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Ethics and Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific (ECCAP) Project

This project calls for developing dialogues within each participating country and between countries on the results of research, future research needs, policy lessons and policy recommendations in regard to the ethical issues of energy-related technologies, and related environmental and human security issues. How should each country make decisions on the energy technologies that they develop and which strategies to follow, given the environmental crisis and the variety of proposed benefits and potential risks of different technologies? As countries in the Asia-Pacific region face mounting external pressures to decide on their energy policy, what are the values and questions that exist inside the region for ethical deliberation over the choices for energy?

The formal launch to this project as the Conference on Ethics of Energy Technologies in Asia and the Pacific held in Bangkok 26-28 September, 2007 [abstracts, pdf file (232kb); meeting report, pdf file(347kb)]. After an intense and stimulating three days of presentations and group activity, we emerged with 14 cross-cultural and multidisciplinary working groups to take the project forward [invite to groups, MSWord file (2.8MB)]. The description is available in several languages, including: [ENGLISH, INDONESIAN, CHINESE, JAPANESE, KHMER, THAI, URDU, VIETNAMESE].
That meeting was attended by 100 persons from about 20 countries and many fields. This project is conducted in collaboration together with our partners which currently include the Thai Ministry of Energy and the Thai Ministry of Science and Technology (National Science and Technology Development Agency, and the National Metals and Materials Technology Center). Government officials, educators, communications specialists, engineers and academics and students of diverse disciplinary backgrounds were amongst the participants, representing over a dozen countries in the Asia and Pacific region. 

Since then there have been a variety of meetings in different countries on the project, and a number of case studies produced. A project update of 5 June 2009 is available in English and French.

An email listserve has also been established for all to join: 

Those individuals, institutions and others interested in joining this project should write to Darryl Macer, for more information.

Overview of the working groups

Overview of the working groups [graphic overview pdf file 467K] 

1. Universalism and Environmental Values
Environmental values in the Asia Pacific region are drawn from a diversity of rich philosophical and religious heritages. To what extent can common ground be found within a United Nations system that seeks to implement universal rights and dialogue among different values? Is it appropriate to seek universal or pluralist environmental values? Is there such a thing as an "Asian environmental ethos" that might be the foundation for building and promoting a more sustainable economic growth? Are there common environmental values that can feed into methods to protect the environment?

2. Ethical Worldviews of Nature
Are there worldviews inherent in philosophical and religious traditions of the Asia Pacific that shape ethical relationships with the natural world? Are these anthropocentric, biocentric, ecocentric or cosmocentric worldviews? How do our worldviews allocate value and meaning to people, plants, animals and the biosphere? What are the relationships between such worldviews and actual decisions made by policymakers or the daily lives of the people they represent? Meeting report [pdf file]: UNESCO Conference on Ethics of Energy Technologies: Ethical Views of Nature (Working Group 2), 3 August 2008, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea

3. Visions and hopes of the future
What is the most appropriate timescale to consider problems of environmental ethics – years, decades, centuries, or generations? Is there a common vision of where we would like society to go beyond MDGs? How to balance economic growth, quality of life, and other future aspirations in a holistic vision?

4. Representation and Decision-Making
What are the rights of nation states to decide on energy technologies for their people, when such decisions may pose an environmental or security risk to neighbouring countries, to the region or to all countries? What are rights of provinces, communities and ethnic groups with regards to energy infrastructure in their geographic area?

5. Community Engagement
How can we engage communities in the decision-making process? Are communities being given a chance to articulate their environmental values? Do communities have adequate access to information about energy technologies and their risks and benefits? What is the role of education in assisting communities to make decisions about their future? Are women and young people being engaged? What are the appropriate stages of an energy project for community consultation? Is there a trade-off between adequate consultation time and expedient implementation of a project? How can we develop the ‘not in my backyard’ view when it comes to large-scale energy infrastructure? How can community engagement reflect the emerging paradigm shift from principles of paternalism through those of  informed consent to informed choice?

6. Stakeholder Responsibilities
What are stakeholders responsibilities towards the environment and to future generations? Is a rights based framework really appropriate for environmental ethics, when an emphasis on responsibilities may be more important? When regional or global consensus cannot be reached, do countries have a responsibility to do what is ethically correct, even if no-one else will? When regional or global consensus cannot be reached, do countries have a responsibility to do what is ethically correct, even if no-one else will? The group will articulate the responsibilities of scientists, policy makers (funding and regulation), the public (including consumers and non-consumers of different products), investors, companies, institutions, particular interest groups (e.g. geographically close to a power plant, occupational groups, faith groups), other living organisms, as examples in a cross-cultural perspective.

