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International Cooperation and the Governance of Geoengineering

Keynote Lecture to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Expert Meeting on Geoengineering, Lima, Peru

Arunabha Ghosh
June 2011 |

Suggested citation: Ghosh, Arunabha. 2011. International Cooperation and the Governance of Geoengineering. Lima, Peru: Keynote lecture to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Expert Meeting on Geoengineering.


This lecture discusses some of the factors that might influence the design of geoengineering governance. It also examines the material interests and ethical concerns regarding geoengineering and highlights the need for a transparency framework for governing geoengineering.

The lecture makes five assumptions — certain types of geoengineering technologies might be relatively cheaper than climate mitigation strategies;  states are currently investing in geoengineering research for the purposes of climate-related actions; scientific capabilities change over time and other motivations could guide investments in geoengineering in future;, countries are concerned about technological leadership, especially in new areas of research and, five, uncertainty increases Mistrust”. 

Key Highlights

  • The Royal Society report (2009) suggested that the governance of geoengineering cannot be simply answered through scientific metrics; ethical, political and legal dimensions will inevitably influence the debate
  • Some research cannot be conducted nationally because the nature of the scientific inquiry requires research to be conducted at the international level (such as, measuring ocean acidity, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, and the impact on monsoons and soil moisture).
  • Many existing treaties have some relevance to geoengineering governance. But there are challenges, such as whether the regimes have adequate governance capacity or whether challenges related to ethics of processes and outcomes are sufficiently addressed. However, no single regime is available legally to govern geoengineering research.
  • Given that there is not enough information available about geoengineering activities, their intent and their impact as well as a lack of a legal framework, it is difficult to establish legal liabilities over actions by states and non-state actors.
  • Thee geoengineering governance arrangements that emerge over time would vary in their effectiveness and legitimacy.
No single regime is available legally to govern solar geoengineering research. Some are potentially applicable to all geoengineering methods, some are applicable to a few specific methods, and some are applicable to the activities with which one engages in geoengineering research.

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