May 18, 2010

United Nations science body calls for halt on climate-hacking experiments

Geoengineering moratorium proposal will go to UN Biodiversity Convention

Nairobi, Kenya - A formal recommendation for a moratorium on all climate geoengineering activities is being sent to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for consideration by its 193 member governments when the CBD gathers in Nagoya Japan.

Governments attending the Nairobi meeting of the scientific subcommittee of the UN Convention (SBSTTA 14) agreed late last week to forward the groundbreaking recommendation after a high degree of consensus was reached. In a related move, the scientific subcommittee also reviewed and supported the ongoing global moratorium on one geoengineering technique, ocean fertilization, adopted by the Biodiversity Convention in Bonn in 2008.

The historic recommendation from SBSTTA 14 is the first time a UN body has addressed geoengineering governance since the adoption of the Environmental Modification Treaty in the 1970s. SBSTTA requests that “no climate-related geo-engineering activities take place until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks for the environment and biodiversity and associated social, economic and cultural impacts”. (1) The moratorium proposal received near-unanimous support with strong statements from countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America.  However, the recommendation will be forwarded to COP 10 (Conference of the Parties) of the CBD in October in "square brackets" signalling that the consensus is not absolute. Earlier in the week it seemed there was unanimous agreement on the text after some delegations consulted with their capitals.  But on the final day Canada apologetically announced that it could not support the text and asked that it be placed in brackets for consideration in Nagoya. Decisions in the CBD are customarily consensus-based.

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