IGCP 685 - Geology for Sustainable Development

Most geologists would agree that Earth science knowledge, experience, and guidance is critical for tackling many of society’s most acute planetary concerns. 

Currently, however, few geologists are directly involved in delivering on sustainable development goals and geoscience education rarely addresses this issue. 
So, how can global geoscience better rise to the energy, resource, and environmental challenges of the coming decades?

Our project, the IGCP and Common Goals

In February 2019, UNESCO’s Earth Sciences Secretariat approved a 5-year research networking project on ‘Geology for Sustainable Development’ (project 685) - GeoSD, for short.

UNESCO is the only United Nations organization with a mandate to support research and capacity-building in geology and geophysics, and the International Geoscience Programme is its flagship international engagement platform.

A key mission of GeoSD is to champion the role and contribution of geoscience in helping UNESCO address the pressing challenges of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).




Although Earth science expertise can inform and guide practical action across all the UN SDGs, the principal themes of geoscientific input are in the broad resource development areas of Energy, Minerals, and Water, and in the acute societal threats of climate change and disaster risk.

Also, in support of the UNESCO Earth Sciences’ parallel Global GeoParks programme, in GeoSD we focus attention on the promotion of local geodiversity and geoheritage for community-centred economic development and sustainable tourism.



Our work and our research questions

With few geoscientists directly engaged in decision-making around what a sustainable future for humanity will look like, the GeoSD project confronts this apparent disconnect between the geoscientific and policy arenas.

Integrating the experience of Earth science practitioners across a range of fields, we explore how geoscience and geoscientists are addressing societal challenges at the local, regional and global scales.

The work brings together an international interdisciplinary network of academic researchers, industry professionals and geoscience educators to address three fundamental questions.

1. What are the geoscientific principles and practices that underpin contemporary notions of ‘sustainability’ and ‘sustainable development’?

2. What are the current sustainability-related practices in real-world sectors of geo-resources, geo-energy, and infrastructure construction that improve livelihoods and build wellbeing?

3. How might these ‘sustainable geoscience’ practices be integrated into education and training, and how can the work of ‘social geology’ be more effectively communicated for publics and policy?

Through these three intertwined areas of scientific inquiry we aim to establish a common framework by which geoscientists can more effectively inform wise decision-making about our planet, and our society’s, future.

<p>IGCP - Geology for Sustainable Development</p>
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IGCP - Geology for Sustainable Development

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IGCP - Geology for Sustainable Development


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IGCP - Geology for Sustainable Development


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Events, workshops, and other activities

Past activities

During 2019, IGCP project 685 financially supported early-career geoscientists from a range of developing and developed countries to attend, engage with, and contribute to sustainable geoscience sessions at the following international events:

• UN Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals , UN Headquarters, New York, USA (14-15 May)

• Geological Mapping in Andean Geoparks field school , Torotoro Andean Geopark, Bolivia (July 22 - August 1)

• Encuentro de Sostenibilidad y Energía / Energy and Sustainability Summit, Cartagena, Columbia (11-12 December)


Future activities


• Sustainable Geoscience – a one-day workshop, Convenors: Vimal Singh (University of Delhi, India) and Iain Stewart (University of Plymouth, UK), University of Delhi (29 February 2020)

• Road Maps for a Sustainable Energy Future session at Energy Opportunities 2020 conference, Convenors: Denise Cox (AAPG) and Iain Stewart (University of Plymouth, UK), Mexico City (22-23 September 2020)