Tag Archives: geoengineering

Civil Society Organizations to IPCC: Take Geoengineering off the Table!

Today, 125 international and national organizations, representing at least 40 countries from all continents, sent an open letter to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), demanding a clear statement of its commitment to precaution and to the existing international moratorium on geoengineering. The IPCC will hold an expert meeting on geoengineering 20-22 June in Lima, Peru. (The letter is available and open for signatures here.)
Geoengineering is the deliberate manipulation of Earth systems to alter the climate, including high-risk technologies such as blasting particles into the stratosphere to mimic volcanic eruptions (to block sunlight) and “fertilizing” oceans to grow plankton blooms for carbon sequestration. Formerly in the realm of science fiction, geoengineering has been gaining ground as a possible – even necessary, some argue – response to the climate crisis.
Climate manipulation has been on the radar of powerful Northern governments for decades. Originally conceived as a military strategy, climate manipulation has been rebranded as geoengineering: a weapon in the war on climate change.
The U.S. and UK governments appear especially open to the prospect of geoengineering, which is no surprise, according to Silvia Ribeiro of the ETC Group: “It’s a convenient way for Northern governments to dodge their commitments to emissions reduction.” Ribeiro continues, “But the climate is a complex system; manipulating climate in one place could have grave environmental, social and economic impacts on countries and peoples that had no say on the issue. Scientists estimate that blasting particles into the stratosphere could alter monsoon and wind patterns and put at risk the food and water sources for 2 billion people.”
“As the world watched the Australian airline industry thrown into chaos this week by volcanic ash drifting from Chile, it’s absurd that the IPCC is considering how to do the same thing on purpose. The potential for unilateralism and private profiteering is great; the likelihood that geoengineering will provide a safe, lasting, democratic and peaceful solution to the climate crisis is miniscule,” said Ricardo Navarro, of Cesta and Friends of the Earth International, detained in Buenos Aires due to the volcanic ash.
In October 2010, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity established a moratorium on geoengineering. Nonetheless, Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC told The Guardian last week, “We are putting ourselves in a scenario where we will have to develop more powerful technologies to capture emissions out of the atmosphere,” referring to geoengineering techniques.
Meenakshi Raman from Third World Network – Malaysia, another signatory of the letter to the IPCC, argues, “It is completely misguided for Ms. Figueres to suggest that we work on sucking carbon out of the atmosphere rather than stop putting it in; it is equally misguided for the IPCC to assume that geoengineering has any place at all in what they call the ‘portfolio of response options’ to climate change.”
The open letter criticizes the IPCC for reneging on its pledge to be “policy-neutral.” The Scientific Steering Committee (SSG) that organized the expert meeting includes geoengineering researchers who have advocated increases in research funding and real-world experimentation, as well as scientists with patents pending on geoengineering technologies and/or other financial interests. The SSG did not allow committed civil society organizations to participate, even as observers. Still, the IPCC says it will take up the issue of  “governance” and “social, legal and political factors.”
Raman stresses that the IPCC has no place taking up the issue of geoengineering governance because “this is not a scientific question; it’s a political one.”
La Via Campesina, the world’s largest small-scale farmers network, is concerned that the impacts of climate manipulation on agriculture would be felt particularly by peasants in the South and that tinkering with the oceans could destroy the livelihoods of thousands of small fishermen. Via Campesina argues, “Geoengineering is a false solution to climate change and so dangerous to nature and to the world’s people, it should be banned.”
Alejandro Argumedo from the indigenous organization ANDES (Peru) agrees. Argumedo is one of the organizers of activities for civil society organizations, which will take place in Lima at the same time as the IPCC’s expert meeting: “The IPCC shut out civil society from their meeting, even though the Panel’s experts plan to discuss the ‘social factors’ of geoengineering. 125 international and national organizations from around the world just gave them something to talk about.”
For further information:
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group, silvia@etcgroup.org; Mexico, +52 55 5563 2664
Cellphone: +52 1 55 2653 3330
Pat Mooney, ETC Group, etc@etcgroup.org; Canada, +1 613 241 2267
cellphone +1 613 240 0045
Ricardo Navarro, Cesta – Friends of the Earth, El Salvador cesta@cesta-foe.org.sv
Contacts in Bonn (attending climate negotiations)
Diana Bronson, ETC group, diana@etcgroup.org;
cellphone: +1-514-629-9236
Meenakshi Raman, Third World Network, meenaco@pd.jaring.my;
cellphone +49 15222393647
Contacts in Lima during IPCC workshop, June 19-22:
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group, silvia@etcgroup.org
local cellphone: +51 984 400 073
Alejandro Argumedo, Asociación Andes, alejandro@andes.org.pe, tel 51-84-245021,
cellphone +51- 984706610
Hands Off Mother Earth / HOME campaign in opposition to geoengineering www.handsoffmotherearth.org
ETC Group, Geopiracy: The Case Against Geoengineering: http://www.etcgroup.org/en/node/5217

