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Climate-related Geoengineering and Biodiversity

Technical and regulatory matters on geoengineering in relation to the CBD

COP decisions

COP 10 mandate

The tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted decision X/33 which includes, in paragraph 8 (w) and (x), a section on climate-related geo-engineering and its impacts on the achievement of the objectives of the CBD. Below are the relevant paragraphs:

       8. Invites Parties and other Governments, according to national circumstances and priorities, as well as relevant organizations and processes, to consider the guidance below on ways to conserve, sustainably use and restore biodiversity and ecosystem services while contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation:

       (w) Ensure, in line and consistent with decision IX/16 C, on ocean fertilization and biodiversity and climate change, in the absence of science based, global, transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanisms for geo-engineering, and in accordance with the precautionary approach and Article 14 of the Convention, that no climate-related geo-engineering activities** that may affect biodiversity 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, with the exception of small scale scientific research studies that would be conducted in a controlled setting in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention, and only if they are justified by the need to gather specific scientific data and are subject to a thorough prior assessment of the potential impacts on the environment;

       (x) Make sure that ocean fertilization activities are addressed in accordance with decision IX/16 C, acknowledging the work of the London Convention/London Protocol;

In addition to the above, the Conference of the Parties, in decision X/33 paragraph 9(l) and (m), requests the Executive Secretary to:
  • Compile and synthesize available scientific information, and views and experiences of indigenous and local communities and other stakeholders, on the possible impacts of geo engineering techniques on biodiversity and associated social, economic and cultural considerations, and options on definitions and understandings of climate-related geo-engineering relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity; and
  • Taking into account the possible need for science based global, transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanisms, subject to the availability of financial resources, undertake a study on gaps in such existing mechanisms for climate-related geo-engineering relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity, bearing in mind that such mechanisms may not be best placed under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

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** footnote to decision X/33 para 8 (w): Without prejudice to future deliberations on the definition of geo-engineering activities, understanding that any technologies that deliberately reduce solar insolation or increase carbon sequestration from the atmosphere on a large scale that may affect biodiversity (excluding carbon capture and storage from fossil fuels when it captures carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere) should be considered as forms of geo-engineering which are relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity until a more precise definition can be developed. It is noted that solar insolation is defined as a measure of solar radiation energy received on a given surface area in a given hour and that carbon sequestration is defined as the process of increasing the carbon content of a reservoir/pool other than the atmosphere.

Studies on climate-related geoengineering and biodiversity

Impacts of Climate related Geoengineering on Biological Diversity

Pursuant to paragraph 9 (l) of decision X/33, the study on the Impacts of Climate related Geoengineering on Biological Diversity was prepared by a group of experts and the Secretariat of the Convention following discussions of a liaison group convened thanks to financial support from the Governments of the United Kingdom and Norway. The report compiles and synthesizes available scientific information on the possible impacts of geoengineering techniques on biodiversity, including information on associated social, economic and cultural considerations and options on definitions.

Regulatory Framework for Climate related Geoengineering relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity

In response to decision X/33 paragraph 9 (m), the study on the Regulatory Framework for Climate related Geoengineering relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity was prepared for the Secretariat by a lead author, with review comments and additional contributions from group of experts as well as the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

The above two studies were made available for two rounds of peer review. Comments on the studies were submitted by 77 individuals, organizations and Parties. A total of 1,306 individual comments were taken into account when preparing the final versions of the studies.

The studies are published in CBD Technical Series No. 66 - Geoengineering in Relation to the Convention on Biological Diversity: Technical and Regulatory Matters (2012).
Impacts of Climate-related Geoengineering on Biodiversity: Views and Experiences of Indigenous and Local Communities and Stakeholders

The study on the impacts of climate related geoengineering on biological diversity acknowledges that there is currently very little information available about the perspectives from indigenous and local communities. The Secretariat organized two sessions—on the margins of the seventh meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Article 8(j) and Related Provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity and of the fifteenth meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice—to initiate dialogue on the subject and to hear preliminary views and experiences of indigenous and local communities and other stakeholders.

