UNEA 4 MONITOR: Exercising Caution on Geoengineering | The Youth Cafe

UNEA daily monitor is powered by The Youth Cafe’s delegates attending the fourth UN Environment Assembly. The newsletter tracks the most important negotiations and events and delivers the daily news through the lense of young people.

For UNEA-4, Switzerland has proposed a resolution on geoengineering, the large-scale technological manipulation of the Earth’s oceans, soils, biosphere and atmosphere to counteract, dilute or delay some symptoms and impacts of climate change. Members of the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG), a negotiating bloc in the UNFCCC consisting of South Korea, Mexico, Liechtenstein, Monaco and Georgia, co-sponsored the resolution with a few other member-states including Burkina Faso, Federated States of Micronesia, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Montenegro and New Zealand.

ETC and HBS argue that when governments discuss geoengineering, they must do so with caution. They should ensure that no resolution result in encouraging or enabling high-risk technological interventions under the umbrella term of geoengineering. These technologies have profound risks and often irreversible and adverse global-scale impacts on ecosystems, biodiversity and societies.

Further they are bound to disproportionately affect the most vulnerable communities that depend on ecosystems and local environments. Some of them have significant potential to be weaponized, in particular Solar Radiation Management. All of these technologies are likely to cause local, regional or international conflicts.

To ensure a strong precautionary approach to geoengineering that adequately reflects the associated vast risks, the UNEA-4 resolution on geoengineering should minimally:

1) Reflect and assess the wide-ranging and multi-faceted impacts of testing and deployment of geoengineering technologies on the environment and the profound risks for societies and developing countries in particular, on food security, international peace and security, democracy, indigenous peoples, women and children;

2) Acknowledge the decisions adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity and London Convention/London Protocol on marine dumping as the starting point and foundation for deliberations on any governance mechanisms, and build on these;

3) Acknowledge the precautionary principle as providing guidance for responding to scientific uncertainty and to anticipate and prevent environmental damage by potential geoengineering research and deployment;

4) Ensure that the report on geoengineering represents the knowledge, interests and views of those potentially most affected by and vulnerable to the risks of geoengineering including indigenous peoples, women, youth and civil society;

5) Set up a multi-stage review process that allows national governments to comment on draft reports produced by expert groups or by the Secretariat of UN Environment before theyare finalized; and

6) Ensure that the entire process is free of conflict of interests, such as fossil fuel industry interests, investors or stakeholders in geoengineering companies or researchers with patents on geoengineering or other conflicting commercial interests by establishing a robust conflict of interest policy.