Switzerland puts geoengineering governance on UN environment agenda

(Climate Change News, 26 Mar 2019) No longer the preserve of science fiction, climate-hacking technologies may need international oversight, say backers of draft resolution.

Switzerland wants the world to talk about if and how to use untested technology that tampers with nature to slow climate change – and will ask the UN’s environment arm to take the lead.

Geoengineering techniques that reflect away sun rays and suck carbon from the atmosphere have long been talked about as last-resort solutions to stem the worst effects of climate change.

But as greenhouse gas emissions remain stubbornly high and geoengineering research gets underway, there is growing concern these technologies could be deployed without protections against their serious risks – and that the prospect of a technofix will be taken as a licence to keep on polluting.

To kickstart the conversation, Switzerland will introduce a resolution at the UN Environment Assembly in Kenya in mid-March, calling for an assessment of the potential methods and governance frameworks for each one by August 2020. It would be an early step towards an international system for regulating the suite of technologies.

“There is a risk that geoengineering could be applied by someone without any international control, and we are very concerned about that,” Franz Perrez, head of the international affairs division at Switzerland’s Federal Office for the Environment, told Climate Home News. “Some are already testing solar radiation management, scientific research is already going on. We cannot close our eyes anymore and say ‘This is only science fiction’.”

The resolution is backed by Burkina Faso, Micronesia, Georgia, Lichtenstein, Mali, Mexico, Montenegro, Niger, South Korea and Senegal, according to the latest version dated 25 February.

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Climate Change News, 26 Mar 2019: Switzerland puts geoengineering governance on UN environment agenda