Future Earth 2025 Vision sets the framework for the programme’s contribution to global sustainable development

Polar circle boat heading towards Esperanza, an Argentinian base on Antarctica. Photo: iStock 1192081
A focus on societal challenges and a new type of science will contribute to a sustainable and equitable world in which people can thrive.

Future Earth has today published the Future Earth 2025 Vision, outlining what Future Earth will contribute over the coming decade to achieve its vision for people to thrive in a sustainable and equitable world.

The Future Earth 2025 Vision sets out an ambitious, holistic framework for research and capacity mobilisation. Central to achieving the vision is a commitment to co-design and co-produce knowledge in collaboration with societal partners in order to develop solutions-oriented research that responds to the sustainability challenges facing society. 

“It’s vitally important for the scientific community to engage with diverse decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil society to co-design and co-produce research and to deliver the products and services that society needs to address global sustainability challenges.”

said Bob Watson, Chair of the interim Engagement Committee.  

Mark Stafford Smith, Chair of the Future Earth Science Committee, said,

“This document identifies eight crucial challenges for scientific research to address to help society meet increasing rates of global change. Future Earth will deliver excellent basic research, but it must collaborate with other societal partners to identify priorities and to ensure that research is relevant and provides actionable knowledge.”

The Future Earth 2025 Vision has been written by the Future Earth Science Committee and interim Engagement Committee, and will provide a framework for Future Earth activities over the 10 years of the programme. It represents the first time the two advisory bodies have set out the ways in which Future Earth will deliver on the commitment to generate a step-change in sustainability research, as called for in the Initial Design Report of the Future Earth Transition Team.

Inspire ground-breaking research aligned to major sustainability challenges

The document sets out how Future Earth will inspire and create ground-breaking interdisciplinary science to address eight focal challenges that research needs to address in order to achieve a sustainable and equitable world.

These are to:

1. Deliver water, energy, and food for all, and manage the synergies and trade-offs among them, by understanding how these interactions are shaped by environmental, economic, social and political changes.

2. Decarbonise socio-economic systems to stabilise the climate by promoting the technological, economic, social, political and behavioural changes enabling transformations, while building knowledge about the impacts of climate change and adaptation responses for people and ecosystems.

3. Safeguard the terrestrial, freshwater and marine natural assets underpinning human well-being by understanding relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and services, and developing effective valuation and governance approaches.

4. Build healthy, resilient and productive cities by identifying and shaping innovations that combine better urban environments and lives with declining resource footprints, and provide efficient services and infrastructures that are robust to disasters.

5. Promote sustainable rural futures to feed rising and more affluent populations amidst changes in biodiversity, resources and climate by analysing alternative land uses, food systems and ecosystem options, and identifying institutional and governance needs.

6. Improve human health by elucidating, and finding responses to, the complex interactions among environmental change, pollution, pathogens, disease vectors, ecosystem services, and people’s livelihoods, nutrition and well-being.

7. Encourage sustainable consumption and production patterns that are equitable by understanding the social and environmental impacts of consumption of all resources, opportunities for decoupling resource use from growth in well-being, and options for sustainable development pathways and related changes in human behaviour.

8. Increase social resilience to future threats by building adaptive governance systems, developing early warning of global and connected thresholds and risks, and testing effective, accountable and transparent institutions that promote transformations to sustainability.

Deliver products and services that our societal partners need to meet these challenges

By working with partners, Future Earth will co-develop the knowledge needed to support decision-making and societal change at all scales, in order to close the gap between research and policies and practices. Close collaboration between the scientific community and societal partners will catalyse the creation of solutions-oriented research that delivers the knowledge that society needs to transform towards sustainability.

Encourage a new type of science, linking disciplines, knowledge systems and societal partners

Responding to the focal challenges requires a new type of science which links disciplines, knowledge systems and stakeholders across the public, private and voluntary sectors. The Vision goes on to explain how Future Earth will pioneer approaches to co-design and co-produce solutions-oriented science, knowledge and innovation for global sustainable development.

Enable and mobilise capacities to co-produce knowledge

Capacity mobilisation will be embedded across all activities and projects of Future Earth to build the strong international network required to carry forward Future Earth’s vision and mission, and to co-produce knowledge across cultural and social differences, geographies and generations.

The Future Earth 2025 Vision is available in English for download. Hardcopies are available on request, and the interim Secretariat is working with a number of volunteers to have the document translated into other major world languages.