Global Commons Alliance

A big plan for a small planet: The Global Commons Alliance is creating a new 21st century platform that incorporates the environment and the economy – people and planet – to transform economic systems for the benefit of society and to sustain the natural systems of Earth.

© Danil Chepko | Dreamstime

© Danil Chepko | Dreamstime

The Global Commons: Our life support systems

In a vast universe of billions of galaxies, Earth is the only place we know of that can support life. 

This perfect balance of climate, water, biodiversity, ocean and land are vital to our survival. They are the global commons – the systems that regulate the stability and resilience of Earth, are also the foundation of the global economy and modern society. 

The global commons belong to all of us – but we’re in a race to save them.

We are a big world on a small planet, using more resources than our planet can sustain. Science indicates we’re approaching a point of no return, testing the very limits of Earth’s ability to support humanity. 

We’re already seeing the effects. And it’s much more than just climate change. It could be a tipping point for life on earth. 

For humanity to flourish, the global commons must thrive. 

Vision for 2050: Earth restoration

By 2050, Earth systems show signs of stabilizing due to coherent, integrated action from business, cities, citizens and nations working together to solve the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. 

Our plan seeks to reverse negative trends in climate, biodiversity, oceans, and other ecosystems, moving us toward a sustainable global economy – and a future that benefits human well-being and the natural world. 

Global Commons Alliance: 4 part formula for success 

    A select team of scientists to synthesize the latest research, anticipate tipping points and assess the limits of the entire Earth system. 
    A group of international NGOs to turn the science into practical applications for companies and cities to set goals for operating within Earth’s limits. 
    A media portal for the planet, to connect people across the globe and share the big picture of how all Earth systems are performing and tracking progress towards solutions. 
    Visionary leaders to build new coalitions and partnerships to green our cities and transform economic systems to achieve long term sustainability. 

Conservation and science partners

The Global Commons Alliance is a massive collaboration developed by world leading institutions. This effort brings together scientific, business, government and nongovernmental organizations to transform our global economy, and to maintain the resilience and stability of Earth’s natural systems. Organizations collaborating on this initiative include: 

  • Circle of Blue
  • Conservation International
  • Future Earth
  • Globaïa
  • Global Environment Facility
  • International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
  • International Union for the Conservation of Nature
  • Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  • Stockholm Resilience Centre
  • We Mean Business Coalition
  • World Economic Forum 

Funding partners

The startup phase of the Global Commons Alliance is being co-financed by the Global Environment Facility, Oak Foundation, MAVA Foundation, IKEA Foundation, and Porticus.  


In October 2016, over 200 leading environment, development and system design thinkers met in Washington, DC to discuss how mobilization of leadership, technology, science, innovation and communication can help bring about the transformation in economic systems that the planet needs (see Our Global Commons: An International Dialogue).  

The participants came together around a “shared purpose” included in a summary of key “principles”.  The Dialogue was convened by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in partnership with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Economic Forum (WEF) Environmental Systems Initiative.  

The IIASA working paper, Global Commons in the Anthropocene: World Development on a Stable and Resilient Planet, from 2016 provided the background and rationale for the Global Commons initiative. It argued “that humanity must be the steward of the planet’s natural resources – the ecosystems, biomes and processes that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth system, for example the carbon cycle.“ And it termed them as the new “Global Commons in the Anthropocene”.

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Last edited: 13 June 2019


Nebojsa Nakicenovic

Emeritus Research Scholar Transformative Institutional and Social Solutions Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program

Caroline Zimm

Research Scholar Equity and Justice Research Group - Population and Just Societies Program

Research Scholar Transformative Institutional and Social Solutions Research Group - Energy, Climate, and Environment Program


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