Written by Nicocas Roux (ESR 02) and Floris Leijtenen (ESR 05)

On the occasion of the 250th birthday of the famous geographer Alexander von Humboldt, Humboldt University of Berlin hosted the KOSMOS conference between August 28 – 30, as part of a broader movement to help society navigate the sustainability transformation in the 21st century. Over 100 researchers from all over Europe travelled to Berlin to present on a variety of topics ranging from the biophysical impacts of climate change and the preconditions of human survival to the looming land scarcity crisis and the ethics of sustainability. Some of the most internationally recognized scientists on global sustainability issues were present, including Eric Lambin, who gave an inspiring talk on how to scale up proven solutions for sustainability, and Johan Rockström, who presented the latest updates on the well-known Planetary Boundaries framework. In addition, there were many opportunities for junior and senior researchers to network, mingle and have an informal chat, including during the summer party on Thursday evening in the heart of the city. All in all, it was a splendid opportunity for researchers to discuss and reflect on the biggest sustainability challenges of this century.

Several members of COUPLED presented at the conference. In his presentation, Eric Lambin first explained the importance of mechanisms for scaling up existing small-scale solutions for sustainability, such as state support for payment for ecosystem services or national states adopting private certification standards as their own purchasing criteria. Next, Tobias Kuemmerle presented existing trade- offs between agriculture, biodiversity, and carbon stocks in the Argentinian Chaco. He especially showed the potential for increasing all sustainability factors, and the importance of silvo-pasture in reducing trade-offs. Floris Leijten presented his work on forest areas that could potentially be covered by corporate zero-deforestation commitments, based on measures of high carbon stocks and high conservation value approaches. He also assessed risks of leakage to surrounding areas and ecosystems. Finally, in his presentation Nicolas Roux argued that since the turn of the millennium, countries started sourcing their products from world regions where pressure on land, measured according to the Human Appropriation of Net Primary Productivity (HANPP), was larger.

Clockwise from top-left: Eric Lambin; Tobias Kuemmerle; Nicolas Roux; and Floris Leijtenen

We would like to thank the organizers at IRI THESys for the original format of the conference and for their efforts to convey the conference results to a broader audience, including the statement for Sustainability transformation written during the conference and signed by most of its participants (found here).

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