Future Earth was announced in June 2012 at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). In 2014, a consortium based in five countries successfully bid to create Future Earth. In April 2015, the interim secretariat completed the handover to the permanent secretariat. Future Earth became fully operational at the end of 2015.Future Earth builds on more than three decades of global environmental change research through the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), DIVERSITAS and the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP).

We are sponsored by the Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability, comprising the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the Belmont Forum of funding agencies, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations University (UNU) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). See Governing Council for more information.

In 2012, the scientific conference, Planet Under Pressure sponsored by the global environmental change programmes called for a new approach to research to address mounting pressure on the Earth system and the urgent need to seek global sustainability solutions. The conference declaration called for a new approach to research that is more integrative, international and solutions-oriented, reaches across existing research programmes and disciplines and has input from governments, civil society, local knowledge, research funders and the private sector.

This call was echoed in the Rio+20 declaration  and the United Nations Secretary General’s Global Sustainability Panel report, with the latter calling for a major global scientific initiative to strengthen the interface between policy and science. Future Earth is a response to this demand from the research community and international policy.

Future Earth begins life as a new paradigm emerges in international politics, with the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Future Earth has played a significant role at the interface between science and international policy throughout these processes. Now, Future Earth will coordinate and catalyse the world-class research necessary to support the transition to sustainability.

Future Earth Initial Design Report

The design phase of Future Earth was led by a committee, the "Transition Team," comprised of seventeen people from a wide range of disciplines and countries, and also included ex-officio members representing the main partners of the Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability. The final report is available for download.