Divergent values in sustainability assessments: love them, leave them, or change them?

An interdisciplinary conference: Sept. 16-18, 2019, Berlin

This conference is about novel approaches to legitimacy at the science-policy interface in light of divergent normative viewpoints. What would a legitimate assessment of the desirability of alternative sustainability futures look like? A particular focus is on deliberative approaches to ethical issues.

Conflicting values are increasingly understood to be a considerable challenge for sustainability governance in general and integrated assessment processes in particular. But how can international (e.g., IPCC, IPBES, etc.) or domestic science-policy interfaces explicitly consider divergent normative viewpoints, including, e.g., different interests, ethical principles, different framings of sustainability, as well as the various policy goals underlying climate change mitigation, biodiversity protection and sustainable development?

This conference will explore the prospects and the limitations of more recent innovations and promising approaches to divergent normative viewpoints. The goal is to jointly discuss and develop novel responses that meet the crucial, though ambiguous, criterion of liberal-democratic legitimacy (excluding, e.g., dogmatic or authoritarian approaches), without falling into cynism or fatalism regarding conflicting values in sustainability governance.

Collaboration across disciplines appears to be absolutely essential here. This conference envisages a novel interdisciplinary and practically-informative evaluation of alternative approaches. It brings together philosophy, economics, social-science and integrated assessment communities. This might inform future integrated assessment processes (such as by the IPCC, IPBES or UN Environment), but also inspire critical-constructive research about the value-laden science-policy interface. The conference nurtures the hope that liberal democracies can successfully respond to conflicting values as a major obstacle to environmental governance.

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