De facto moratorium on geoengineering adopted by CBD Parties
ETC Group press release:
Nagoya, 1 Nov (ETC) — In a landmark consensus decision, the 193-member UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted a de facto moratorium on geoengineering projects and experiments on 29 October.
The agreement, reached during the ministerial portion of the two-week 10th meeting of the CBD Conference of Parties (COP10) that met 18 to 29 October and which included 112 environment ministers, asks governments to ensure that no geoengineering activities take place until risks to the environment and biodiversity and associated social, cultural and economic impacts have been appropriately considered.
The CBD secretariat was also instructed to report back on various geoengineering proposals and potential intergovernmental regulatory measures. The unusually strong consensus decision builds on the 2008 moratorium on ocean fertilization adopted by COP9 in Bonn. That agreement put the brakes on a litany of failed “experiments” – both public and private – to sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide in the oceans’ depths by spreading nutrients on the sea surface.
Since then, attention has turned to a range of futuristic proposals to block a percentage of solar radiation via large-scale interventions in the atmosphere, stratosphere and outer space that would alter global temperatures and precipitation patterns.
“This decision clearly places the governance of geoengineering in the United Nations where it belongs,” said ETC Group Executive Director Pat Mooney. “This decision is a victory for common sense, and for precaution. It will not inhibit legitimate scientific research. Decisions on geoengineering cannot be made by small groups of scientists from a small group of countries that establish self-serving voluntary guidelines’ on climate hacking. What little credibility such efforts may have had in some policy circles in the global North has been shattered by this decision.”
Mooney added that the UK Royal Society and its partners should cancel their Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative and respect that the world’s governments have collectively decided that future deliberations on geoengineering should take place in the UN, where all countries have a seat at the table and where civil society can watch and influence what they are doing.
Delegates in Nagoya have clearly understood the potential threat that deployment – or even field testing – of geoengineering technologies poses to the protection of biodiversity. The decision was hammered out in long and difficult late night sessions of a “friends of the chair” group and adopted by the COP10 Working Group 1 plenary on 27 October 2010. The Chair of the climate and biodiversity negotiations called the final text “a highly delicate compromise.”
“The decision is not perfect,” said Neth Dano of ETC Group Philippines. “Some delegations are understandably concerned that the interim definition of geoengineering is too narrow because it does not include Carbon Capture and Storage technologies. Before the next CBD meeting, there will be ample opportunity to consider these questions in more detail. But climate techno-fixes are now firmly on the UN agenda and will lead to important debates as the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit approaches. A change of course is essential, and geoengineering is clearly not the way forward.”
See http://www.etcgroup.org/en/node/5217 for Geopiracy: The Case Against Geoengineering that is a new publication by ETC Group that provides an overview of the issues involved.