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Filed under Geoengineering, UNFCCC

ETC Group on Geoengineering Developments and How to Take Action

There are three important new developments on geoengineering (large-scale intentional manipulation of the Earth systems in an attempt to affect the climate) that we we like to bring to your attention.  What has long been lurking in the shadows of climate negotiations as a wealthy country Plan B has all of a sudden come front and center.  We urge you to pay attention to these developments and intervene where you can.
1.  Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC gave an interview to The Guardian in the UK on the weekend, stating that “We are putting ourselves in a scenario where we will have to develop more powerful technologies to capture emissions out of the atmosphere”.   Capturing carbon from the atmosphere is geoengineering.  This takes place at a time when Canada and New Zealand are seeking to start a work programme for agriculture in the UNFCCC, looking at modalities for enhancing the amount of carbon that can be stored in soil through techniques like biochar.
Technologies which capture CO2 from the atmosphere through chemical processes (known as direct air capture) are untested and unproven and recently received a particularly negative assessment from the American Physical Society.   The APS found that the prototype direct air capture technology they assessed was not even economically viable before considering the enormous unresolved issues related to the eventual sequestration of carbon in deep geological formations. .  Other geoengineering methods for CO2 removal include ocean fertilization and liming the oceans, both with potentially devastating consequences on marine ecosystems.   See for example this review on ocean fertilization (which has been under a moratorium since 2008 but which is rearing its head again as a group of universities are intent are re-starting experimentation.
2. The three IPCC working groups will be holding a joint meeting on geoengineering in Lima, 20-22 June in preparation for the Fifth Assessment report.  The terms of reference for the meeting are here.   The organizing committee of the meeting includes prominent proponents of geoengineering such as American scientist Ken Caldeira, and Canadians David Keith (University of Calgary) and Jason Blackstock (CIGI) and the topics up for discussion include governance and social, economic and legal aspects of the question.   Keith and Caldeira were instrumental in the Royal Society report on goengineering and both testified before Congress and the UK House of Commons in favour of more research.  They both have patents pending, as you can see from the ETC Group report Geopiracy and are involved in a wide variety of initiatives on geoengineering.
They co-manage Bill Gate’s private geoengineering fund of $4.6 million.   Jason Blackstock was recently described in the Canadian Walrus Magazine as “a young scholar with an almost luminous sense of self-confidence”.  He was the main author of the peculiar Novim report on stratospheric aerosols and has been involved in getting prestigous mainstream foreign policy outfits involved in geoengineering in the UK, Canada and US .   Blackstock is also slated to speak on a panel about geoengineering organized by the Canadian embassy (!) in Sao Paulo Brazil, 16 June 2011.
3.  The Convention on Biological Diversity is also busy reviewing papers and convening meetings ito follow up on the de facto moratorium on geoengineering activities adopted at COP 10 in Nagoya, Japan in October 2010.  The first consultative meeting on geoengineering organized by the CBD will take place June 10 in Bonn, on the margins of the climate negotiations.   This mini-workshop will examine the question of how to define geoengineering, its impacts on biodiversity and questions about its governance — an ambitious agenda.  To its credit, the CBD meeting is not invitation only (like so many others: the SRMGI consultation recently held in the UK, the International Risk Governance Council, the Asilomar Conference on Climate Intervention ) and civil society organizations and governments are equally able to attend.
Furthermore, the CBD is mandated not to do a simple technical review of the proposals but to examine their risks for the environment and biodiversity and associated social, economic and cultural impacts.   The CBD has also created a “liaison group” to oversee its work on geoengineering that will hopefully provide some balance to the discussions thus far that have been dominated by a small group of scientific experts engaged in research, with notoriously low participation from developing countries, social scientists, women, Indigenous Peoples and local communities, as well as other critical voices from civil society.
On the one hand, it is a positive development that different UN bodies are beginning to discuss geoengineering because any modification of our oceans  and atmosphere will ultimately affect all countries. All countries must therefore be involved in discussions about it.   However, there will also be tremendous pressure exerted by powerful countries who are counting on using this Plan B to move forward with research, public funding programmes and real-world experimentation with inevitable transboundary impacts. The global South and civil society must be clear that geoengineering is not an alternative to the existing and agreed upon priorities of mitigation and adaptation, according to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. Any new multilateral governance arrangement must strengthen the existing moratorium, not weaken it.  That means a strict prohibition of all unilateral experimentation of geoengineering technologies  —  at least until there is a multilateral consensus that this avenue could or should be explored.  So far, international consensus says we do not want to go down this road.  Let’s keep it that way. 
If you have not yet done so, you can join the international campaign against geoengineering experiments atwww.handsoffmotherearth.org

