17.12.2010 - UNESCO Social and Human Sciences

Philosophers tackle biodiversity and climate change ethics at UNESCO conference in Monaco

Climate change and loss of biodiversity affect people across the globe and raise complex issues of global governance. Science can give us the facts, but cannot solve the moral dilemmas. To expand philosophical discourse in this relatively new area, 35 experts from 18 countries met from 8 to 10 December in Monte Carlo, Monaco at the international conference “Environmental ethics, biodiversity and climate change” organized by UNESCO with the support of the Principality of Monaco.

Among the recommendations formulated at the conference, the participants stressed the practical application of environmental ethics and urged UNESCO to develop an inventory of best practices and ethical tools. They also underlined the importance of promoting education in environmental ethics and of preserving indigenous knowledge, particularly to protect biodiversity against biopiracy.

Conference participants included leading authors in the field, notably Donald Brown, Associate Professor in environmental ethics, science and law, Penn State University (United States); Dale Jamieson, Director of Environmental Studies at New York University (US); Johan Hattingh, Professor of Philosophy and Vice Dean of Social Sciences at the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa); Catherine Larrère, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris I (France); Rainier Ibana, Professor of Ethics, Social Philosophy and Environmental Ethics at Ateneo de Manila University (Philippines) ; and Carmen Velayos Castelo, Associate Professor of Ethics, University of Salamanca (Spain).

Presentations and round tables on ethics and science, ethics and governance and environmental uncertainty covered the most pressing questions related to biodiversity and climate change. Subjects of talks included “Ethical uncertainties and certainties in the discourse on climate change”, “Climate change ethics: state of the art and navigating the Perfect Moral Storm”, “Adapting the worldscape of modernity to climate change” and “Biodiversity: science, policy, and ethics or who is responsible for biodiversity loss?”

Participants took into account the recommendations of the international conference on biodiversity held in Nagoya in October 2010 and referred to the work of the United Nations climate change conference in Cancun, which ended on 11 December.

The conference contributed to ongoing efforts by the international community to build an appropriate intellectual framework to support governments, international organizations and other groups in framing sound environmental policies.

UNESCO promotes active learning and innovative thinking about the issues raised by climate change and biodiversity. The UNESCO Ethics of Science and Technology Programme, organizer of the conference, was created in 1998 with the establishment of the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) to generate ethical reflection on science and technology and its applications.




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