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Translating the Planetary Boundaries into Planetary Quotas


There is a need to translate the Planetary Boundaries into a new set of global limits that are in Pressure indicators (rather than States or Impacts), which can be scaled and compared directly to the environmental impacts of human activity. We call these new Planetary Boundary-translated limits “Planetary Quotas”. Planetary Quotas quantify what we need to do to return to and operate within the Planetary Boundaries. They provide the basis for a transparent and scientific approach to Planetary Accounting.

The scientific methodologies used to derive the Planetary Quotas are based on post-normal science and integrative thinking. To address the risk of unacceptable levels of normative judgements in this project, we used extended-peer community engagement, i.e. we sought feedback from a wide range of international experts in relevant fields of research.

The European Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response (DPSIR) framework formed the basis of our research methods. We advanced past translations of the Planetary Boundaries using the DPSIR framework by translating the Planetary Boundaries collectively rather than individually. This allowed us to better capture the interconnectivity of the Planetary Boundaries within the Planetary Quotas. Further, our methods extended across all of the Planetary Boundaries where past works have only translated some.

The results are a set of ten Planetary Quotas. The Planetary Quotas enable a new approach to global environmental management which we call “Planetary Accounting”. Planetary Accounting describes the process of comparing the environmental impacts of different scales of human activity to a share of global environmental limits—the Planetary Quotas. This would allow meaningful decisions to be made at various scales on regulating activities, urban planning, design and technology, policy, industry, and all levels of government legislation.

The Planetary Quotas and Planetary Accounting enable the practical application and communication of how to live within the Planetary Boundaries at different scales of human activity.

Science is simply the word we use to describe a method of organising our curiosity

Tim Minchin

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  1. 1.

    Environmental indicators can be classified as Drivers, Pressures, States, Impacts, or Responses. See Chap. 6 for further information.

  2. 2.

    The full list of critical pressures and how these were distilled into the Planetary Quota metrics is available in Meyer (2018).


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Meyer, K., Newman, P. (2020). Translating the Planetary Boundaries into Planetary Quotas. In: Planetary Accounting. Springer, Singapore.

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