A joint civil society letter is in the works regarding the IPCC meeting. If you are interested to see the letter and sign on behalf of your organization, please contact Veronica Villa: veronica@etcgroup.org

From: Diana Bronson, ETC Group

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, UNFCCC

Listen to the Sojourner Truth Show Thursday Jan 6 at 7am Pacific

The following is from our friends at the Sojourner Truth radio program on KPFK Pacifica Station in Los Angeles.  GJEP has a partnership with the Sojourner Truth show and provide a one minute Earth Minute every Tuesday and organize a 12 minute segment on the environment every Thursday (see below for details about this week’s segment).

–The GJEP Team

Join us on Sojourner Truth Tuesday-Friday, 7-8 am [Pacific time].


Thursday January 6: Key changes in the Obama White House, as Republicans giddy with Tea Party support promises to repeal President Obama’s health care reform law. Professor Peter Dreier joins us.

And as Republicans insist that the US Constitution be read at the opening of the new Congress, several states are launching an attack on the 14th amendment of the Constitution.  They want to deny citizenship to US born children of undocumented workers and the ACLU promises a challenge.  We speak with the director of immigrants rights for the ACLU of Southern California.

We return to our weekly series on the environment with our partners The Global Justice Ecology Project.  Mexico City based Sylvia Ribeiro, Latin America Director for a group [ETC Group] that monitors the environmental and social impacts of biotechnology, geoengineering and nanotechnology.

And Elaine Brown of the original Black Panther Party joins us to discuss efforts to support political prisoners, the Lucasville Prisoner Hunger Strikers and to give us the very latest on those targeted by the Georgia Department of Corrections after months’ state wide prisoners strike.

Sojourner Truth, Thursday January 6th, 7-8 am [pacific]. This is your host, Margaret Prescod.

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change

COP 10: Analysis on The Hot Issues

Here at COP-10, the negotiations of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, there have been several areas that have been strongly controversial.  Among these: geoengineering schemes, the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the infiltration of business and the markets into the negotiations.  Today, instead of sharing my own ideas on these topics, I include writings by others.  Warning: some of the language may be wonky, read at your own risk.

–Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project and North American Focal Point, Global Forest Coalition

Source: CBD Alliance ECO newsletters: http://www.cbdalliance.org/cop-10/

Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network explains the importance of Indigenous Peoples traditional knowledge in protection of biological diversity at an event featuring “13 Grandmothers” on October 19th in Nagoya, Japan. Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC


Indigenous Representatives Denounce Canada’s Obstructionist Position at COP10

Adapted from IIFB Press Statement

Canada stands alone in its shameful opposition to preambular text “Taking into account the significance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (UNDRIP) in the proposed ABS (Access and Benefit Sharing) Protocol. Reminding parties that it did not endorse the UNDRIP, Canada insisted that the reference to the UNDRIP be both bracketed and deleted.  Indigenous Peoples insist the ABS Protocol must take into account the significance of the UNDRIP.

Armand MacKenzie, Executive-Director of the Innu Council of Nitassinan (Innu Nation), stated that, “You cannot claim to be a champion of human rights on the one hand and at the same time oppose the most widely accepted international charter in relation to Indigenous Peoples’ rights. With such strong arm tactics undermining Indigenous Peoples’ human rights, it is no wonder Canada lost their bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.”

“Canada has contradicted its speech from the throne when it stated it would take steps to endorse the UNDRIP.  The apology from the Prime Minister of Canada for the Residential School system was a positive move towards reconciliation between Canada and Aboriginal Peoples. This obstructionist position is an enormous step backwards, is unacceptable and undermines all Indigenous Peoples’ collective rights” states Ellen Gabriel, president of Quebec Native Women.

