March 01, 2024

A solar geoengineering Trojan horse at UNEA-6

A controversial proposal was shut down by Global South countries and broad civil society resistance

Nairobi, Kenya – On the surface, the Swiss resolution on Solar Radiation Modification (SRM) at UNEA-6 could appear to be a neutral call to constitute an expert group on SRM. But whether it was intentional or not, the proposed expert group could act as a Trojan horse for the advancement of solar geoengineering, creating a base for geoengineering advocates to set themselves as the main reference in global discussions on SRM. 

Solar Geoengineering, also called SRM, comprises a set of technological proposals to block sunlight from reaching the earth to reduce the earth’s temperature. The most common of the proposed techniques is Stratospheric Aerosol Injection, which involves spraying sulphur dioxide (a coolant that also erodes the ozone layer) into the stratosphere.

“At the heart of the proposed resolution lurked the question of where the information would come from and what kind of SRM research would be considered. Countries like Canada, the US and Saudi Arabia pushed for gathering information that includes the potential “benefits” of SRM, also specifying that this information would come from sources, agencies and programs that are mostly led by geoengineering advocates”, said Neth Daño, ETC Group Asia Director. 

In contrast, the African group, endorsed by Colombia and other Global South countries, called for a mechanism to ensure the non-use of solar geoengineering. Additionally, they pointed out the need to request and compile knowledge on SRM from governments, Indigenous peoples, local communities, civil society and other stakeholders, accessible to all countries. This would contribute to a repository of information that could address the lack of transparency from those conducting geoengineering research and the lack of access to multidisciplinary information on solar geoengineering.

“Countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and the United States are all investing in further research on solar geoengineering, through public institutions and allowing, or supporting private initiatives. Although they may include research on the risks of the technology, these countries expressed the intention to also study the potential “benefits" and how to develop the technology. These are steps towards deployment”, said Silvia Ribeiro, Latin American Director at ETC Group.

“Meanwhile, the African Group, Mexico, Fiji, Pakistan and several countries from the Global South, often backed by the EU, wanted to reaffirm the precautionary approach, the CBD moratorium against geoengineering and use access to information to protect themselves from rogue experiments, such as those recently conducted in Mexico”, Ribeiro added.

High-emitting countries also pushed for the resolution to be based on a narrow climate framing, which would only compare the risks of solar geoengineering with the risks of climate change. This approach obscures the fact that the impacts of SRM would naturally exceed concerns about climate. SRM would impact biodiversity, food security, health, economies, communities and indigenous rights, and the global geopolitical balance of power. Any moves towards developing the technology would put the global thermostat in the hands of the powerful actors controlling it, thus increasing global inequality and geopolitical tensions.

On February 28th, after several rounds of discussions, it became clear that the difference between these two calls for information was too great. The refusal of the US, among others, to include the precautionary principle, while at the same time promoting the advancement of research into solar geoengineering, forced the proposal to be withdrawn.


Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America Director, ETC Group
silvia [at]

Neth Daño, Asia Director, ETC Group
neth [at]

Laura Dunn
laura [at}
WhatsApp: +1 514 607 9979

Please see our briefing on SRM at UNEA-6 and a press release created in association with the Hands Off Mother Earth Alliance.



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