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Options and Proposals for the International Governance of Geoengineering

• Evaluation of impacts (e.g. environmental, social, economic, cultural)

• Disclosure and transparency in research, and assessment and supervision of research progress

• International cooperation

• Compensation and remediation for damage

• Precautionary principle

• Decision-making based on best scientific evidence

• Flexibility At the international level the CBD has explicitly called for some criteria for a regulatory framework, namely that it be “global”, “science-based”, “transparent”, and “effective”. 472 Potential governance forums suggested include, inter alia, the United Nations (UN), United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), UN Commission on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, LRTAP Executive Body, UN Commission for Sustainable Development, and London Convention/London Protocol – either for all geoengineering activity categories (e.g. CDR or SRM), or for individual techniques. The UN is often cited as a forum for governance, at least in part because the UN could seemingly provide legitimacy in the form of Proposals for considering governing geoengineering under the a multilateral mandate.

UNFCCC, such as through a new protocol, are also common. Reasons for doing so include the UNFCCC’s existing jurisdiction over climate change, established expert bodies such as the SBSTA, use of the CDM and JI mechanisms to address CDR, UN-based legitimacy, and hope that addressing geoengineering in conjunction with climate change mitigation would lessen the risk of the “moral hazard.” Many proposals for geoengineering governance focus on research, rather than deployment. 475 Parson and Ernst (2012) suggest that there is consensus in the literature that research and informal international research collaboration are the most immediate geoengineering needs, that research requires governance, and that informal international consultation and collaboration on research governance should begin soon. Regulation of research presents a natural first, and likely easier, step prior to consideration of deployment. Further, many believe that governance of research could act as a platform for establishing processes and principles for future regulation of deployment and would avoid “lock in” as environmental, technological, and political circumstances evolve. Frequent suggestions are for voluntary governance by the scientific community or states, using principles and codes of conduct, and establishing processes for transparency and coordination of research efforts and results.

On these criteria see Bodle et al (2012) 108-109.

See e.g. Virgoe (2007).

Lin (2009); Barrett (2010); Scott (2010); Rickels et al (2011); UBA (2011); House of Commons (2009); Royal Society (2009).

See e.g. Oxford Principles, Asilomar (2010); Morgan and Ricke (2010).

Bodansky (2012).

Options and Proposals for the International Governance of Geoengineering According to Parson and Ernst (2012), there are major gaps in the existing literature: most geoengineering proposals give only negative guidance, are limited to governance of research and avoid questions of deployment, favour elaboration of normative principles without consideration of factors such as states’ interests and political risks, and fail to define practical aspects of implementation.

6.3 Objectives and criteria for international geoengineering governance This section develops and explains reasons, objectives and functions for geoengineering governance. To some extent these considerations can be distinguished by whether they address the “why” or the "how" of geoengineering governance. However, these distinctions are not always straightforward and also overlap. For ease of reference therefore address these issues by the general term “criteria”. For the purpose of this study this encompasses standards or principles by which geoengineering governance design is assessed, and with the help of which governance options are developed.

We do not simply assume a need for regulation and governance. It is not self-evident that a governance framework for all geoengineering techniques is needed at the international level.

For instance, there are land-based geoengineering concepts that are unlikely to have a transboundary impacts and that could be addressed at national (or EU) level with no or minimal international guidance.

Of course the reasons for regulating or not regulating geoengineering, as well as for favouring particular governance designs and instruments, are normative and show political premises and judgment. For instance, we state the objective to bring also those states on board of a governance framework which could unilaterally pursue geoengineering research and deployment. Possible ways to involve such states relies on political judgment. It is important to analyse and compile the assumptions and premises underlying governance assessments and proposals.

In addition, trade-offs will have to me made. Although the objectives and criteria are to some extent complementary, it is unlikely that all of them can be fulfilled to the same degree by a particular governance framework. For instance, there might be a trade-off between aiming at participation and acceptance by many states and other objectives and criteria.

6.3.1 Particular characteristics of geoengineering relevant to governance Geoengineering has particular characteristics that cause particular challenges to international governance. To some extent these may resemble those of other high-risk or controversial technologies such as genetic modified organisms, nuclear power and perhaps nanotechnology.

