The Earth System Governance Project, in collaboration with the European Commission Delegation in Beijing, organised the “Roundtable on the Future of Environmental Governance in China: New actors, new mechanisms and global dimensions” on 22 October 2009.

The Roundtable was very successful, with the participation of thirty six high-level academics and practitioners in environmental governance in China. The Roundtable was also the promising start of long term collaboration and Earth System Governance activities in China. Conceptually, the event built on the theme of global environmental change as a common challenge for China and the World. While global environmental issues, such as climate change, sustainable energy transitions, and biodiversity protection have become priorities on the global and Chinese policy agendas, many political and institutional options remain to be explored, particularly those which require strong global cooperation. This has been recognized by all stakeholders including policy makers, civil society, private sector and the scientific community. Many initiatives to address these issues are being started. For instance, the European Commission in China is currently setting up an ‘EU-China Environmental Governance Programme’; and the Earth System Governance project, as part of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), is expanding its international network of prominent research institutions into China.

The main objectives of the Roundtable were to explore future collaboration in the field of research, to encourage dialogue and cooperation between all stakeholders and to envisage future pathways for China’s role in global environmental governance. Speakers were invited to specifically address the issues of institutional architecture, new actors and participation. In addition, multiple analytical problems identified in the Earth System Governance project (or, ‘the five A’s’), presented at the Roundtable by Professor Frank Biermann (VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands; Chair of the ESG project) were also addressed: allocation and access, adaptiveness, and accountability. As the presentations and discussions at the Roundtable were closely related to the research agenda outlined in the Earth System Governance Science Plan, future collaboration in the framework of the Earth System Governance project seems to be a promising way forward.