Previous work on Ethical principles in relation to climate change

Building on the recommendation of COMEST, the 35th General Conference, in October 2009, requested the Director-General to report on the desirability of preparing a draft declaration of ethical principles in relation to climate change (35 C/Resolution 36). An extensive study on the subject was conducted in 2010, with the active involvement of COMEST, whose Report on “The Ethical Implications of Global Climate Change” was published as a book.

The report of the Director-General was submitted to the Executive Board in October 2010 (Document 185 EX/13). The Board judged that it was not appropriate, at that point, to start work towards the drafting of such a declaration, and requested a follow-up report, taking account inter alia of the outcomes of the 16th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP-16, Cancun, November-December 2010; Document 185 EX/Decision 13).

The follow-up report was submitted to the Board in May 2011 (186 EX/Decision 9). Noting the new information presented, the Board confirmed its view that a declaration would not be appropriate, a view subsequently noted and endorsed  by the General Conference in November 2011 (Resolution 36 C/Res. 36).

In parallel with consideration by the UNESCO governing bodies, COMEST continued its own substantive work, and adopted at its 7th Ordinary Session (Doha, Qatar, October 2011) a Framework of Ethical Principles and Responsibilities for Climate Change Adaptation.

In a decision adopted by its Extraordinary Session in July 2012 in Paris, COMEST proposed  that this framework might further be extended in due to cover other aspects of ethical principles in relation to climate change.

Considering the issue in light of new circumstances in October 2012, the UNESCO Executive Board endorsed the proposal by COMEST to pursue background technical work on ethical principles in relation to climate change (190 EX/Decision 10).

At its 8th Ordinary Session (Bratislava, Republic of Slovakia, May 2013), COMEST adopted its report on “Background for a Framework of Ethical Principles and Responsibilities for Climate Change Adaptation”, which provides a detailed justification of its 2011 ethical framework for climate adaptation, and an action plan for the preparation of its comprehensive report on a framework of ethical principles for climate change to be ready for the adoption at the 9th Ordinary Session of COMEST in 2015. This action plan was revised in 2014, when COMEST prepared and discussed, at its Extraordinary Session (Quebec, Canada, October 2014), a consolidated draft of its report on “Ethical Principles for Climate Change: Adaptation and Mitigation”.

The Executive Board considered the issue of desirability of preparing a declaration on ethical principles in relation to climate change at its 195th session in 2014 and noted the progress made by COMEST in its work on a framework of ethical principles related to climate change (195 EX/5 Part I.C). A summary of the work of COMEST on this matter was published on UNESCO’s website on the occasion of the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2014 (COP20, Lima, Peru, December 2014).

The Report of COMEST on the “Ethical Principles for Climate Change: Adaptation and Mitigation” was adopted at the 9th Ordinary Session of COMEST (UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France, September–October 2015) after its presentation at the public joint meeting of the 9th Ordinary Session of COMEST and the 22nd Session of the International Bioethics Committee (IBC) in Paris on 30 September 2015. The 2015 Report of COMEST served as the technical basis for discussion at the 38th session of the General Conference of UNESCO in November 2015. The General Conference adopted 38 C/Resolution 42, by which it mandated the Director-General “to prepare a preliminary text of a non-binding declaration on ethical principles in relation to climate change”, which is to be submitted to the General Conference at its 39th session in 2017.

Back to top