17.11.2016 - Social and Human Sciences Sector

The social dimensions of climate change highlighted at COP22

UN PhotoMongolian Family Uses Solar Energy to Power Home © UN Photo / E. Debebe

Social dimensions are often omitted from discussions on climate change. To remedy this, UNESCO held a full day of events dedicated to social and human sciences during the 2016 UN Climate Change Conference (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco, on 11 November 2016. Its purpose was to present the social dimensions of climate change to an international audience, highlight the interrelated nature of climate change and social development, and increase awareness of the multidimensionality of climate change.

Throughout the day, several topics within the social and human sciences were discussed through panels of local and international experts, including equality and social justice, sustainability science, ethical principles of climate change, philosophical and social views on climate change, and migration in relation to climate change.

Climate action is part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It has a direct link to sustainable development and is interconnected with other SDGs. Thus, it plays a vital role in achieving global sustainable development. In this context, and as underlined by the 2016 World Social Science Report, environmental inequality is a key challenge. Robust and in-depth knowledge is needed to understand and take appropriate measures.

Climate change and environmental degradation also has a large impact on migration and cities. Environmental change is a migration driver of increasing importance. Since cities are the most frequent destination of environmental migrants, urbanization is set to continue as a significant trend over the next fifty years. City authorities need to be well-placed to respond to these challenges and opportunities, and to the increasing diversity of more and more globalized urban settlements. UNESCO works actively on these dynamics through its Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme and the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities – ICCAR.

One of the priorities of UNESCO’s MOST Programme is to focus on the background causes, processes and social implications of migration. It also co-produces knowledge for climate action. MOST aims to work with governments, social and human science communities and civil societies to improve connections between knowledge and action that are key to positive social change.

World leaders have called climate change the biggest challenge of the 21st century. UNESCO has started working on a draft declaration on ethical principles in relation to climate change. The declaration will make the case for States, communities and individuals to take action to deal with the twin challenges of climate change adaptation and mitigation.

It will be a non-binding declaration to promote the moral basis for tackling the threat posed by climate change to people and the planet. The declaration will identify and clarify a set of ethical principles to underpin the moral case for the international community to take action to address climate change.

The philosophical and social side of climate change show that no one would question today that humankind has a responsibility related to climate change. If the Earth’s ecosystem is disrupted or its balance broken, humankind in its totality will be directly threatened, without any society’s being spared because of its status, wealth or geographical location. Climate change puts into question our ways of living on Earth, obliging us to consider the Earth as a unified system.

In addition to these issues which were discussed during several well attended comprehensive panels on the social dimensions of climate change, a Signature ceremony for the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH) of Morocco and UNESCO Office for the Maghreb was organized. It was attended by Mr Driss El Yazami, President of the National Council for Human Rights, and Member of the National Steering Committee of COP22 – Responsible of Civil Society Dialogue –, and Mr Salah Khaled, UNESCO Representative to the Maghreb.

Successful mobilization of renowned experts and support were received from other UN entities, such as the UN Economic Commission for Africa, International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The social and human sciences day was organized by several representatives from UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Sector, including among others Mr Dendev Badarch, Director of the Division of Social Transformations and Intercultural Dialogue, Mr John Crowley, Chief of the Research, Policy and Foresight Section and Mr Pedro Monreal, programme specialist.

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