“The Canadian government has been undermining the human rights of the world`s Indigenous Peoples since 2006, both at home and internationally”, emphasized Paul Joffe, lawyer representing the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee). “Such conduct severely tarnishes Canada`s reputation globally and puts in serious doubt Canada’s stated intention to endorse the UNDRIP is in good faith.”

Background on Indigenous Issues at the UN CBD

Indigenous delegates from every region of the world have come to Nagoya to be heard at the COP10 negotiations. Indigenous Peoples continue to be among the most marginalized, discriminated and exploited peoples despite living in some of the worlds most biodiverse regions.

Indigenous delegates under the umbrella of the International Indigenous Forum for Biodiversity (IIFB) have been deliberating and working out strategies for negotiating at the COP 10 during the past three days of preparatory meetings.

The IIFB is a collection of representatives from indigenous communities and governments, indigenous non-governmental organizations, indigenous scholars and activists who organize around the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and other important international environmental meetings to help coordinate indigenous strategies at these meetings, provide consultation to the government parties, and influence the interpretations of government obligations to recognize and respect indigenous rights to the knowledge and resources.

The IIFB was officially acknowledged to be a formal advisory body to the CBD in COP5 in Nairobi, a step that has enhanced the presence and voices of indigenous peoples in the CBD and related processes. Since this groundbreaking step at COP5, subsequent COPs of the CBD have seen active and effective work by Indigenous peoples and indigenous organizations, as have a range of sub-processes regarding the implementation of Article 8(j), Access and Benefit Sharing, and others. This participation of Indigenous Peoples in this international process is often not reflected at the national level.

In this time the status of Indigenous Peoples has been recognized with the passing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) by United Nations General Assembly in September 2007, the impact of this has yet to be fully realized within the context of the CBD. In addition, in some countries there are still many Indigenous Peoples who are still struggling for their rights, and demanding for their recognition as Indigenous Peoples.

This Declaration affirms the existence and establishment of the universal human rights standards for the protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Implementation of decisions under the Convention on Biological Diversity must be consistent with the rights enshrined in this Declaration.

For more information please see: http://iifb.indigenousportal.com


First Global Discussion on Geoengineering Kicks Off

Paragraph 8(w) may be only the beginning

by ETC Group

One of the hottest issues under Climate Change and Biodiversity [at COP-10] has proven to be paragraph 8 (w), which arrived … in bracketed form:

[(w) Ensure, in line and consistent with decision IX/16 C, on ocean fertilization and biodiversity and climate change, and in accordance with the precautionary approach, that no climate-related geoengineering 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;]

COP10 is the first UN inter-governmental negotiating forum that is  openly debating the issue and that is prepared to take a decision on geoengineering as a whole. Not surprisingly, there are different opinions about what the term “geoengineering” entails. This debate exists outside the CBD as well. The issue of scope is central, but should not be difficult to resolve.

What is really at stake in this debate?

Whether or not the precautionary principle will be applied to high-risk and large-scale interventions in the climate system lies at the heart of the debate. Deletion of paragraph 8(w), as proposed by some delegations, would send the wrong signal to those states and private entities that want to engineer the climate by manipulating the very ecosystems the CBD was designed to protect.

Will this decision prevent research and discussion? Geoengineering proponents claim that the proposed wording of the moratorium could prevent people from talking about geoengineering, undertaking research and computer modeling. Such claims are ludicrous. The word “activities” may indeed be broad, but that is the same wording that was applied to ocean fertilization in 2008 and the two subsequent years saw vigorous debate in scientific, political and civil society circles, as well as continued lab research and modeling. The result: ocean fertilization is increasingly discredited as an effective response to climate change and the prospects for making money off ocean fertilization carbon credits is now rightly remote. This is good news for oceans and the people who depend upon them for their livelihoods.

Will this decision prevent companies from developing geoengineering schemes?

It will not prevent research, but it should prevent commercialization. If geoengineering is an “emergency response” then it cannot be handed over to private entities whose primary goal is to make money!

Nevertheless, all kinds of patents on these technologies have been awarded or are awaiting approval. The 2008 decision on ocean fertilization explicitly prohibited research that was “used for generating and selling carbon offsets or any other commercial purposes”. The same should be made clear in this decision about geoengineering as well.

