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The ESDN Quarterly Reports provide in-depth documentation of a selected topic on a quarterly basis. The current ESDN Quarterly Report is displayed below. For previous ESDN Quarterly Reports click here.

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ESDN Quarterly Report October 2013

Planetary Boundaries for SD: 

From an international perspective to national applications

by Umberto Pisano and Gerald Berger

This ESDN Quarterly Report (QR) provides an overview of the planetary boundaries concept and related framework. In addition, it seeks to reflect on possible links between planetary boundaries with sustainable development as well as on chances and opportunities for its approach to be considered by the policy-making world in the context of international governance for sustainable development, but also at the national and regional level.

In the first chapter, we provide a comprehensive overview of the concept of ‘planetary boundaries’. Firstly, we look at how the concept has been developed. Secondly, we describe the scientific basis in a very concise way and with the help of several visual and descriptive tools. Finally, we briefly consider the topic in light of the sustainable development discourse, also looking at it from a social and equity perspective.

The second chapter provides an overview on the responses that the planetary boundaries framework has received, especially with an eye on the policy-making world. We look at different angles, from the global sphere (such as the United Nations), the supra-national perspective of the European Union, and also the national viewpoints from eight European countries (i.e. Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, The Netherlands, United Kingdom), always keeping in mind the sustainable development context. In so doing, we explore whether chances and opportunities can be found, particularly in terms of application and implementation, of the planetary boundaries framework. With this intention, we summarise and present a research study commissioned by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), which represents the first attempt to comprehend the feasibility of using planetary boundaries as a framework for understanding national contributions to the transgression of the planetary boundaries.

Finally, the concluding chapter presents the main arguments explored in the report and provides several reflections that we consider interesting and potentially stimulating for furthering the planetary boundaries framework’s uptake, especially in the policy-making world.

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