«ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH OF THE FEDERAL MINISTRY FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, NATURE CONSERVATION, BUILDING AND NUCLEAR SAFETY Project No. (FKZ) 3711 11101 ...»
Tentative Answer: Avoiding negative environmental and health risks and impacts is an overarching concern. However, it has been suggested that the environmental and health risks from geoengineering should be balanced against the risks that could arise from climate change not addressed by geoengineering. The ensuing main challenge for governance design appears to be to create political buy-in while establishing appropriate safeguards against these risks. In addition, avoiding undermining of mitigation efforts would appear to be another overarching objective.
Question 3: To what extent are the criteria suitable for addressing research as well?
Tentative Answer: Ensuring continuing mitigation efforts is not affected by research. Further, it could be explored to what extent the criteria of political buy-in and avoiding political conflict are relevant for research governance, or whether research poses similar governance concerns.
8.1.4 Assessment and Options Existing and potential future geoengineering governance can be explored from an institutional and from a normative perspective, on the understanding that these two categories are useful tools for analysis rather than clear-cut and exclusive distinctions.
Options and Proposals for the International Governance of Geoengineering 18.104.22.168 Institutional perspective From an institutional perspective, the analysis of international governance has increasingly moved from the exploration of specific institutions to the investigation of “institutional complexes”, “regime complexes” or “governance architectures”. An institutional complex can be defined as a set of two or more international institutions, such as international regimes and international organisations, that co-govern a particular issue area in international relations.
The emerging issue area of geoengineering is already addressed by several institutions, most notably the CBD and the LC/LP. This international governance framework for geoengineering although it is in early stages- can be understood as an emerging institutional complex.
Important aspects from the institutional perspective include:
• The degree of institutional integration and centralisation: For instance, is or should geoengineering governance be dominated by one core institution that defines the guiding principles and determines the general policy direction that is accepted and implemented by other elemental regimes and organisations?
• Different types of divisions of labour among the institutions comprising the institutional complex. For example, different elements of the governance complex for geoengineering may specialise on various regulatory subsets or sectors, or on the supply of certain governance functions (such as knowledge creation, regulation, enforcement, etc.), or on different spatial areas.
• The level of inter-institutional conflict or competition. The level of synergy and conflict between institutions is not least rooted in the degree of compatibility or competition of their objectives.
The co-governance of an issue area such as geoengineering by various institutions can be shaped by political decision-making. One potential objective would be to achieve an appropriate division of labour between the various institutions, including an adequate level of centralisation. However, there is no institution with the authority and mandate to assign and prescribe a division of labour to other institutions. The means for such collective governance of institutional complexes are mainly confined to decision-making within the individual institutions and, to a lesser extent, on cooperation among them.
22.214.171.124 Normative perspective From a normative perspective, there is a broad range of binding and non-binding tools, instruments and legal techniques that could be used for fulfilling the governance criteria developed above - to the extent that such instruments are needed. One of the core issues regarding geoengineering governance is to balance political feasibility and buy-in with the precautionary approach. In terms of substance and procedure, there are many normative options for designing this balance. Some of these elements already exist and apply to some or all geoengineering techniques. The portfolio of normative governance elements includes, for
• Unless a total ban is intended, a balance could be achieved by defining the appropriate levels of restrictions and permissions in terms of rules and exceptions. Basic types include a general prohibition combined with exemptions that can be more or less easy to obtain. Conversely, the approach could be to generally allow activities but have procedures that could impose restrictions relatively easily. A general-prohibition approach that makes exemption relatively easy may not be that far apart from a general-permission approach that makes prohibition relatively easy. Procedural design can further alleviate concerns about being too restrictive or too permissive. For instance, Options and Proposals for the International Governance of Geoengineering a corresponding design option at the level of decision-making rules could be e.g. that a certain majority or consensus (not including the applicant) is needed in order to deny the permission.
• In addition, the normative spectrum includes not only permissions and restrictions, but also other instruments such as guiding principles and procedures. For instance, there could be procedures for establishing and providing knowledge and scientific input in decision-making.
• Transparency regarding procedure and information: Procedural approaches can be used a self-standing or complementary instruments. Key instruments include obligations regarding reporting and information exchange, impact assessments and participatory approaches
• There are several legal orders in which normative instruments could be anchored:
international law, EU law and domestic legal orders. At least some of the governance criteria mentioned above appear to call for action at the international level, e.g. in order to avoid and defuse international political conflict.
