Executive Summary

Human activities threaten the stability and resilience of the global commons — the interdependent Earth systems, which provide the foundation for humanity's prosperity and future wellbeing. Indeed, recent work by those tracking critical planetary boundaries suggest that six of nine critical thresholds have been transgressed (Richardson, Steffen, et al, 2023). This fourth edition of the Global Commons Stewardship Index Report presents the most recent data on domestic impacts and transboundary spillovers on the Global Commons. Building on the latest research and modelling tools in the field of industrial ecology and environmental science as well as the recognition that this work has now begun to receive (including the 2024 Tyler prize awarded to Johan Rockstrom), we hope this report can support the efforts made by policymakers at the global and national levels to safeguard the Global Commons. We underline three major findings from this year's GCS Index edition:

1. Global production and consumption systems continue to undermine the stable and resilient Earth systems, the global commons, which are the foundations of our civilization. We underline in particular, the impact of G20 countries which are responsible for the lion's share of global negative impacts on the Global Commons. In per capita terms, Australia, Canada and the United States are the worst G20 performers according of this year's GCS Index. In absolute terms, China, the United States and the European Union are the worst performers globally. G20 countries are not only responsible for production-based negative impacts on the Global Commons, but also for more than 70% of the GHG emissions and deforestation in the international trade system. No country has achieved high levels of human development and low impact on the Global Commons.

2. The environmental stress caused and transmitted through trade systems is significant; often exceeding 30% of countries' total GHG emissions and 50% of countries' total impacts on deforestation and water stress. One-third or more of the total GHG emission footprint of South Korea, Japan, Italy, the EU, Germany, France and the United Kingdom is embodied into trade. More than half of the total deforestation caused by Germany, India, Turkey, France, Italy, China, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and Japan is generated outside of the borders of these countries. Finally, 50% or more of scarce water consumption in the EU, Italy, South Korea, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and Canada happens in the rest of the world to satisfy consumption in these countries. These findings emphasize that negative trade-based spillovers are significant and must be part of any strategy to safeguard the Global Commons. Good data and metrics at all levels (global, national, industry, commodity levels) are critical to address negative impacts from unsustainable supply chains.

3. The world currently does not have a global governance mechanism to coherently address spillover impacts associated with unsustainable global supply chains. It is now urgent to come up with effective governance mechanisms to safeguard the global commons based on sound data and the latest insights from science. The publication of the Villars Framework for a Sustainable Global Trade System in 2023, led by the Remaking Trade for a Sustainable Future initiative, is an important step in this direction. Published ahead of several important international events including the September 2024 UN Summit of the Future, the November 2024 UNFCCC COPs in Azerbaijan and in Brazil in 2025 as well as the CBD COP in Colombia in 2024, the 2024 GCS Index report provides useful data and statistics to define pathways and policies to curb domestic and spillover impacts on the Global Commons – and sharpen the focus of policymakers on these challenges.


The Global Commons Stewardship Index is a composite of the latest breakthroughs in sustainability indicators, focusing attention on how countries are af­fecting the Global Commons both within their borders and through impacts embodied in trade and consumption (so-called “international spillovers”).

The Index aims to inform actions to achieve major international agreements, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and the Con­vention on Biological Diversity.

The Global Commons Stewardship Index is a collaboration between the SDSN, the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy, and the Center for Global Commons at the University of Tokyo.