A windy road back to KOSMOS? Reflections on sustainability challenges on the cusp of a new era 

Beatrice Crona, Stockholm Resilience Center

We are on the cusp of a new era. Will it be characterized by a new renaissance of biosphere thinking or plagued by increasingly rapid global environmental change? or both? Contemplating the academic legacy of Alexander von Humboldt provides an interesting backdrop to reflect on some of the key sustainability challenges of today and what they mean for our ability to transform.




Scaling up solutions for sustainability

Eric LambinUniversité catholique de Louvain & Stanford University

Countless innovative solutions to environmental challenges are already implemented with success somewhere in the world. However, replicating these solutions at the scale required to lead to system-wide changes remains a major challenge. The key to up-scaling lies in building multi-stakeholder partnerships and developing synergies between various public and private policies – e.g., public policies integrating or supporting voluntary sustainability standards or large companies making sourcing commitments that apply sustainability standards to their entire supply chain. I will discuss theories, success stories, and challenges related to the up-scaling of solutions for forest conservation. The ability to convene multiple stakeholders to co-create effective partnerships is a key challenge for a sustainability transition.




Towards sustainable business and finance within the planetary boundaries. A legal approach.

Anne-Christin Mittwoch, Philipps-Universität Marburg

Demands for more sustainability in corporate business transactions and on capital markets have been becoming increasingly urgent since the outbreak of the financial crisis. There is clear potential for innovation here; the law, with all its options as well as its enabling and incentive function, can and must also be used to provide a regulatory framework for the positive developments that are already emerging in the markets with regard to sustainability, and to promote them as far as possible. At the same time, law can discipline companies that disregard existing requirements in this respect more than before. Following on from the interdisciplinary approach of Alexander von Humboldt's KOSMOS lectures, the significance of "Business and Finance" for the transformation to a sustainable society will be examined from a legal perspective.



Sustainable Development Goals within Planetary Boundaries: Utopia or Panacea?

Johan Rockström, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals present a new social contract for the world in the quest to achieve ways of living and economic well-being that no longer undermines the biological and physical life-support systems that human development depends on. Currently, we are following a very dangerous path, facing potentially irreversible and disastrous impacts, due to rising global environmental changes we have yet to arrest. To achieve the 17 SDGs by 2030 is an enormous challenge for humanity; to do so in a systemic manner - thinking climate, biosphere integrity, food security and healthy diets, and land use together - requires transformative solution. 

The Planetary Boundaries offer a framework to consider sustainable development in a way that respects the ecological resilience of the Earth while re-thinking social and economic development based on ecosphere integrity. 

Planetary boundaries define the scientific targets for a stable Earth system. Businesses, countries and communities increasingly recognize that socio-economic development in the Anthropocene - when human pressures on Earth pose rising global risks - must occur within scientifically defined boundaries, establishing a safe-operating space on Earth.

SDGs within Planetary Boundaries suggests a pathway towards a world in 2050 in which a ‘good life for all’ – humanity and non-human species – is possible.