• So-called "soft law" approaches are available besides the traditional sources of international law;
• Whether or not to differentiate between different geoengineering techniques and possibly spatial areas;
• A framework for further developing the governance system. Given the current state of geoengineering knowledge and debate, a governance framework does not have to, and perhaps should not be all-encompassing from the start. Like most modern governance frameworks it could allow for implementation and some degree of further normative development from within the framework. On this basis, how much governance design is needed so that details can develop during implementation?
In addition, there are two cross-cutting issues: First, there is again the question to what extent research should be addressed, perhaps separately. To what extent should international law endorse research activities even if they could cause severe impacts, on the grounds that this is the only way to know for sure that a geoengineering technique causes such impacts? Are there useful and feasible criteria for this distinction between research and non-research? Second, there is the question of a definition of geoengineering for normative purposes. Due to the broad range of geoengineering techniques, any overarching definition for regulatory purposes is unlikely to be sufficiently comprehensive to capture all relevant techniques while being sufficiently precise to exclude uncontroversial techniques or scales of activities. In a regulatory context, a definition would have to be complemented by further details on determining and measuring unspecific elements such as scale. Some governance approaches would not necessarily require a single cross-cutting definition. In addition to these technical challenges, the potentially negative implications of being classified as “geoengineering” also play a role.
For instance, classifying forestry techniques as geoengineering might affect programmes such as REDD+.
126.96.36.199 Existing Framework At the international level, there are currently two leading institutions, i.e. the CBD with global and comprehensive scope and the LC/LP focused on marine techniques. Other institutions and fora have so far been involved only marginally and have limited prospect for making a Options and Proposals for the International Governance of Geoengineering significant (positive) contribution, including the UNFCCC, IPCC, the UN General Assembly and OSPAR.
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) The CBD has addressed ocean fertilisation and geoengineering in general through decisions.
The CBD is an almost universal regime and its scope is spatially unlimited. All geoengineering techniques, if employed at an effective scale, are likely to have impacts on biodiversity and could be addressed by the CBD. Leaving aside the on-going debate on semi-legal and de facto implications of COP decisions within treaty regimes, the decision under a treaty with near universal membership, such as the CBD sends a political signal that would be difficult to ignore in practice. However, the US is a signatory and observer, but not a party to the CBD, which has implications for political feasibility and buy-in of a major player in the current geoengineering debate.
The CBD decisions on ocean fertilisation mainly incorporate the work under the LC/LP, adding own guidance while at the same time referring back to the LC/LP. Decision X/33 and the recent COP11 decision provide a comprehensive but legally soft and basic framework for geoengineering in general. The regulatory approach is an intended general restriction of geoengineering, based on the precautionary approach. The intended restriction is subject to three provisos, namely (i) that the restriction as a whole is a transitional measure intended to apply in the absence of regulatory mechanisms with specified attributes, (ii) that the restriction is to apply “until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify” geoengineering activities, which includes a comprehensive risk assessment, and (iii) that small-scale scientific research studies are exempted under certain conditions. However, the decision leaves it to parties to determine whether the conditions for some of the exceptions are met. The CBD also has not established few firm procedures such as reporting. There has also been little advancement on specific research and science so far, over and above the work under the LC/LP.
The logic underpinning the CBD -protecting biodiversity- is different from the UNFCCC reducing emissions and adapting to climate change. While there is little danger that the CBD would be used as trade-off for mitigation, the different logic could also lead to conflicts.
The CBD seems to seek a central role, and appears to have a mandate to do so, but the institutional set-up, the guidance provided so far and the future direction are not clear. In addition, the COP takes place only every two years. Against this background, the CBD decision on geoengineering does not mean that the question of whether and how address geoengineering is resolved. The existing rules and guidance are unlikely to be able to contain the risks posed by geoengineering or be able to avoid related political conflicts. The CBD has good potential for future development, but it is questionable whether it is suitable as the only, central regime governing geoengineering. The relationship to other fora should be further explored, e.g. the LC/LP.
There could also be a specific forum, e.g. technical scientific assessments of particular activities, but currently there is no institution that appears suitable. The IPCC is an established institution, but slow and ill-suited for case-by-case work, and it might be too close to the climate regime (see below). The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is in the process of being established and will probably take years before it could be considered for such a role.