14.11.2017 - UNESCO Office in Harare

UNESCO Member States adopt Declaration of Ethical Principles in relation to Climate Change

The 39th Session of the UNESCO General Conference (Paris, 30 October to 14 November 2017) adopted the global Declaration of ethical principles in relation to climate change. UNESCO’s 195 Member States solemnly proclaimed a broad consensus on the text, as a recognition that, at its core, climate change is an ethical issue.

The Declaration aims to help governments, businesses, and civil society mobilize people around shared values on climate change. lt sounds the alarm that, unless ethical principles become the basis of climate action, both climate change and responses to it could create unacceptable damage and injustice.

Among other ethical principles, a science-based approach to decision-making about climate is crucial. "Decision-making based on science is critically important for meeting the mitigation and adaptation challenges of a rapidly changing climate. Decisions should be based on the best available knowledge from the natural and social sciences," the text says.

At every level, climate action requires a responsible approach. This could improve decision-making, by framing interests in terms of shared values. In addition, UNESCO’s Declaration advocates for sustainability, solidarity and the prevention of harm.

Assisted by leading experts, including negotiators of multilateral climate treaties, scientists from the lntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and ethicists, UNESCO has for the past ten years facilitated discussion on ethics of climate change, examining how to promote fairness and address climate change at the same time.

The process was initiated in 2008, when the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology ("COMEST"), a global advisory body of experts, started framing the issues and urging policy responses.

In 2015, the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, followed by the Paris Climate Agreement, marked a turning point in the history of international cooperation on climate change.

Taken together, these embody a new global agenda for poverty reduction, human rights and dignity, social inclusion and dialogue, and more sustainable paths to development. This agenda fully includes – in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 – the idea that everyone should address the challenge of climate change urgently.

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