«ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH OF THE FEDERAL MINISTRY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, NATURE CONSERVATION, BUILDING AND NUCLEAR SAFETY Project No. (FKZ) 3711 11101 ...»
Existing international institutions only partially cover the issue area of geoengineering and fall short of providing a comprehensive governance framework that fulfils the objectives and criteria mentioned above. The London Convention/London Protocol has developed a soft-law approach for the governance of geoengineering regarding marine techniques and is in the process of further developing this system and providing a more stable framework under international law. The normative approach pursued seems to be largely in line with the "general prohibition with exemptions" approach advocated here. However, the current proposals have yet to be adopted and enter into force. There might also be concern about whether the procedures and assessments are over-burdensome and the conditions difficult to satisfy in practice. Generally, the LC/LP is a comparatively small regime and the framework is limited to marine geoengineering techniques. The same is true for the limited activities under OSPAR, which are also limited in their regional scope. In part building on the approach of the London Convention/London Protocol, the CBD has developed some broader guidance and has served as a forum for more general discussions on geoengineering and its governance. The CBD framework does, however, not yet provide a stable basis and is not yet generally recognised as a or the central institution for discussing international governance of geoengineering.
Options and Proposals for the International Governance of Geoengineering
geoengineering to a significant extent yet. This is s significant gap in particular regarding SRM techniques, especially atmospheric SRM such as aerosol injection.
Therefore, current international governance of geoengineering is characterised by the involvement of several institutions (mainly CBD, LC/LP, OSPAR). They form the beginning of an institutional complex with significant gaps/shortcomings and with an emerging interinstitutional division of labour in need of further clarification. First, the institutional landscape does not yet provide for a central institution that is clearly recognised as the central point of contact, providing the opportunity for actors to discuss crosscutting issues, develop overarching guidance (across other relevant institutions) and raise emerging issues; developing general principles and perspectives, and facilitating the exchange of information. Second, the existing institutional complex lacks regulation of SRM techniques. Increased regulatory capacity in international geoengineering governance also raises the question of how appropriate scientific input into decision-making can be provided. In addition, if geoengineering field experiments were to increase in number and scale, there would be scope for better international coordination of research and related exchange of information.
Our discussion of options for filling these governance gaps and for progressing towards a coherent and encompassing structure for international geoengineering governance is further premised on the following considerations. First, we focus on the use of existing institutions, rather than the creation of new ones, for reasons of “institutional economy” and because, in our assessment, international discussions on geoengineering have not yet reached a level that would likely support the creation of major new institutions in this field. Working with existing institutions may also yield results more quickly. We are also guided by an evolutionary approach that further develops and elaborates (and possibly expands) the existing institutional complex of international geoengineering governance, rather than a revolutionary centralisation in one institution.
In our assessment, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) does not provide a suitable or promising governance framework for fulfilling any of the governance tasks identified above. The main reasons are, first, that negotiations under the UNFCCC are already characterised by a very high level of complexity and being politicised. Adding geoengineering as another item on the UNFCCC negotiating agenda is likely to suffer a similar fate as others before, namely being deadlocked, being used as a negotiating chip, or not receiving appropriate attention. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the institutional logic of the UNFCCC is directed at combatting climate change. Avoiding other negative impacts on e.g. biodiversity or other environmental objectives is addressed only to a marginal extent,, e.g.
in respect of the economic consequences of addressing climate change. As a result, it might be intrinsically difficult for the current climate regime to pursue a precautionary approach that is restrictive to geoengineering. In addition, geoengineering does not fit easily with the overall approach of the UNFCCC aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. The UNFCCC may thus best be considered a complementary forum that may be suitable for incentivising any “encapsulated” geoengineering activities that have significant climate benefits while having insignificant environmental and health risks.
We consider the CBD the prime candidate for becoming the central institution recognised as a first point of contact. The CBD already fulfils this function to some extent, although not at a stable and prominent basis. Although its mandate is not unlimited, in particular the mandate to protect biological diversity allows pursuing a sufficiently broad precautionary approach, which could be further broadened if considered warranted by parties. Making the CBD the central institution in the field would appear to first of all suggest a conscious decision of its parties to establish appropriate stable structures (possibly including a work programme) to Options and Proposals for the International Governance of Geoengineering pursue targeted discussion of geoengineering on a regular basis. The establishment of such structures may help address concerns about a lack of priority and expertise in the CBD framework.
