Yesterday, ahead of COP26, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau launched a joint declaration of Global Geographical Societies, in which they pledge to redouble efforts to help deliver a better tomorrow, endorse the need for action on the climate and biodiversity crises, and call for world leaders to place the protection of nature and a liveable climate at the centre of the world’s economics and politics. The joint declaration was signed by over 79 global geographical societies and organisations from 58 countries including USA, Scotland, Russia, China, Canada, South Africa, and India, committed to working more closely together, sharing knowledge and accelerating action.

“The twin crisis’ of climate change and nature loss is impacting our environments, our health, and our livelihoods – and it’s all of our responsibility to tackle these challenges,” said Justin Trudeau. “At home and around the world, Canada is stepping up to find real solutions to fight climate change and prevent the loss of nature. We're protecting 30 per cent of our lands and oceans by 2030, putting a price on pollution, phasing out coal fired electricity, and planting 2 billion trees. But we need to be bolder and act faster to build a cleaner world for our kids and grandkids. And only together will we achieve this necessary goal.”

The development of the declaration is one of the outcomes of an international online conference in June 2021, convened by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) with their partners from the Royal Geographical Society (RGS-IBG) and the International Geographical Union (IGU). In attendance were 65 delegates from 28 different countries, representing many of the world’s leading geographical societies. At the gathering, delegates discussed their respective and collective responses to the climate emergency and the Sustainable Development Goals, and reflected on the varying cultural and political contexts of climate change across the world.

RSGS Chief Executive Mike Robinson said: “Scotland has shown global leadership in climate action, and with the approach of COP26 in November and the eyes of the world turning to Glasgow, it is appropriate that RSGS was at the heart of this gathering. As a leader in the field of climate science, Scotland has an important roll beyond its own borders to strengthen new alliances and exchange knowledge. Climate change is the single greatest opportunity to bring people together around a single cause and the coming together of geographical societies around a common declaration reflects this, and provides a foundation for the relationships we should all be seeking to strengthen during the upcoming UN Climate Conference.”

John Geiger, CEO RCGS (Left) with Michael L. Ulica President and Chief Operating Officer, National Geographic (right) with the Joint Declaration.

Michael L. Ulica, President and Chief Operating Officer of National Geographic, who also signed the declaration, said “geography is the study of our planet and humankind’s relationship to it, and as such, geographers have a front row view of the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss on our world. We need to treat the climate and ecological emergencies as one planetary emergency. Global leaders can no longer address these crises separately if we are going to succeed on both. Our future depends on preventing the collapse of the natural systems that provide our food, clean water, clean air and stable climate.”

“Geographers, explorers, educators, researchers, and travellers worldwide recognize the dire impacts of the climate and biodiversity crises,” said John Geiger, CEO of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (RCGS).  “I am very proud to stand together today with my global colleagues to call for concerted and collaborative efforts to making the coming decade one of positive action in pursuit of a better future for humankind and our home.”

Finally, Mike Robinson reflected that “the geographical community has an incredible heritage, and our shared language of science and geography grants us a strong collective ability for promoting positive global change. Our collective influence can make an impact to inform debate, to inspire the public and, to place geography at the heart of solving this global emergency.”

The Declaration  

Geographers have unique opportunities and responsibilities in the face of the global biodiversity and climate crises. Geography is a discipline that is uniquely located at the intersection of the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. This equips geographers to be adept systems-thinkers and interdisciplinarians. It is furthermore an applied knowledge, focused above all on the state of our planet and our relationships with it. All of this makes the learning, teaching, and practice of geography centrally relevant to the closely linked challenges of the global climate and biodiversity crises.

Geographers can do much more than present an analysis of these challenges. They also have a vantage point from which they can point to the kinds of thought and action that can deliver a better tomorrow for every person on Earth.

This coming October and November will see some of the most consequential weeks in terms of humanity’s collective relationship with planet Earth. In October the world’s governments will come together to confront the continuing dramatic loss of species and their habitats—the biodiversity crisis—compounded as it is by the accumulating impacts of climate change. It is hoped that the meeting will set the stage for ambitious new targets for the global conservation of nature out to 2030.