7. Energy Equity and Environmental Security
While energy generation supports economic growth and a higher standard of living, it also has financial and environmental costs. How do we reconcile the disproportionate consumption of energy by developed countries with increasing demand for energy in developing countries, and particularly across the Asia Pacific region? Is it appropriate for rich countries to encourage less developed countries to limit their energy consumption and shun luxury lifestyles? Is there a way for developing countries to access the technology and expertise that permits more efficient energy generation in the developed world? At the social level, should governments provide concessions to make energy more affordable and accessible for lower-income people? Do government subsidies for energy run the risk of subsidising inefficient use of energy?

  • Meeting: UNESCO Conference on Ethics of Energy Technologies and Human Rights, 19 August 2008, Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Meeting: UNESCO Conference on Ethics of Energy Technologies: Energy equity and human security (Working Group 7), 22-23 September 2008, The Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, Chennai, India *Programme [pdf file]

8. Cost-benefit analysis and economic constructions
How can environmental and cultural values best be incorporated into cost-benefit analyses for energy projects? What are the real costs of cheap energy? What are the costs of any form of energy if we consider the opportunity costs of infrastructure construction or land surface area, and total energy costs over the lifecycle of a product, including waste, disposal and security?

9. Adoption and Development of Energy Technologies (state of art review)
This review of energy alternatives for local and national scale projects will focus on the ethical implications inherent in different research options for energy production and delivery. It will include development of innovation in new science and translational research, diffusion of technology, and energy diversity. It will also consider global networking and IT. It will apply an ethical matrix to analyze points of different alternative energy technologies, with case studies. Meeting report [pdf file]: Adoption and Development of Energy Technologies - State of the Art review (UNESCO Ethics of Energy Technologies Working Group 9), 12 June 2008, NSTDA building, Bangkok

10. Ethical Frameworks for Research Agenda and Policy
What criteria do policymakers use in deciding to adopt energy technologies, and how are ethical considerations taken into account? How should policy makers identify and employ the precautionary principle? How can they ensure appropriate gender-sensitive aspects in policy formulation from planning through implementation and impact assessment, emphasizing that all people in a society are assets in environmental and energy management? This group will examine the different understanding of ethical frameworks by looking at critical ethical issues including: codes of ethics for researchers, societal values, rights of all participants (stakeholders), rights of indigenous peoples, religious values, legal issues and take account of the conclusions of the specialized working groups above. After a review of all policies it will analyze the ethical frameworks inherent in the documents to draw up a model ethical framework. Meeting: 4 November, 2008, Jogyakarta, Indonesia
Report outline [pdf file].

11. Educational Frameworks for Environmental Ethics
This working group will link to ongoing efforts to develop and test environmental ethics education materials and strategies with pilot trials. The topics link to the coverage of all the above working groups.

12. Nuclear Dialogues
This group will look at the particular sensitivities of the nuclear energy debates from an ethical perspective. A specific case study of one alternative energy. Issues raised include transparency; industrial marketing; safety; risk surcharge to add to the price estimates for energy production;  analysis of so-called “new” generation reactors; waste; extremely long term risk. Meeting report [pdf file]: Joint UNESCO-UNITAR Dialogues on Ethics of Nuclear Energy Technologies, 25 and 27 July 2008, UNITAR, Hiroshima, Japan. Draft report outline [pdf file]. Contributions invited.

13. Energy flow, Environment, and Ethical Implications of Meat Production
Meat, as a food, is a form of energy for humans, but in order to produce enough meat to satisfy global demand huge reserves of energy are required in the form of feed, fertilizers, pharmaceutical production, transport and refrigeration. This group will examine the consumption of energy, particularly fossil fuels, in the meat production industry, and ethical implications for humans and the environment. Meeting report [pdf file]: UNESCO Ethics of Energy Technologies Conference on Energy Flow, Environment and Ethical Implications for Meat Production (Working Group 13), 24 July 2008, at UNU-IAS, Yokohama, Japan. Report outline [pdf file]

14. Water ethics and water resource management
The ethical issues associated with water resource management, including its uses in energy and other domains are a priority area in many countries. There are also issues over equity of access, ways to conserve water, and privatization of what many consider to be a common resource. Meeting report [pdf file]: The Second Joint UNESCO-Beijing University Conference on Water Ethics, 22-23 October 2008 (subject to change), Beijing, China. Report outline [pdf file]

15. Gender, Environment and Energy technologies

16. Ethics and Biodiversity

17. Ethics and International Investment in the Energy Sector, and the Environment 

All are welcome to join the network and help convene activities in the coming years to produce reports suitable for use by policy makers and researchers.

Page last updated: 20 January 2011.