Global Commons Stewardship Index 2021
Global Commons Stewardship Index 2021

Founding year:



(SDSN, Nov 2021, 282p, full report)

The Global Commons Stewardship Index 2021has two central pillars: domestic impacts and international spillovers. It assesses both countries’ domestic effects on the Global Commons and the impacts embodied in trade and consumption. Aims to inform policymaking to reduce adverse effects on the Global Commons and accelerate the implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the SDGs. It focuses on measuring countries’ impacts on the Global Commons and calls for a transformation of the energy, production, and consumption systems consistent with the requirements for a sustainable global economy.

Essential principles:

  1. Uses a framework that integrates multiple dimensions of the Global Commons into a comprehensive assessment of impacts.
  2. Tracks effects within territorial borders and transboundary impacts or spillovers embodied in traded goods and services.
  3. Estimates the distance to pre-defined sustainability thresholds for all metrics in the Index to quantify and compare priorities within and across countries.
  4. Focuses on outcome-based measures of environmental impacts at the country level, leaving out policies and input measures or measures of access to resources such as access to drinking water and sanitation.
  5. Relies on fresh and high-quality data updated regularly.

There are six impact categories:

  • Aerosols
  • Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
  • Terrestrial Biodiversity Loss
  • Marine Biodiversity Loss
  • Nutrient Cycle disruptions
  • Water Cycle disruptions

Key findings:

  1. Transformations are urgently needed in all countries. In effect, to address adverse impacts on the Global Commons caused by non-sustainable production and consumption.
  2. Rich countries generate the largest share of the international spillovers that need to be addressed.
  3. Actions to protect and restore the Global Commons domestically and internationally must go hand-in-hand with efforts to improve living standards everywhere.
  4. G20 countries must assume a special responsibility to reform the governance of the Global Commons through ambitious policies and investments.
  5. Constant data gaps and limitations must be addressed for more real-time and forward-looking monitoring of countries’ impacts on the Global Commons.

Priorities for the global research agenda:

  1. Comprehensive and timely data to assess impacts embodied in international supply chains.
  2. Estimates of physical flows of pollutants in air and water (not included in this year’s GCS Index).
  3. Tools for tracking key policies and their projected impacts and efforts to address domestic and spillover effects on the Global Commons.
  4. More granular assessments look at impacts embodied in specific supply chains and commodities to inform the governance and alignment of critical sectors.

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