Collaborative Program on Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change Calls for Ethical Leadership in Poznan, Poland Climate Change Negotiations

I. Introduction

The Collaborative Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change (EDCC) (see below) participated in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) Conference of the Parties (COP-14) that took place in Poznan, Poland from December 1st through 12th, 2008.

The Poznan COP was the first of two meetings that the parties to the climate convention had agreed in COP-13 in Bali, Indonesia would be devoted to replacing the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012. COP-15 will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark in December of 2009. The decisions reached in Bali defining the issues to be negotiated to replace the Kyoto Protocol are referred to as the Bail Road Map.
During COP-14, EDCC held a seminar on ethical issues that need to be considered in implementing many specific issues in the Bali Road Map and discussed these issues in a side event during the negotiations. A later post will review the conclusions arrived at in the EDCC seminar.

Since there is now a strong scientific consensus that the world is running out of time to prevent dangerous climate change, the failure of COP-14 and COP-15 to produce an agreement to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be a tragic failure.

During the COP-14 meeting in Poznan, it became clear that many nations were not ready or willing to make commitments urgently needed to avoid potentially catastrophic climate change. Because of this looming failure, EDCC issued the following statement on December 10th.

II. The EDCC Poznan Statement

POZNAN, 10th December 2008 – UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer announced Tuesday that it is not feasible to develop a fully elaborated agreement in Copenhagen. Such an outcome would be a profound moral failure.

Just as no one can responsibly deny the veracity of the science that supports immediate action on climate change, no one can responsibly deny that we now have sound policy recommendations to move forward with robust solutions to this problem. To do otherwise is to risk disastrous climate change impacts.

Members of our group have been attending the climate negotiations since its inception. We have met thousands of people involved in these negotiations. We have no doubt that these are people of good will who recognize the moral gravity of the task before them, and want nothing more than to develop an international solution to this problem. However, it is increasingly apparent that national self interest is constraining the ability of negotiators to fulfill their obligations to the international community. Here in Poznan:

  • We are witnessing a failure to incorporate justice and equity as part of the climate change framework.
  • We are witnessing a failure to negotiate a fair agreement on emission reductions.
  • We are witnessing a failure to negotiate a fair agreement on adaptation necessary to protect the most vulnerable people from climate related harms.
  • We are witnessing a failure to negotiate a just agreement on forests.
  • We are witnessing a failure to negotiate an ethical agreement on technology transfer to bring clean-energy technologies to the developing world.

While the problem of climate change poses profound hazards for all planetary life, it also represents an extraordinary opportunity to forge and act on a common moral vision, one which humanity has long sought. Each person at this meeting represents thousands of others who desire justice. What we need now is bold and courageous leadership to act on this common ethical ground.


EDCC is an organization comprised of many organizations and individuals working on climate change ethics whose secretariat is Penn State University. EDCC’s mission is to encourage analysis of and understanding about the ethical dimensions of climate change.
Current membership of the Collaborative Program on the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change includes: the Brazilian Forum on Climate Change; the Center for Ethics at the University of Montana; the Centre for Applied Ethics at Cardiff University; the Centre for Global Ethics at Birmingham University; the Energy Planning Program of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; EcoEquity; the Global Ecological Integrity Group; the IUCN Environmental Law Commission–Ethics Specialist Group; the International Virtual Institute of Global Change of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; the Munasinghe Institute for Development; New Directions: Science, Humanities, Policy; Oxford Climate Policy; Petrobras Research and Development Center (CENPES); the Sustainability Research Institute of the University of Leeds; and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, as well as dozens of individual participants.

The mission of EDCC is to promote deep reflection on the ethical dimensions of climate change and encourage policy-makers and citizens around the world to examine climate change policy options through an ethical lens. EDCC will continue to work on identifying the ethical issues that the world needs to face to replace the Kyoto Protocol and these issues will be the subject of future posts in


Donald A. Brown,
Associate Professor Environmental Ethics, Science, and Law
Science, Technology, and Society Program
The Pennsylvania State University