Ethics for carbon managers
There is a small but growing literature that considers the challenge of climate change through the ethicist’s lens. So-called “climate ethics” addresses the ethical imperative for action on climate change. (See this short interview for a good introduction to the flavor of the discourse.) This discussion is important, but while the broad issue of climate change is analyzed at a macro-level, there is a separate litany of ethical questions relevant to those working on the ground to design and implement climate programs and policies.
A new professionalization initiative
We have previously written in this blog about the importance of professionalization as a tool for improving governance by increasing oversight and developing ethical norms. In line with our mission we have taken a number of concrete steps to further professionalize the practice of GHG measurement and management, including launching a code of ethics for carbon managers in 2009 and more recently collaborating on the EP(GHG) professional certification. Now, for our latest professionalization initiative, we are aiming to advance ethical GHG professional practice through education and capacity building.
Training for integrity
Training is an area in which GHGMI is well practiced. Yet, analyzing climate policy design and implementation for ethical complexity is another challenge altogether. Fortunately, to meet this challenge we have been able to join hands with Transparency International (TI). Through their Climate Governance Integrity Program, TI is applying experience honed over two decades leading “the global coalition against corruption” to the challenges graft and corruption present to programs designed to address climate change.
Working in collaboration with TI, we are developing a new short course to help policy designers, civil society observers, and carbon management practitioners identify and manage ethical complexity in market-based GHG mitigation mechanisms. The course is organized around the following corruption-resistant principles and will be piloted as a part of TI’s in-country capacity building programming later this year.
Refers to behaviors and actions consistent with a set of moral or ethical standards that create a barrier to corruption. Principles of integrity are enshrined in codes of conduct and conflict of interest policies for staff, which can covers such issues as vulnerability to political influence or vested business or professional interests.
Openly disclosing information relating to rules, plans, processes, and actions. Government officials, public servants and the managers and boards of companies all have a duty to act transparently. This allows people outside an institution to monitor its work and to take action when something is not as it should be. It also means that duty-bearers have to answer for the actions and decisions they take.
Is the concept that individuals, agencies and organizations are held responsible for executing their powers properly. Public officials can be held to account by courts or ombudsmen, who can take action against them for improper conduct. NGOs often act as watchdogs to keep decision-makers in check. Citizens can also help hold decision-makers to account when circumstances allow them to, in situations of information disclosure and a free and fair press, for example.
As these descriptions suggest, the challenge of battling corruption extends beyond simply addressing overt abuses of power, such as bribe-taking. In turn, there are a host of opportunities to chip away at the conditions in which corruption (i.e., abuses of power) may take hold. This course aims to empower stakeholders with the knowledge to identify, document, and affect systemic change in GHG program design.
At the same time, the course will equip practitioners to understand and manage ethically challenging situations inherent to systems of GHG measurement, reporting, and verification. Perhaps you’ve found yourself in such a situation before? For instance, if you:
- Were encouraged to incompletely report or describe emissions in a way that could potentially give an inaccurate picture of an inventory;
- Had questions you chose not to raise regarding the quality of activity data, based on the assumption that these issues would be resolved during verification;
- Came across emissions quantification calculations that seemed to “cherry-pick” emissions factors in an apparently arbitrary manner that appeared to favor the client;
- Witnessed what you might consider abuses in which data was labeled “confidential business information” and thus obscured from public scrutiny;
- Felt pressure to overlook data requirements in an audit of a valued client.
But what do you think?
Just as business ethics coursework is mandated at many business schools, should GHGMI require its graduates complete a course on ethics for carbon managers?
Have you ever found yourself in an ethical dilemma while conducting GHG work or witnessed ethically questionable behavior in the field?
As always, we welcome your feedback in the comments section below.
We are excited to be working with Transparency International on this timely and valuable initiative. And, we are hopeful that not only will this effort advance the professional practice in our community, but that it will help seed a dialogue on ethical challenges in policy implementation to complement the macro-level climate ethics discussion.