IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Planetary boundaries : Governing emerging risks and opportunities


  • Galaz, V.
  • de Zeeuw, Aart

    (Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management)

  • Shiroyama, Hideaki
  • Tripley, Debbie


The climate, ecosystems and species, ozone layer, acidity of the oceans, the flow of energy and elements through nature, landscape change, freshwater systems, aerosols, and toxins—these constitute the planetary boundaries within which humanity must find a safe way to live and prosper. These are thresholds that, if we cross them, we run the risk of rapid, non-linear, and irreversible changes to the environment, with severe consequences for human wellbeing. The concept of planetary boundaries, though recent, has already gained traction in scientific and in some policy circles, and is generating debate more broadly. Nevertheless, despite decades of talk on sustainable development, reform of international governance and institutions has not kept pace with the scale and urgency of the global environmental crisis. The notion of planetary boundaries can be seen as a way to frame governance reform. This discussion introduces key elements of governance in a world with boundaries: deep reform of international governance, such as the United Nations system and trade treaties; emerging ecological concepts and principles in international law; the role of economics for the biosphere; and, the need to integrate different kinds of knowledge—from the local to the global. The literature is rich with ideas for solutions and real-world experiences. One recent example from south-eastern Australia demonstrates innovative approaches to knowledge sharing and communication between scientists, urban planners, and local communities for sustainable development in a changing climate. Finally, there is need for a mobilizing narrative: a story grounded in the concept of planetary boundaries, uniting the solutions, and framed in such a way as to offer opportunities for learning, innovation, and creativity at all levels, in both the North and South. There are no simple solutions to what are complex problems involving politics and trade-offs. Ongoing debate and discussion—in academia, in policy circles, and in society at large—is healthy, but we should not allow debate about the precise nature of planetary boundaries to stymie progress. Exploring these issues and the interface between different fields is a challenging task, to be sure. Still, it is essential if the concept of planetary boundaries is to fulfill its potential as a guide for human action in the Anthropocene.

Suggested Citation

  • Galaz, V. & de Zeeuw, Aart & Shiroyama, Hideaki & Tripley, Debbie, 2016. "Planetary boundaries : Governing emerging risks and opportunities," Other publications TiSEM 0aebe291-f890-4a2d-9ab7-d, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:tiu:tiutis:0aebe291-f890-4a2d-9ab7-ddd1bedf909a

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Crépin, Anne-Sophie & Folke, Carl, 2015. "The Economy, The Biosphere and Planetary Boundaries: Towards Biosphere Economics," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 8(1), pages 57-100, May.
    2. Kubiszewski, Ida & Costanza, Robert & Franco, Carol & Lawn, Philip & Talberth, John & Jackson, Tim & Aylmer, Camille, 2013. "Beyond GDP: Measuring and achieving global genuine progress," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 57-68.
    3. Norichika Kanie & Michele M. Betsill & Ruben Zondervan & Frank Biermann & Oran R. Young, 2012. "A Charter Moment: Restructuring Governance For Sustainability," Public Administration & Development, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 32(3), pages 292-304, August.
    4. Michael Margolis & Eric Nævdal, 2008. "Safe Minimum Standards in Dynamic Resource Problems: Conditions for Living on the Edge of Risk," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 40(3), pages 401-423, July.
    5. Biermann, Frank, 2012. "Planetary boundaries and earth system governance: Exploring the links," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 4-9.
    6. Finnemore, Martha & Sikkink, Kathryn, 1998. "International Norm Dynamics and Political Change," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(04), pages 887-917, September.
    7. Aart de Zeeuw, 2014. "Regime Shifts in Resource Management," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 6(1), pages 85-104, October.
    8. Duraiappah, Anantha Kumar & Muñoz, Pablo, 2012. "Inclusive wealth: a tool for the United Nations," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(03), pages 362-367, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:tiu:tiutis:0aebe291-f890-4a2d-9ab7-ddd1bedf909a. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Richard Broekman). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.