Oran Young Travels

Governance: Travels in Asia


Professor Oran Young, co-director of the Bren School’s Program on Governance for Sustainable Development (GSD), traveled to a pair of major scientific conferences in November and December.

First stop was Beijing, China, where he joined about 1,000 other scientists to discuss “Global Environmental Change: Regional Challenges,” the title given to the Global Change Open Science Conference (GCOSC), presented November 9-12 by the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP). Created out of the first GCOSC, held in Amsterdam in 2001, ESSP is a collaborative effort of the four major global change research programs, including the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), where Young serves as Chair of the Scientific Committee.

“Joining the natural sciences and the social sciences to address global environmental change is hard work, but it is essential if we are to understand large-scale developments like climate change well enough to deal with them effectively,” Young said. “ESSP is the principal vehicle the science community has created to tackle this assignment.”

According to materials printed for the conference, its purpose was “to present progress made since 2001 in understanding the natural and social systems of global environmental change, and to propose an agenda for the continued strengthening of ESSP’s collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to finding sustainable solutions to global environmental changes.”

Young also traveled to the Institutions for Sustainable Development in the Face of Global Environmental Change (IDGEC) Synthesis Conference, held December 6-9 on the Indonesian island of Bali. IDGEC began eight years ago as the core project under IHDP, with Young as the founding Chair of its Scientific Steering Committee.

“Bali was both an end and a new beginning,” he says. “The existing IDGEC project is coming to a close. But there is now general agreement that issues dealing with institutions and governance are of central importance. The issues of governance are crosscutting: Food systems, the carbon cycle, and urbanization, land use – all have questions of governance. It is relevant to people looking at all kinds of substantive issues. We are considering how to build on IDGEC’s success and will make decisions about future directions at the next meeting of the IHDP Scientific Committee in March in Brazil.”

The purpose of the Bali conference, Young wrote in the preface to the program was “to distill and harvest…major scientific findings generated over almost a decade, explore the policy relevance of these findings, and engage in dialogue about future directions of research on the roles institutions play both in causing and addressing large-scale environmental problems.”

Several publications will result from the project, among them a synthesis volume that includes a summary for policymakers, and “two or three other major publications related to more focused parts of the agenda,” Young says.

“This work is dear to my heart,” he says. “I was the founding chair of IDGEC, and I stayed on until I became the chair of the parent body, IHDP.”