Carbon Removal, Solar Geoengineering, and the Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, governments agreed to 17 Global Goals to make a better world by 2030. These are also known as the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 17 SDGs are the world’s best expression of our collective hopes and aspirations for the future.

They include eradicating extreme poverty, ending hunger and ensuring good health for everyone.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Climate change is already making these SDGs harder to achieve.

At today’s 1°C of global warming, we already see extreme weather events which are making life harder for millions of people.

Current global commitments would likely lead to 3°C of global warming by 2100. That would have serious implications for all the SDGs.

Drought land dry mud BOUHANIFIA Algeria

Our first priority to tackle climate change is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers are also exploring the potential for intentional large-scale interventions in the earth system, using technologies known as Carbon Removal and Solar Geoengineering.

Carbon Removal technologies seek to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Solar Geoengineering technologies aim to reflect back more solar radiation, to cool the planet.
In 2015, in Paris, the world agreed to limit global warming to well below 2°C. Most scientific scenarios which achieve that rely on Carbon Removal technologies. Around 10 billion tonnes of CO2 would have to be removed annually in the second half of the century. This is around one third of current global CO2 emissions.
Carbon Removal and Solar Geoengineering cover a range of technologies, with unique characteristics. Each needs to be considered individually.
C2G2 carbon removal and solar geoengineering icons

C2G2, together with three partner organisations, worked with experts from over 20 countries to establish what we know, and what we don’t know, about how Carbon Removal and Solar Geoengineering technologies might affect the SDGs.

Research indicates that at least three quarters of the SDGs would likely be affected in some way if large-scale Carbon Removal or Solar Geoengineering were to be deployed. Should they prove feasible, effective and desirable, these technologies might contribute to limiting the impact of climate change on the SDGs.

The impact of Carbon Removal technologies on sustainable development is not well understood. Many technologies are untested at scale, and their deployment could have significant adverse effects.

At the same time, they can also have positive effects — beyond tackling climate change — under specific conditions.

Uncertainties surrounding Solar Geoengineering are very large. Deployment without adequate global governance could have significant implications for the SDGs.

Solar Geoengineering could have potentially uneven results across regions, and could pose challenges to international relations.

logos: C2G2, Climate Strategies, Perspectives Climate Research, IASS
This chart provides an overview of a detailed goal-by-goal review of the potential implications that deployment of Carbon Removal and Solar Geoengineering could have for reaching each of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. 
Chart: potential implications for the Sustainable Development Goals

But we do not know enough yet to take informed decisions.

As these technologies attract growing attention, it is important we learn more.


More transdisciplinary and geographically diverse research is required on the interconnections between Carbon Removal or Solar Geoengineering technologies and achieving the SDGs.


Integrated policy impact assessments are needed to understand the potential implications of deploying Carbon Removal and Solar Geoengineering and achieving the SGDs.


Governance of research and any potential future deployment of Carbon Removal or Solar Geoengineering needs to ensure its support for achieving the SDGs.

Learn more

Explore the new C2G2 report, “Carbon Removal and Solar Geoengineering: Potential implications for delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals” 
report cover
In the interest of promoting global discussion about the need for governance of research and any potential future deployment of Carbon Removal or Solar Geoengineering, C2G2 developed a set of icons representing these technologies, available to all to use freely.
C2G2 carbon removal and solar geoengineering icons

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