There is no obvious other candidate for becoming the central institution in the international governance of geoengineering. As mentioned, the UNFCCC has important drawbacks, and other institutions have neither been active so far nor would their more limited mandates or political setup make them promising candidates. However, the trade-off underlying the assessment of the UNFCCC, in particular viv-a-vis the CBD, is a difficult one. The advantages of the UNFCCC are not easily outweighed, including its role as a central forum for international climate diplomacy, the participation of the US, and the climate regime’s experience in setting up institutions for specific tasks. Against this backdrop, institutional economy on its own might not be reason enough to choose the CBD, unless there is also confidence that the governance provided by the CBD is implemented and effective. In any event, irrespective of the institutional governance structure, politically geoengineering is not separable from climate policy and the climate regime.
UNEP might be a second-best solution, as it is the only relevant overarching international environmental institution and might assume a strengthened role in the course of its current reform. Although it does not usually engage directly in international regulation, it might launch a related initiative if no further action can be taken through the CBD, and contribute to scientific and technological assessment (see below).
The CBD may also be the most appropriate forum for pursuing more concrete governance arrangements for SRM activities. Again, it could build on the existing work already undertaken in elaborating a more concrete “prohibition with exemptions” framework. Such a framework could be established by means of a decision of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD. If a binding framework was considered warranted, a related Protocol to the CBD could in principle be elaborated. The 1985 Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and its 1987 Montreal Protocol do not constitute a very promising alternative since their mandate is limited to the protection of the ozone layer, whereas not all relevant SRM techniques clearly affect the ozone layer. In addition, previous attempts to broaden the interpretation of the mandate of the Montreal Protocol in respect of a different issue politicised that issue, which is an important risk if tried for geoengineering. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) does not have a clear regulatory mandate or significant experience and may thus only be able to contribute to related scientific and technological assessments (see below). If action on SRM activities proved impossible under the CBD, launching a related process under UNEP may be a secondbest alternative at the international level. Complementing global efforts, regional action could be explored in a European context under the UNECE’s LRTAP regime, which might serve to advance global action.
As international (and national) governance of geoengineering advances, demand for international scientific and technological assessments is likely to grow. At the international governance level, a mandate to regularly compile and perhaps assess the current knowledge could be useful. Where there is specific scientific input to underpin other governance functions, e.g. in order to update or amend general guidance or rules, scientific input should be separate from political decision-making. In respect of individual decisions, e.g. on permits, it does not currently seem necessary that the international level provides more than general guidance as to the conditions under which the national level should allow for exemptions from the general prohibition.
Options and Proposals for the International Governance of Geoengineering 7 Annex I: Overview of selected governance proposals Table 3: Overview of selected governance proposals
Summary overview Options and Proposals for the International Governance of Geoengineering 8 Annex II: Expert Workshop 5./6. November 2012 As part of the project, Ecologic organised an international workshop on geoengineering governance. This annex includes the discussion paper distributed to the participants prior to the workshop and a summary of the main points discussed.
8.1.1 Introduction: The UBA research project This discussion paper for the workshop on international governance of geoengineering aims at stimulating discussion. The workshop is part of a research project for the German Federal Environment Agency, in which Ecologic Institute develops specific proposals for governance of geoengineering at the international level. Based on a comprehensive analysis of the existing regulatory framework and its gaps, the study identifies general options and specific recommended actions for the effective governance of geoengineering. A key consideration is that the recommendations can be implemented in practice.
Although the debate about geoengineering is still largely driven by scientists, it is gaining attention at the policy interface. In addition, while many geoengineering techniques are at the conceptual or modelling stage, there have also been field experiments followed by an emerging public debate. These developments raise the question of whether a governance framework is needed over and above the current framework, and what it should look like.
Options and Proposals for the International Governance of Geoengineering 8.1.2 State of play in geoengineering governance The geoengineering debate has taken international law somewhat by surprise. The main legal studies so far show an emerging consensus that -details aside- existing international law hardly addresses the potential impacts of geoengineering or related key questions.
Geoengineering is currently not as such prohibited by international law. Potential application of specific rules and restriction on geoengineering would generally depend on specific actual or potential impacts, depending on the rule in question. Such impacts are difficult to assess or predict at this stage.
Neither the UNFCCC nor the Kyoto Protocol prohibit geoengineering as such. Although the objective of the climate regime according to Article 2 UNFCCC is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, this “ultimate” aim of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations does not necessarily mean that the UNFCCC or the Kyoto Protocol prohibit other measures intended to prevent global warming. The precautionary principle embodied in Art.