Global environmental change gives rise to ethical challenges that need to be grasped within a framework of critical and forward-looking thinking. Environmental challenges often tend to be framed as costs to be borne and technologies to be discovered, leaving behind the opportunities and co-benefits associated with serious engagement with their ethical dimensions. Thus, through the joint efforts of its Programme Sectors, its expert advisory body in this area – COMEST – and relevant international bodies, UNESCO has developed a range of activities on environmental ethics that generates intellectual knowledge, plays an advisory role for the benefit of the Member States and offers a basis for reflecting on the relevance of standard-setting initiatives.
Since 2009, UNESCO – in particular through the work of COMEST – has been actively engaged in reflection on ethical principles in relation to climate change.
Substantive books or reports have also been published on:
- The Ethical Implications of Global Climate Change. Report by the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) [PDF, 2 MB]
- Environmental Ethics and International Policy
- Best Ethical Practice in Water Use [PDF, 2.7 MB]
- World Social Science Report 2013 - Changing Global Environments
Furthermore, preliminary intellectual work on emerging themes in environmental ethics has been done through a series of exploratory meetings:
- International Conference on Environmental Ethics, Biodiversity and Climate Change, Monaco, 8-10 December 2010
See also: Philosophers tackle biodiversity and climate change ethics at UNESCO conference in Monaco (10 March 2011 - UNESCO Social and Human Sciences)
- Imagining the Worst: Foresight, Ethics, and Extreme Climate Scenarios, Bled, Slovenia, 1-3 March 2011
- Climate Change Adaptation in the Caribbean: Science, Ethics and Policies, Frigate Bay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, 8-9 March 2011
See also: Saint Kitts and Nevis Conference calls for a shared Caribbean vision on climate change adaptation (10 March 2011 - UNESCO Social and Human Sciences)
- Disasters: Knowledge, Anthropologies, Ethics, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France, 4 July 2011