Around the same time, in Milan, Italy and then, for two weeks in November, in Glasgow, Scotland, governments will reconvene to confront the existential challenge of climate change. It is widely hoped and expected that the meeting will set enhanced and more urgent reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions out to 2030, as well as mandating a critical role for nature in climate change mitigation and adaption.

Geographers, whether as students, researchers, educators, writers, explorers, practitioners in business or policy, or as engaged and curious travellers, encourage our leaders to make ambitious commitments to place the protection of nature and a liveable climate at the centre of the world’s economics and politics at this critical juncture.

Accordingly, we pledge that our institutions will redouble our efforts to apply the unique attributes that are the hallmark of the learning, teaching, and practice of geography to the global environmental challenges that have drawn together the world’s governments to these vital meetings this year. We commit to doing all that we can to apply geography’s potent capabilities to the task of making the coming decade one of hope and of positive action.

Signatories to the Declaration

  1. National Geographic Society
  2. American Geographical Society
  3. American Association of Geographers 
  4. Institute of Australian Geographers 
  5. Queensland Royal Geographical Society 
  6. National Committee for Geographical Sciences of the Australian Academy of Science 
  7. Bangladesh National Geographical Association 
  8. Royal Geographical Society of Belgium
  9. Benin Association of Geographers 
  10. National Association of Postgraduates and Researchers in Geography (ANPEGE) 
  11. Association of Brazilian Geographers 
  12. Canadian Association of Geographers 
  13. Royal Canadian Geographical Society
  14. Geographical Society of China
  15. Hong Kong Geographical Association
  16. Geography and Education Research Association of Macau 
  17. The Geographic Society of China located in Taipei 
  18. National Committee for Geography (Columbia),
  19. Croatian Geographical Society
  20. Cyprus Geographical Association
  21. Czech Geographical Society
  22. European Association of Geographers
  23. Geographical Society of Finland
  24. National Geographical Society of France
  25. Geographical Society of Georgia
  26. German Society of Geography
  27. Association for Geography at German Universities and Research Institutions 
  28. Hungarian Geographical Society 
  29. Association of Bengal Geographers
  30. The Association for Geographical Studies (Delhi) 
  31. Indian National Committee for IGU 
  32. National Association of Geographers (India)
  33. Indonesian Geographical Association
  34. Geographical Society of Ireland
  35. Israeli Geographical Association
  36. Italian Geographical Society
  37. International Geographical Union
  38. Association of Japanese Geographers
  39. Human Geography Society of Japan
  40. Japan Organization of Geographical Sciences
  41. Geographic Society of Kenya
  42. Korean Geographical Society
  43. Luxembourg Geographical Society 
  44. Geographical Society of Madagascar
  45. Mexican Society of Geography and Statistics
  46. Geographical Association of Myanmar
  47. Namibian National Committee for IGU
  48. Royal Dutch Geographical Society
  49. New Zealand Geographical Society
  50. Association of Nigerian Geographers 
  51. Norwegian Geographical Society
  52. Pakistan Geographical Association
  53. Philippines Geographical Society 
  54. Polish Geographical Society 
  55. Portuguese Association of Geographers
  56. Romanian Geographical Society
  57. Russian Geographical Society 
  58. Russian National Committee for International Program "Future Earth"
  59. Russian National Committee for IGU
  60. Royal Scottish Geographical Society
  61. Samoa Association of Geographers
  62. Saudi Geographical Society
  63. Slovenian Geographical Association
  64. Slovak National Committee for the IGU
  65. Society of South African Geographers
  66. Southern African Geography Teachers' Association
  67. Geographical Association of Spain
  68. Centre of Geographical Studies (Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning) University of Lisbon
  69. Sri Lankan Association of Geographers
  70. Swedish National Committee of Geography
  71. Swiss Association of Geography
  72. Swiss National Committee for the IGU
  73. Turkish Geographical Society
  74. Uganda Geographical Association
  75. Ukrainian Association of Geographers
  76. The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)
  77. Geographical Association
  78. University of Cambridge, Department of Geography
  79. Vietnamese Association of Geographers