Talking about governance in China

by Janos Pasztor / October 25, 2018

I had the pleasure of speaking last week at the 5th Taihu World Cultural Forum in Beijing. It was a good opportunity to learn about China’s thinking on major global challenges, and a chance for me to lay out some of C2G2’s ideas on the governance of large-scale carbon removal and solar geoengineering.

I was one of the panelists at a session on Ecological Civilization Governance. Coming soon after the IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, the timing was right, and I shared some thoughts on the enormous task ahead of us.

Specifically, I suggested:

As the scale of this crisis becomes clearer, a growing number of senior policy makers are starting to ask whether deliberate large-scale interventions in the earth system – such as large-scale Carbon Removal, or potentially Solar Geoengineering – could be (or should be) part of our toolkit to reduce the dangerous effects of climate change. 

Yet at present there are no comprehensive international rules to govern them. This is a serious challenge which we need to address. It is my conviction – and this is why I am here – that the ungoverned deployment of some of these technologies could pose critical environmental and geopolitical risks to humanity, as well as profound social and ethical challenges.

It appears a number of leading Chinese thinkers agree. An article in China Daily  featured similar thoughts by Qi Ye, director of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy, and Pan Jiahua, director of Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

I was also granted an audience with Minister XIE Zhenhua, China’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, from the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE). He was accompanied by the two Deputy Directors General of the Department for International Cooperation of the MEE, and about 6 other staff.

He recognized that the conversation had changed around large-scale Carbon Dioxide Removal, and we touched upon a Swiss proposal for a resolution at next year’s 4th UN Environment Assembly.

The aim of that resolution would set up an expert group and call for a state-of-play report on geoengineering. If this approach wins support, it would mark an important step towards putting the governance of large-scale carbon removal and solar geoengineering on the international agenda. Watch this space!

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