Governing Emerging Climate Technologies
The world faces growing threats due to climate change. Rising temperatures and other climate impacts already affect the livelihoods of millions of people, and further increases are likely to cause widespread suffering, especially amongst the poor and most vulnerable.
The world’s primary strategy to limit global warming has been to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but as of 2019, global emissions continue to rise.
The IPCC’s 2018 special report on global warming of 1.5°C made it clear that – in addition to urgent and radical reductions in emissions from energy, land, infrastructure, industrial systems and lifestyles – the world now also has to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere on a massive scale if we are to limit warming to 1.5°C.
Some scientists are also exploring measures to potentially cool the planet by reflecting more sunlight back into space, through a variety of approaches. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) describes these two baskets of emerging technologies as Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and Solar Radiation Modification (SRM).
They are sometimes known collectively as geoengineering: commonly defined as the deliberate large-scale intervention by humans in the earth system to reduce the negative effects of climate change. There is growing reluctance, however, to use this term in the policy discourse, given the wide range of proposals it encompasses, and the misunderstandings this can cause.
Proposed large-scale Carbon Dioxide Removal and Solar Radiation Modification approaches differ quite substantially in terms of their readiness, feasibility and acceptability. All of them have trade-offs, risks (both known and unknown) costs and potential benefits, and all raise difficult questions of justice, power and equity.
As the world learns more about these potential new tools, it is essential that research, testing and any proposed deployment be governed effectively. Discussions about if and how these emerging technologies might be developed and used are too important to leave to scientists alone.
There needs to be society-wide discussions about their governance at the national, regional and international levels, that includes the voices of the vulnerable and most affected.
C2G (formerly C2G2) was created to kickstart a global conversation about what this governance might look like. What aspects of each approach need to be governed, and how? Who should be involved in taking these decisions, and how they should be taken? What rules and regulations are needed to limit potential ill effects, weigh potential trade-offs with other sustainable development objectives, and help reduce suffering?
C2G’s mission is to expand this discussion to policymakers in all countries, as well as to international institutions, faith and civil society groups, the business community and journalists, and to provide impartial information for more informed decision-making.
We invite you to join us on this journey.