Understanding effective earth system governance requires understanding the agents that drive earth system governance and that need to be involved. The research gap is here especially the influence, roles and responsibilities of actors apart from national governments, such as business and non-profit organizations, the ways in which authority is granted to these agents, and how it is exercised. Core questions advanced in this Science Plan are: What is agency? Who are the agents of earth system governance (especially beyond the nation state)? How do different agents exercise agency in earth system governance, and how can we evaluate their relevance?