The United States joined Saudi Arabia to derail a U.N. resolution that sought to improve the world’s understanding of potential efforts to lace the sky with sunlight-reflecting aerosols or use carbon-catching fans.
The two countries were joined by Brazil in blocking the resolution at the U.N. Environment Assembly conference in Nairobi, Kenya, earlier this week. The measure asked the world’s decisionmaking body on the environment to commission a report outlining research and planning related to carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management. Those controversial efforts are still in the planning stage and are not operational.
Switzerland and nine other nations originally asked the U.N. Environment Programme for guidance on possible future governance options and analysis of the implications of geoengineering, but they agreed to substantially reduce the scope of their resolution in hopes that the United States, Saudi Arabia and Brazil would allow it to move forward. The final version, which failed to gain consensus Wednesday, would have asked UNEP only to provide a compilation by next year of current scientific research on geoengineering and U.N. bodies that have adopted resolutions regarding it.
Here’s an unexpected twist
The proponents wished to see UNEA become the institutional home for geoengineering within the U.N. structure. But sources said the United States in particular insisted that questions about geoengineering be left to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientific body with a narrow focus on global warming.
The United States’ focus on the IPCC raised eyebrows. Both the United States and Saudi Arabia angered parties at the U.N. climate talks in Katowice, Poland, in December by questioning IPCC’s work.
And of course,
Environmentalists expressed disappointment.
“There’s definitely a lot of frustration on the part of those countries that have fought for the resolution in the last two weeks and have tried to improve it and find consensus,” said Linda Schneider, a senior program officer with Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung.
A likely non-problem looking for a solution.
Janos Pasztor, executive director of the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative, said carbon capture and SRM would ultimately need to be treated separately when it came to global governance issues.
Mitigation means reducing emissions, and direct carbon removal will likely become a larger part of nations’ goals under the Paris Agreement, he said.
“When it comes to solar radiation management, that’s where the challenge is. There’s no home,” said Pasztor, who is a former U.N. official.