Yet geoengineering is also different and unique in several respects, including the following:

For most, geoengineering is viewed as a potential particular and provisional solution to a particular problem: climate change. It is conceived by most, but not all, as a plan B to mitigation, as an fallback option to emission reductions that is not desirable as such, but which could be further explored in order to at least find out whether it is viable as a last resort.

There is a broad range and diversity of techniques addressed under the term geoengineering.

In addition, each technique is quite different depending on which scale we address. The impacts and risks associated with the individual techniques vary. Most techniques become highrisk in terms of physical impacts only when deployed at large scale, and not all may have immediate significant transboundary impacts.

Options and Proposals for the International Governance of Geoengineering

There is scientific uncertainty and on-going technological development. This applies to climate change as the underlying issue as well as to geoengineering techniques as one potential means to address it. It may be difficult to seek more knowledge about geoengineering without endorsing it or causing a political lock-in effect.

Another aspect is an apparent distinction between research and deployment. Whether and how to address geoengineering research is a fundamental and cross-cutting problem that occurs for every geoengineering technique and for every potential governance option. We address research in separate sections (see section 6.3.2,

Despite some field experiments and increasing public and media interest, geoengineering could still be a storm in a teacup. The technical and economic feasibility might be confounded at early stages rather than after years of research and gradually scaled-up experiments. In addition, geoengineering might not be politically viable. The potential for polarisation suggests adding political legitimacy and responsibility to a largely science-driven debate.

6.3.2 Reasons for geoengineering governance Avoid negative environmental and health risks and impacts This is probably the most obvious and self-explanatory purpose of a geoengineering governance structure. Given the factual and scientific uncertainties regarding geoengineering techniques, this criterion is closely linked to the precautionary approach. A governance framework should ensure as far as possible that potential environmental and health impacts resulting from pursuing geongineering are avoided or kept to a minimum. There are further obvious links to other criteria such as avoiding conflicts, which could arise from real, assumed or even potential impacts. The objective of avoiding negative environmental and health impacts also applies to research. Avoid political conflicts and legal disputes / Avoid unilateral action As it is likely that at least some geoengineering concepts could be tested and deployed by a single state, a state capable of doing so might prefer to address geoengineering in its domestic jurisdiction only, and be reluctant to wait for or subject itself to international agreement.

However, all states, including all states pursuing geoengineering (research), have an interest in participating in an international governance framework in order to (1) prevent others from engaging in unilateral and uncoordinated geoengineering and (2) avoid international political tensions that are likely to arise from the potential for transboundary impacts of geoengineering. Such political tensions may arise regardless of whether any impacts can be proven to be caused by the geoengineering activities in question. Geoengineering governance should curb this potential for political tension.

Avoiding unilateral action is the flipside of avoiding political conflicts. Where there is potential for unilateral action, a governance framework should avoid it. This objective reinforces the need for political feasibility. A state could be part of a regime, but that regime might not prevent unilateral action. Conversely, a further aspect is how to provide incentives for states that are not part of the regime to nevertheless abide by the main principles. Co-ordinate science and research There are technical aspects to research that would at least at a potential later stage require some form of governance of research and science. Depending on the particular geoengineering Options and Proposals for the International Governance of Geoengineering concept, at some stages research activities might need to be coordinated at the international level in order to ensure that data can be correctly attributed to particular experiments and to ensure validity of results. A need for e.g. prior information and co-ordination requirements could arise when field experiments could interfere with each other’s validity. 477 This scenario probably relates to experiments at large scale, and perhaps is most pertinent for SRM.

Assuming that more than one state would engage in further research, each state’s research could be susceptible to such interference. Avoiding this through some form of governance might also facilitate willingness to join a general governance regime. In addition, transparency and information sharing could also avoid duplication of research. This is a scientific rather than a political rationale for international governance and should be discussed with the scientific community. These more technical points do not necessarily mean that elaborate governance structures are needed at this stage for this particular objective. The science community is selforganising to a large degree. At some stage there may be a need to compile and synthesise the individual research results in order to provide focused input to political decision-making (see sections 6.5, 06.6.3) Science coordination also has policy relevance in that it enhances the quality of scientific input to the political level. Better scientific knowledge can defuse potential political tensions and add legitimacy to decisions. Science coordination can also avoid governance conflicts between institutions addressing the same or different geoengineering concepts, and with geoengineering activities and other activities.

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