COP15: Right to Sustainable Development - An ethical approach to climate change


The event highlighted the ethico-political dimension that needs to be addressed in a climate change deal. It was stressed that the right to sustainable development needs to be mainstreamed. A brief report, titled ‘Right to Sustainable Development: An Ethical Approach to Climate Change’, was also released. The report calculated and presented the global carbon budget available to mankind and how much of it has been consumed (available here). It was highlighted that the Annex I countries have already exhausted their share of resources, and have started eating into the share of non-Annex I countries.


The key speakers included - Dr R K Pachauri, Director-General, TERI, and Dr Leena Srivastava, Executive Director, TERI. Other panelists were - Ms Jennifer Morgan, Director, Climate and Energy Program, WRI (World Resources Institute); Olav Kjorven, Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau for Development Policy, UNDP; Anil Markandya, Scientific Director, BC3 (Basque Centre for Climate Change); Dr Prodipto Ghosh, Indian Climate Negotiator.


In his opening remark, Dr Pachauri highlighted the centrality of developmental challenges in developing countries and the urgency to address the question of adaptive capacity of poor communities. He stressed upon the need to bring ethics and sustainable development into the centre of global climate diplomacy, and pointed at the prevailing lack of attention given to the ethical dimension of climate change and right to sustainable development in particular. Dr Leena Srivastava, in her presentation on the subject, expressed support for the carbon budget approach proposed by many researchers, and proposed that from an ethical point of view it could be justified that from now on countries are allocated emission rights from the remaining global carbon budget on a per-capita basis. Also, developed countries should pay at market price for their over-use of their historical budget on the same basis. The money thus collected could be deposited with the World Climate Debt Fund, which would then further distribute it among developing countries according to their carbon balances.


In her comments, Ms Jennifer Morgan emphasized upon the significance of this approach citing the prevailing incompleteness of ethical understanding as well as lack of an agreeable criteria for mobilization of finances and distribution. She suggested that the study should also examine this criterion from a bottom-up approach and explore criteria other than per-capita. Olav Kjorven, suggested that speed (growth) too is a moral imperative. Further, issues of gender and other species should also be looked at while discussing the ethical dimension of climate change and the response to it. Anil Markandya stressed upon the need for concrete action, along with allocation of resources. He pointed out that if emissions are not reduced and sustainable development is not ensured, then any allocation would become meaningless. Dr Prodipto Ghosh brought out the issue of historical responsibility on the table, and stressed that each individual is entitled for benefits and costs of his/her ancestors.

Date: 12 Dec 2009 Theme: Climate Change
Location: Rasmussen Room, Bella Center, Copenhagen
Category: Conference


Mr Prabhat Upadhyaya / Mr Manish K Shrivastava
Research Associates
Earth Science and Climate Change Division