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Council on Energy, Environment and Water Integrated | International | Independent
Paper

Geoengineering: The Need for Governance

Janos Pasztor, Nicholas Harrison, Ying Chen, Arunabha Ghosh, Ronny Jumeau, Carlos Nobres, Jesse Reynolds
February 2019 | Technology, Finance & Trade

Overview

This paper, written for the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative (C2G2), takes stock of the governance landscape for climate geoengineering. It reviews the current status of governance measures and lays out potential steps for future governance. It addresses the issues around the governance of the two major technological categories – Solar Radiation Modification (SRM) and large-scale Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) – aiming to help manage global climate risk by altering climate systems on a large scale.

Source: iStock

Key Highlights

  • The recent IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5 °C noted the projected use of large-scale CDR in all pathways limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.
  • Current and potential CDR measures could have significant impacts on land, energy, water, or nutrients if deployed at large scale. Afforestation and bioenergy in particular may compete with other land-uses, and may have significant impacts on agricultural and food systems, biodiversity, and other ecosystem functions and services.
  • SRM measures face large uncertainties, including knowledge gaps, substantial risks, and institutional and social constraints to deployment related to governance, ethics, and impacts on sustainable development.
  • The ungoverned deployment of these strategies poses potentially critical environmental and geopolitical risks, and their governance will require official processes and legal instruments at all levels of government and the participation of non-state actors including the private sector and civil society.
  • At the international level, around eleven principal multilateral agreements have been identified as potentially relevant for governance of large-scale CDR or SRM, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the London Convention and London Protocol on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972 (LC/LP).
  • Both CDR and SRM have also become the subject of increasing scientific and academic scrutiny over the past decade, with particular interest in risks, impacts, and governance considerations.
  • Potential next steps for governance of large-scale CDR and SRM include addressing knowledge gaps around the feasibility, costs, and benefits of geoengineering, identifying governance principles and approaches, and ensuring the support of these approaches for sustainable development to reduce negative impacts.

As the effects of global warming become increasingly apparent, governing large-scale CDR or SRM as part of broader risk management responses to climate change will become crucial.

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