Specialist Group on Ethics

Chair: Klaus Bosselmann, Deputy Chair: Peter Burdon


Year in Review

The two main current projects of the Ethics Specialist Group (ESG) are the Biosphere Ethics Initiative and Earth Democracy. Each project involves ongoing research activities, publications and conferences.

Major activities in the last year have included three panels and a workshop at the12th Annual Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law in Tarragona, Spain. Here the ESG explored the importance of ethics for international policy, law and governance. Two areas were used to focus the discussion: the Earth Charter and climate change. Following this, two ESG members, Prue Taylor and Donald Brown, facilitated and contributed to a book directed toward deepening our understanding of national responses to climate change on the basis of ethics and justice.

Related to Earth Democracy, the Chair initiated a 3-year cooperation, provisionally entitled “Planet Governance Project”, between the Planetary Boundaries Initiative (Stockholm, London), the Earth Systems Governance Project (Amsterdam), the Global Ecological Integrity Group, ESG and other networks to conduct a “healthy planet check” through assessing the process of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and developing an ethics-based approach to the SDGs, global governance and law. Among the aims are the establishment of a “Global Commission for a Healthy Planet” and a “Planet Governance Report” to be presented to the next IUCN World Congress 2016 in Hawaii.

The ESG also drafted and submitted a “Road Map” for implementation WCC-2012-Res-004-EN, “Establishment of the Ethics Mechanism”.

The ESG has also developed a website to share work and store important documents related to past and current projects. While still under development, the ESG group hopes for the website to also work as an interactive blog that enables members to publish short op-ed essays. The ESG website can be viewed here.

Individual members of ESG presented papers on global ethics, Earth law and governance and ethics-related issues of climate change, biodiversity and international environmental law at many conferences around the world. In particular, the ESG has also continued their long association with the Global Ecological Integrity Group by contributing to their work and conferences.


  1. Implement WCC Resolution 004 (2012)
  2. Progress on Biosphere Ethics Initiative
  3. Progress on Earth Democracy project
  4. Organisation of 2015 conference
  5. Publication of !UCN global ethics book
  6. Continue to develop the Roadmap