Geo-engineering

Canada in violation of international obligations to the CBD…

While Parties at COP11 were considering Climate-Related Geoengineering (Agenda item 11.2), evidence was provided that Canada had broken the geoengineering moratorium. It had failed to prevent a geoengineering scheme from being carried out in the Pacific ocean, close to the Canadian west coast. The scheme involved dumping around one hundred tonnes of iron sulphate into the ocean in July 2012. This created a plankton bloom that spread across some 10,000 square km of ocean. It was so large that it attracted the attention of ocean researchers. The scheme has also created a media bloom that is spreading around the planet, initiated by the UK Guardian on Monday 15th October 2012. The one place where it does not seem so far to have penetrated is COP11 - and the CBD is where the geoengineering and ocean fertilisation moratoria were born. There are many facets to this story. It turns out that one of the people behind the scheme is the former chief executive of Planktos Inc. This company formerly sought to carry out commercial dumping projects near the Galapagos and Canary Islands, and got into trouble with the Spanish and Ecuadorean governments, which honoured the moratorium and banned the experiments. The initiator of the Canadian scheme apparently intended that it should yield lucrative carbon credits, something expressly prohibited under the moratorium (Decision IX/16, Section C, para 4). Indigenous People of the islands of Haida Gwaii were persuaded to set up the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation and to channel their own funds into a 'salmon enhancement project', which they were persuaded would revive their salmon catch and enhance the local ocean ecosystem.

Engineered to fail?

Geoengineering refers to a range of proposed technologies designed to deliberately intervene in and alter earth systems on a large-scale – particularly proposals to technologically manage the climate system as a ‘technofix’ to climate change. In Oct 2010 the CBD adopted a de facto moratorium on testing and deployment of geoengineering technologies and initiated reports into the governance of geoengineering and potential impacts on biodiversity (decision x/33 paragraphs 8w and 9 l and m). At SBSTTA 16, Parties will review those studies and make further recommendations for governance of geoengineering. Given the clear conclusions of those studies – that most geoengineering is not governed by other international instruments and also that numerous risks to biodiversity and livelihoods have been identified – this is the moment to reaffirm and strengthen that moratorium and to initiate a geoengineering test ban.

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