The Secretariat also launched an electronic discussion to collect views and experiences of indigenous and local communities and other stakeholders, on the possible impacts of geo engineering techniques on biodiversity, using the online global forum for indigenous peoples, small islands and vulnerable communities – “Climate Frontlines” – which is run by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in partnership with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (SPFII) and the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR). The forum reaches over 46,000 people and operates in English, French and Spanish. The report “Impacts of Climate-related Geoengineering on Biodiversity: Views and Experiences of Indigenous and Local Communities and Stakeholders” was prepared to summarize the outcomes of the online discussion.

The key messages of the studies are available in all United Nations languages as presented in document UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/16/10: English ; Français ; Español ; العربية ; Pусский ; Chinese.

Resources

References on the impacts of climate-related geoengineering on biological diversity PDF en DOC en

COP 11 mandate

The eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties adopted decision XI/20 on climate-related geoengineering. The Conference of the Parties, in decision XI/20, reaffirms paragraph 8, including its subparagraph (w), of X/33, and takes note of the report on the impacts of climate-related geoengineering on biological diversity, the study on the regulatory framework for climate-related geoengineering relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the overview of the views and experiences of indigenous and local communities and stakeholders. The COP also notes the findings contained in the reports:

  • that there is no single geoengineering approach that currently meets basic criteria for effectiveness, safety and affordability, and that approaches may prove difficult to deploy or govern (XI/20, paragraph 6);
  • that there remain significant gaps in the understanding of the impacts of climate-related geoengineering on biodiversity (XI/20, paragraph 7); and
  • the lack of science-based, global, transparent and effective control and regulatory mechanisms for climate-related geoengineering, the need for a precautionary approach, and that such mechanisms may be most necessary for those geoengineering activities that have a potential to cause significant adverse transboundary effects, and those deployed in areas beyond national jurisdiction and the atmosphere, noting that there is no common understanding on where such mechanisms would be best placed (XI/20, paragraph 8).

Submissions

In paragraph 9 of decision XI/20, the COP invites Parties to address the gaps identified in paragraph 7 and to report on measures undertaken in accordance with paragraph 8(w) of decision X/33. The Executive Secretary was requested, in paragraph 15, to compile the information reported by Parties as referred to in paragraph 9 and make it available through the clearing-house mechanism.

Accordingly, the Executive Secretary sent a notification ((2013-102) – 12 November 2013) inviting Parties to submit information on any measures they have undertaken in accordance with decision X/33, subparagraph 8(w).

The following submissions were received in response to this notification (the submissions are posted in the form in which they were received by the Secretariat):

Update of information

The Conference of the Parties, in paragraph 16 of decision XI/20, requested the Executive Secretary to prepare:

  1. an update on the potential impacts of geoengineering techniques on biodiversity, and on the regulatory framework of climate-related geoengineering relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity, drawing upon all relevant scientific reports such as the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and discussions under the Environment Management Group, and
  2. an overview of the further views of Parties, other governments, indigenous and local communities and other stakeholders on the potential impacts of geoengineering on biodiversity, and associated social, economic and cultural impacts, taking into account gender considerations, and building on the overview of the views and experiences of indigenous and local communities contained in document UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/16/INF/30.

This mandate could not be fully addressed in time for SBSTTA-18, since (i) the Synthesis of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR5) was not yet available; and (ii) the detailed contributions of IPCC Working Groups II and III were only completed in late March and mid-April 2014 respectively. For these reasons, an interim update was provided at SBSTTA-18 in UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/18/INF/5. The interim update comprises a bibliography of around 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers and other relevant reports published since the preparation of CBD Technical Series 66 in 2012, together with a brief analysis of their key features. In addition, the most relevant excerpts of the Summaries for Policymakers of the reports of Working Groups I and III are contained in annex II.

It is anticipated that a more comprehensive update will be prepared for a future meeting of the Subsidiary Body, when there will be the opportunity for detailed consideration to be given to all the IPCC AR5 reports and their geoengineering-relevant aspects.

Interim Update of Information on the Potential Impacts of Climate Geoengineering on Biodiversity and the Regulatory Framework Relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity (June 2014): UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/18/INF/5

A summary of the above information was also presented in the progress report on biodiversity and climate change at SBSTTA-18 in UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/18/13.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme