogeophysical cycles to the increasing exigency to prepare—politically, legally, socially, and economically—for the adaptation to those global environmental changes that can no longer be avoided. In recognition, the Earth System Science Partnership declared an 'urgent need' to develop 'strategies for Earth System management'. Yet what such strategies might be, how they could be developed, and how effective, efficient and equitable such strategies would be, remain unspecified. It is apparent that the institutions, organisations and mechanisms by which humans currently govern their relationship with the natural environment and global biochemical systems are not only insufficient—they are also inadequately understood.
This is the rationale for the 'Governance and Policy' research programme of the Amsterdam Global Change Institute. The programme brings together leading researchers at the VU University Amsterdam from a variety of disciplines to study the governance and policy dimensions of global environmental change in a co-ordinated, collaborative effort. The programme has a strong international orientation at the cutting edge of major global research programmes, such as the long-term global "Earth System Governance Project".
The key research challenge is to advance understanding of the creation, evolution and effectiveness of institutions and governance mechanisms at all levels of decision-making, from local to global. The programme also studies questions of legitimacy, accountability and the democratic quality of governance, as well as issues of justice and equity. The focus is on both mitigation of global environmental change, and the adaptation to unavoidable impacts. A defining strength of this programme is the strong integration of the core social science research within the multidisciplinary environment of the Amsterdam Global Change Institute.
Key research foci
• Understanding the emergence and effectiveness of institutions and governance mechanisms at all levels of decision-making, taking into account also considerations of legitimacy, accountability and allocation;
• Advancing the knowledge agenda for governance towards a global sustainability transition;
• Working towards integration of social science research agendas with natural science programmes within the multidisciplinary AGCI.