Why are some countries opposing 8(w)?

Some countries are anxious to move forward with geoengineering – not only with research in computer modeling and laboratories, but in the real world. Thus far, only Russia has experimented with Solar Radiation Management techniques but a small group of geoengineers in Canada, the UK and the US (amongst others) is also anxious to move forward with such tests. They want to experiment with cloud whitening, altering the alkalinity of our oceans and more. We know that altering the sun’s radiation will affect precipitation patterns, potentially threatening the food supplies of up to 2 billion people. (1)

Such experiments cannot be allowed to proceed in the absence of inter-governmental consensus and oversight and a careful consideration of the intended and unintended impacts.  However, no such information or even a risk assessment to do so  exist now. Rushing ahead with climate engineering interventions could be disastrous.

What happens next if the moratorium is agreed to?

The debate will continue, with a much diminished risk of a unilateral intervention that could go badly wrong and with assurance that any attempt to engineer the climate would be quickly condemned by the international community. The moratorium will buy the world – both governments and civil society  – the time we need to debate whether or not this is the road we want to go down and how to put in place meaningful risk assessments and controls. The debate on geoengineering will not be over. It will be safer.

ETC Group’s new report: Geopiracy: The Case Against Geoengineering was published this week and is available with other background documents on our website (www.etcgroup.org).

(1) See Alan Robock, Martin Bunzl, Ben Kravitz, Georgiy L. Stenchikov, “A Test for Geoengineering?” Science, 29 January 2010, Vol. 327. no. 5965, pp. 530-31 and ETC Group news release, “Top-down Planet Hackers Call for Bottom-up Governance,” 11 February 2010 available at http://www.etcgroup.org/en/node/5073.


It’s About Life and Life is Not a Business

by Susan Walsh, USC – Canada and Bernrd Beermann

When members of the public in the UK were asked in a recent survey what the  word biodiversity meant, the most common answer was “some kind of washing  powder”. In response, Kate Rawles of the University of Cumbria states: “Modern societies … are dangerously close to completely losing touch with the value of other living things”.

The 193 Parties and hundreds of civil society organizations gathered at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity do know what biodiversity means. They understand only too well what is at stake if the dramatic erosion of our planet’s biological diversity is not stopped in its tracks, as well as the corresponding loss of resilience that could lead us all over the brink into a world where we are no longer welcome. Within the past century, for example, we have lost an estimated 75% of our plant genetic resources and, over the past decade alone, nearly 60 million hectares of primary forest. We are driving species to extinction at up to 1000 times the natural rate. How will the 1 billion people who depend on fish as their sole or main source of animal protein survive if 80% of examined world marine stocks are exploited or overexploited?

The Japanese Times’ special editions on COP 10 put it this way: “In Nagoya, the issue under discussion is not melting glaciers or brutally hot summers that extend long into autumn due to global warming, but life itself.”

The challenge is daunting. We face compounding environmental, food, fuel, economic, and climate crises that are converging into a perfect storm of biodiversity loss and social injustice. The conservation, sustainable use, and equitable sharing of benefits of biodiversity are fundamental to addressing these crises. Time and again, however, we see governments agreeing to business as usual, downplaying overconsumption, and searching for newer and better technological solutions with short-term, often counter-productive results. Governments can and must do better. We call on parties to strengthen the Convention’s core principles, particularly the ecosystem approach, the precautionary principle, participation, equity, justice, and an understanding that biodiversity cannot be separated from those humans with values that nurture, defend and sustainably use biodiversity.

We are particularly troubled by trends such as the growing popularity of market mechanisms that carve nature into pieces of valued and not so valued property and the growing influence of corporate actors who place profit ahead of the integrity of human community and the landscapes we inhabit. The convergence of the Rio Conventions must be preceded by clear evidence that the CBD’s values and principles will not be lost in the mix.

Unchecked, these trends could well undermine our largest ecosystem – the planet. The commodification of nature is at the heart of biodiversity loss and eroded resilience. The spirit of collaboration in Nagoya must reflect a willingness to respect nature’s gifts and complexities.

Civil society organizations here in Nagoya call on the delegates and their capitals to reconnect with Mother Nature and with the multiple values of other living things. If we are to avoid that perfect storm from blasting its way through our ever-fragile planet, we need to tap into that kinder, gentler human in us all.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples